As we all know, sitting in a chair all day can create stiffness, muscle loss and weight gain. Add to that tension, stress and fatigue if you are working at a computer for hours at a time. With a well-planned “desk-ercise” routine, you can eliminate or at least alleviate side effects due to a seated lifestyle.
Plan Your Workout
Your first step for planning a workout is a visit with your primary doc or a physical therapist to determine the level of workout you can perform. You know your body more than anybody, so choose a workout routine that works best for your condition and ability. If you have issues such as diabetes, high/low blood pressure or pressure sores, your doc or PT will consider these when helping you decide on an exercise program.
Adults with disabilities should perform moderate to intense exercise 2.5 hours per week. At least plan on a 15 or 30-minute workout five to seven times a week. Workout choices and tools depend on style and preference. Whether you prefer stretching, yoga or strength training, or using diagrams, videos or exercise equipment, you can find a routine and delivery method to fit your needs.
Geared toward wheelchair users, Beyond Disability: A Yoga Practice with Matthew Sanford (video available at www.mindbodysolutions.org) is a basic program for wheelers that will guide your practice and includes a good workout for quads. Sanford is planning more in-depth videos.
Since 1986, PBS has offered Sit and Be Fit videos with trainer Mary Ann Wilson, a post-polio rehab nurse. Wilson offers extensive warm-up, stretching and cool-down movement. Although a few of her exercises require a standing position, they are otherwise geared toward sitting and are great for wheelers. Videos are available at your local library or Amazon.com.
The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability offers a “14 Weeks to a Healthier You” program that includes phone or text reminders, goal tracking, nutritional information, exercise programs and videos so you can follow along with other wheelchair users. You can sign up for this free program at www.NCPAD.org/14weeks.
Another free exercise program is available at HelpGuide.org. This program offers a complete seated workout for great warm-up, stretching, cardiovascular, strength training and flexibility exercises that work for daily desk-ercise regimes.
With a little creativity you can modify these or almost any exercises that are not necessarily aimed at wheelchair users to add physical activity to your day.
Work Your Plan
Always begin your workout with a warm-up, simply letting your arms fall to your sides, rolling your neck or performing other gentle movements. Next, stretch for a few minutes. Then do your routine and cool down by relaxing a few minutes.
A log or journal of your daily routine will keep you on track. An alarm that sounds when you’re due for a workout or stretch is perfect for those who need a reminder. If you need personal motivation, develop a buddy system with a friend who will exercise with you.
Don’t settle for scheduled workouts only. Incorporate movement into your daily routine. If you use a manual chair, park a distance from your worksite or shopping destination; use the accessible bathroom that is farthest from your desk; move around outside.
Nutrition is important while working out, so never skip lunch. On workout days, bring a bag lunch — you’ll save time by not having to go to a restaurant. Eat a snack one hour prior to your workout and keep healthy snacks, protein and water on hand. Good snack choices include yogurt, cottage cheese, almonds, energy bars, granola, cheese and whole-wheat crackers.
Work Your Mind
Don’t overwhelm yourself. Start out with a short, easy regimen, building momentum as you feel more comfortable with your routine. Give yourself three to four weeks for your routine to become habit. If you miss a few days, don’t beat yourself up, just start again, building to where you left off.
No matter what desk-ercise regime you decide on, be sure to stretch your body however you can at least once per hour, drink plenty of water and eat low-fat snacks to keep your energy level up. Any form of exercise will ease your stress or anxiety, put you in a better mood, boost your energy level and even improve your self-esteem. Most importantly, it will get you on your way to a healthier you.