5-Minute Exercises to Do at Your Desk Instead of Eating Cookies
It's 3 p.m. and you're stuck in the office. You could buckle down and finish that pile of work your boss has been asking for, but your brain keeps sending you a message ... cookie! Cookie! Yes, you — feed me a cookie!
Sure, eating cookies can give you a little sugar boost, but you'll crash hard later. If it's energy you're after, we asked five professional trainers to give us five moves that will do a much better job. Plus, you may even get a little toned while you're at it.
The Ab Vacuum
Feel slumped over your desk? This exercise is great for your posture, as well as your respiratory system and abdomen. You may know it by a different name, though. "Another fun term is the 'vomiting cat,' which was made popular by author Timothy Ferriss," says Andy Hanson, B.S., CPT, and owner of Full Scale Fitness in Akron, Ohio. He recommends doing two sets of five to 10 breaths, with a few regular breaths in between.
- Sit upright and maintain a neutral spine (tailbone to head) with a forward gaze. Retract and depress your shoulders to prevent forward shoulders.
- Take a slow breath in through your nose followed by a strong exhalation from your mouth. During this exhale, begin to contract and "pull in" your abdomen muscles. A good cue is to pull your belly button to your spine (think of a belly dancer).
- After a full exhalation has occurred and the stomach muscles are retracted towards the spinal column, maintain this flexed position for a few seconds before inhaling at a regular speed.
Tip: Feeling dizzy? "With a forced exhalation, there is a chance for slight lightheadedness," Andy says. "This can be eliminated through lowering the intensity of the exhalation and pausing/flexing of the muscles."
This quickie workout is designed to be done at your desk, all while working your biceps, triceps, forearms, and deltoids.
- Clasp your hands together, with one facing upward, the other facing downward. Push them together as hard as you can. One arm should have its bicep muscle engaged; the other should have its tricep muscle engaged.
- Hold one side for 30 seconds, then flip the hand positions and do the same for the other side.
- Rest for one minute, then repeat two more times.
Tip: "The most important part of this exercise is your hand placement," says Todd Kuslikis, founder of A Shot Of Adrenaline. "Since your hands face each other, the palm facing upward will be engaging the bicep. The hand with the palm facing downward is working the triceps. Since this is primarily a bicep exercise, you want to focus all of your attention on the bicep."
Piriformis/Gluteal Foam Roll
"Common issues many individuals face while sitting all day at a desk are neck pain, low back pain, and wrist pain," says Mike Urti, vice president of personal training operations at Retro Fitness. "As a person sits for extended periods of time, muscles tighten, especially in your low back and glute muscles, rhomboids, and hip flexors."
Stash a foam roller in your office; this exercise can help alleviate some of that pressure and calm your breathing, so you can refocus on work instead of that cookie.
- Start seated on the foam roller, with the foam roller in contact with both glutes.
- Cross one leg over the other leg and shift your weight onto the crossed leg's glute.
- Gently roll back and forth, regulating pressure by adjusting the weight you have on your glute.
- Switch sides and repeat.
Tip: Don't have a foam roller? Mike says you can also use a tennis ball and isolate tight spots on glute muscles.
Stand Up/Sit Down in a Chair
If you're looking to work quads, glutes, hips, and core, all in the privacy of your office, do 10 to 20 reps of this exercise two to three times throughout the day, says Sara Dimmick, who is a CSCS and USA Triathlon coach, as well as the owner of Physical Equilibrium in New York City.
- Start with your feet about hip-width apart and flat on the floor.
- Lean forward with a straight back and pull in your abs.
- Without the aid of your arms, slowly stand up and then sit back down. Make sure to pull your hips back and control that descent. "Do not plop into the chair," Sara says.
Tip: For something slightly harder, Sara says to just slightly tap your butt on the seat before standing. And, if you want to push yourself even more, bring both feet together while seated and lift one leg.
When performing strength exercises, you'll want to do at least two sets of eight to 15 reps for best results, says Devin Parrick, strength and conditioning coach, and founder of TrainerMetrics.com.
- Get into the anatomical position (i.e., laying down with your chest facing the floor). Have each arm relaxed, with your palms at your hips facing the floor.
- Retract and depress your shoulder blades, then contract the thoracic region of your back and glutes until your upper body slowly lifts off the ground.
- Hold that position for two seconds before relaxing and starting another rep.
Tip: Unless you know who is cleaning your office floor, you may want to keep a mat in your desk for this one.
Still hungry? If you do any of the above exercises, by all means, eat that cookie as well.