Today we have a guest post from Personal Trainer, Nutrition Coach and Rehabilitation Coach, Ben Davies. He runs Tailored Fit Coaching and works alongside Pro Performance @ London Healthcare Clinic in Liverpool Street. With knowledge in both nutrition and rehabilitative techniques he works primarily with sedentary office workers to improve all areas of their health and fitness, from posture and muscle imbalances to body composition and fat loss. Take it away Ben!
So, as the mantra goes “Your body is a reflection of your lifestyle!” Unfortunately your lifestyle may involve sitting at a desk for 8-10 hours a day. You may even be able to sum up a lot of your daily life under the category of ‘moving between furniture’. You get out of bed, sit at the breakfast bar and have your breakfast and coffee. You take a short trip to the train station and if you are lucky, have a sit down on the tube. You stand on the escalator and then take a short walk to the office. You get in the lift and then take a short walk to your chair at your desk where you will reside for the next few hours. You may take a short walk down the corridor to sit in the board room for a meeting. At the end of the day it’s pretty much the same process in reverse. Lift, escalator, tube, sit for dinner, sofa in front of the tv, then bed. You are essentially a nomadic furniture dweller. As such, you will quite likely develop unnatural changes in posture, tightening of some muscles, weakening of others, alongside a tendency to increase body fat while losing muscle mass.
So without quitting your job and switching professions to one which promotes a healthier lifestyle, what can you do to mitigate the damaging effects of sedentary living?
The obvious two are eat well and exercise regularly. These two are incredibly important in maintaining and improving all aspects of your health and fitness. However, today I want to give you some tips and drills that you can incorporate into your daily routine. I’m not going to suggest getting off the bus a stop earlier or taking the long route to work, although if you are doing these, keep it up!
So, here are my useful drills that you can easily incorporate into your daily life. They are broken down into pre-work, traveling, at work and post-work drills. Build these into your daily life and you will see improvements in your posture, muscle function, body composition and energy levels.
Pre-Work (5-10 mins)
1. Breathing Drill (2-5 mins)
Take 5 minutes in the morning to get your breathing into a good pattern.
- Increase the oxygen to your brain and body to help wake you up
- Improve the function of the ‘core’ muscles
- Sit upright in a chair on the edge of the bed
- Place your hands on you waist with your fingers on your lower stomach just above the pelvis
- Take a breath in and feel the expansion in the stomach, sides and lower back
- Breathe out and feel these areas return to the start position
- Repeat this for as long as is needed to feel you are breathing comfortably with a natural expansion into all sides
2. Dead Bug – (3-5 mins)
As I explained in my previous article, “5 exercises you should be able to do before you swing a kettlebell”, I don’t like to try and teach exercises remotely. I will however run through the basics of this exercise and leave it in your hands to find someone who can coach you through this in person.
- Activate the core muscles
- Lie on you back with your knees bent
- Get into a good breathing rhythm with your back in contact with the floor
- Hold the arms out in front of the chest
- Build the intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) required to lift one leg from the floor to 90 DEGREES
- Maintain steady, diaphragmatic breathing while building the IAP required to lift your second leg
- From this position the aim is to either take one arm back overhead, extend one leg, or both simultaneously
- Find the position that is most challenging but in which you can still breathe fully while keeping your back on the floor
- Alternate between limbs
The principle is simple but doing it WELL can be very challenging. It is not necessary to do this exercise to fatigue as you are just trying to improve the ‘core’ function.
3. Stand on the tube, walk up the escalators and take the stairs when possible
You may feel quite blessed if you manage to get a seat on public transport and may feel reluctant to give it up in the name of fitness. You may also not fancy power walking up the escalators when standing seems so much more appealing. Regardless, if you are going to be sat at the desk all day, you should take this chance to get some light exercise without having to plan or make time for it. It won’t replace the trip to the gym but it will help you achieve your goals!
- Use and increase blood flow to your legs, hip muscles and ‘core’ muscles
- Prevent your muscles from going back to sleep after your morning drills
- Burn extra calories
4. Sit tall and breathe diaphragmatically
Changing your posture is a slow process and I am not expecting anyone to sit in any one position, regardless of how upright it is, for a long period of time. At intervals of your choosing (every 15, 30, 60 mins), take between 30 seconds and a minute to work on your sitting position and breathing.
- Improve posture
- Improve oxygen to the body and brain
- Increase energy levels
- Improve function of the ‘core’ muscles
- Sit sightly forward in your chair away from the back rest
- Make yourself as tall as possible by stretching the crown of your head towards the ceiling
- Breathe into your stomach, sides and lower back (you can use your hands to check)
- Practice this for 30 seconds or more
- Try and maintain this position for as long as possible after the drill
5. Stand/Walk around regularly
However good your sitting posture may be, it is important to move regularly. A standing desk is ideal, but not everyone will be keen on the idea! So, at a bare minimum, get up and take a short walk or even just stand and move your legs. You can coincide this with your sitting tall and breathing; take a short walk then come back, sit tall and breathe diaphragmatically.
- Increase blood flow to your legs
- Use and increase blood flow to your leg, hip and ‘core’ muscles
- Prevent your muscles from going to sleep
- Burn extra calories
6. Hip and thoracic mobilisation (2-4 mins)
Sitting down and slouching in front of a computer can have negative effects on your mobility. Particularly in your upper back (thoracic) and your hips. Any drill that can help restore movement to these area can be very beneficial. One of my favourites is the one pictured. It opens up the hips in opposite directions and helps to elongate the thoracic spine.
- Improve hip mobility
- Improve posture
- Improve thoracic spine mobility
Adding these 6 drills into your daily routine can really pay dividends over time. Whether your goal is to reduce body fat or improve your marathon time; these will help speed up your progress and help look after your body in the process. Set yourself reminders for these and focus on 1 or 2 to start with. As these become habit you can build more into your routine.