Are you feeling tired while sitting at your desk? You may have been working on one assignment for too long, and you find your productivity flagging. You might tell yourself that you need coffee to keep you going. So you get up, walk to the coffee maker, and get yourself something caffeinated. Immediately, just having the coffee in hand, you start to feel more alert. Is it merely the idea and association of the coffee that woke you up, or was it the fifteen steps that you took to get it?
In those fifteen steps, you rose from your chair. This involves stretching and engaging muscles which had previously been relaxed. You may also have increased your heart rate slightly from resting to active. Increasing your heart rate causes increased blood circulation, allowing you r blood to carry more oxygen to your brain. Increased blood circulation makes you feel more alert and quickens your reactions.
Step up from your desk when you’re feeling tired. Do a few exercises to increase your blood circulation. This practice will allow you to up your daily productivity, brighten your mood, and keep your brain active and firing.
These are six little exercises that are easy to do in the home or office to help get your blood moving:
1. Tai Chi Twist
Moving and stretching your spine is the most important part of waking yourself up. If you have been sitting for a long time, chances are that your spine hasn’t been moving. This exercise wakes up the spine and gives you a little warm movement without asking for too much exertion.
- Stand with your legs apart at hip distance and your arms loose at your sides.
- Start by gently twisting your hips and swinging your arms in the same direction, so that, as you twist to the right, your right hand swings toward your back and your left hand swings in front of you.
- Twist gently back and forth until your spine starts to loosen. Then you can start to twist more quickly. Your arms will start to rise higher with each twist. No need to overextend! Only twist as much and as quickly as feels comfortable.
- Gradually slow your movement until you come back to standing.
2. Yoga Forward Fold
Forward folds help you to stretch and release tension, without asking you to touch your toes if you aren’t able. Yoga focuses on breath, and focusing on breathing can help to reduce stress and reorient your mind.
- Stand with your legs hip distance apart, and drape your torso over as if you were going to touch your toes.
- Let yourself hang, with your neck loose and looking back toward your legs. You can grab opposite elbows with your hands. This allows the natural weight of your torso to pull you down a little further. You can also sway your hips gently to release your tensions.
- Remember to breathe deeply!
- If you would like to add movement into this, rise halfway with every intake of breath, and sink back down as you release your breath.
- Stand back up straight with energy. Get the most out of this by linking your hands above your head and stretching upward, making sure to fully extend your rib cage.
3. Jumping Jacks
This can be a distracting one if you’re in an office with other people, but if you have some room to move, jumping jacks will get your blood pumping and give you a boost of energy all at once. It’s often good to pair this movement-based exercise with a more deliberate stretch.
- Stand up straight with your legs together and your arms by your side.
- Jump so that your legs go apart and your arms raise up by your head.
- Jump back to your original position with your legs together and your arms by your sides.
- Gradually speed up so that you gain momentum.
4. Wall Sits
This is a more strength-intensive exercise that requires that you have a clear spot on a wall. It’s easy to fit thirty second wall-sits into your workday. You can do this whenever you are waiting for something, such as a document that you are printing, the microwave when you are having lunch, or even when you are waiting for someone to pick up the phone.
- Lean with your back and butt against the wall.
- Have your legs one foot from the wall. This may need to be more if you have longer legs.
- Lower yourself into a seated position or as far down as your strength will allow, while keeping your back straight against the wall. Hold that position for a set amount of time. 15-30 seconds.
- Using your legs muscles, raise yourself back up.
5. Crossing Arms
If you are used to slouching, your back will take the most wear and tear from sitting at a desk all day. It is easier to remember to keep your back and shoulders straight when you are standing than when you are sitting down. Stretch out your back and shoulders at the same time by doing a Crossing Arms twist.
- Cross your right arm in front of your chest.
- Bring your left arm up at a 90º angle to lock it in place. The closer to the wrist your left arm holds the right arm, the more intense the stretch will be.
- Turn to the left, stretching tall with your ribcage and looking over your left shoulder.
- Hold. Then gently loosen your twist, coming back to the front, and repeat with the other side.
6. Standing Arabesques
This is an exercise developed from dancing warm-ups. This movement will both strengthen your legs, and increase circulation in them so that they don’t cramp up or go to sleep.
- Stand behind your chair with your legs hip distance apart. Hold onto the back of your chair for balance.
- Transfer your weight onto your left leg, and slightly raise your right leg behind you.
- Draw a circle with the toes of your right leg. Do 12 clockwise, then 12 counterclockwise.
- Lower your right and lift your left leg. Do the same.
- Repeat if you have the time.
You can take a short break to combine some of these exercises, or you can find ways to squeeze them into your day. This practice will not only make your work day healthier, but it will also allow you to work more efficiently and productively. Introducing stretches and exercises into your work day may even lighten your mood.
What other exercises and stretches help get you through your work day?