While we knew the hazards of sitting for prolonged periods years before the pandemic, nowadays the need for physical activities at home has become even more acute.
When office work was standard for everyone, people used to have to walk to the bus or subway, or at least to the car, and take a few laps around the office. Today, when remote work is the new normal, the walk from the bedroom to the fridge is the longest distance many of us make in a day.
We have repeatedly emphasized the importance of taking regular breaks. However, the quality of the breaks you take also matters if you want to return to work energized and productive.
It’s perfect if you have the opportunity to go for a walk or squeeze in a gym workout in your work hours. But not all days – and not all workplaces – allow us such freedom, especially when you’re working strictly 9 to 5. That’s why in this post, we propose 7 types of healthy physical activities you can do without leaving your home.
- Stretching at your desk
- All-body rotations
- Balance exercises (with or without a board)
- Leg exercises & “vein pumps”
- The downward-facing dog
- Ab exercises
- Exercises on a fitness ball
1. Stretching at your desk
Excessive sitting is the culprit of many health issues. Over time, it tightens and weakens your body, especially the back and hip areas. This can cause headaches and back pain, making it harder to focus and stay productive.
Studies show that even spending 10 minutes exercising can stimulate blood flow, relieve muscle tension, and help you overcome that mid-afternoon slump. Therefore, it’s definitely better to do some simple physical exercises at home – even in front of your desk – than not move at all.
For example, a posterior shoulder stretch is a simple but effective physical activity to do at home, coffee shop, office, or anywhere else. It’s great for easing the shoulder strain from prolonged seating. To do it, simply hold one arm across your body and pull your elbow into your chest.
Alternatively, you can stretch your arms above your head – either straight or folded. While you’re at it, relax your eyes as well by facing a different direction than your computer screen. This exercise stretches not only your shoulder muscles but also your upper back and your triceps. Hold each pose for 10 to 30 seconds.
2. All-body rotations
Rotational exercises are great because they improve the mobility in your upper back and hips, strengthen your core, and help you support your lower back. Furthermore, they are a fantastic way to stretch your whole body.
This chart shows how you can rotate different parts of your body.
|Body part||How to do it||Duration|
|Neck||Gently turn your head from side to side and gradually stretch the muscles on the outside of your neck||Stretch each side for 10 to 30 seconds|
|Trunk||Keep feet firmly on the ground and rotate your upper body in the direction of the arm that’s resting on the back of your chair||Rotate each side for 10 to 30 seconds|
|Waist||Place your hands on your waist, feet at shoulder’s width. Bend forward slightly from the waist and rotate your upper body clockwise and then counterclockwise||Rotate each side for 10 to 30 seconds|
|Hips||Place your hands on your waist, feet at shoulder’s width. Rotate hips clockwise & then counterclockwise||Rotate each side for 10 to 30 seconds|
In addition, you can do the Yoga rotation – one of the healthiest physical exercises to do at home. It involves sitting on the ground with your legs crossed and twisting your body as much as you can to the right and then to the left. This twisting pose energizes your spine and stretches your body while helping to alleviate fatigue and stimulate your internal organs.
3. Balance exercises (with or without a board)
If you’re looking for a fun and slightly challenging way to do healthy exercises at home, getting a balance board is a good idea. A balance board can help you develop good posture and fight back against your spine slumping. Balancing on this tricky board will also be good for strengthening the deep muscles in your torso that aren’t normally worked out.
Some exercises to try on a balance board:
- At first, learn to stand on the balance board for at least 30 seconds, keeping your spine neutral and your posture upright (it will be more challenging than you think!)
- When you’re ready, try rocking front-to-back or side-to-side on the board
- When you feel confident, do the plank with your hands or forearms resting on the board (try saying the whole alphabet while you’re at it)
Read this article to learn about the different types of balance boards and creative ways of using them.
However, you don’t necessarily need a balance board to work on improving your balance and coordination. Depending on your skill level, you can try more or less advanced physical activities at home. This video demonstrates three basic but effective balance exercises for beginners.
4. Leg exercises & “vein pumps”
There’s tried and tested wisdom behind the saying “to stretch one’s legs.” Staying idle for a long time impairs blood circulation in your whole body, and literally stretching or moving your legs can help get those life juices flowing.
Try some of these healthy exercises at home, aimed at maintaining healthy mobility and strength in your legs:
Stand stably on the ground and then raise your heels and your toes alternately. This is a simple exercise that can be done even during online meetings.
Sit down on the floor, legs stretched out in front of you or sideways. Flex your toes to stretch your calves and try to reach down to touch your toes (don’t worry if you can’t reach them – your calves are working out either way). You can also extend only one leg outward and reach for your toes. Hold each pose for 10 to 30 seconds.
You can start with very small squats and gradually deepen them – the leg muscles are working either way. If necessary, hold on to the backrest of your chair. Make sure your knees don’t go in front of your toes.
Stand tall, with your hands on your hips. Take a big step forward. Bend your front knee while keeping it in line with your toes. Step back to the start position and repeat 10 or 20 times.
5. The downward-facing dog
If you’ve tried yoga at least once in your life, you are probably familiar with its favorite pet – the downward-facing dog pose. This position is one of the foundations of yoga for a reason – it helps to work out imbalances in the body, improves strength, supports digestion, and relieves back pain.
Furthermore, the slight inversion in this pose helps to release tension, boost energy levels, and increase blood circulation, especially to the brain. This means that you are almost guaranteed to come back to work more energized and productive.
How to do it:
- Get on all fours
- Press into your hands, lift up your knees and bring your sitting bones toward the ceiling
- Lengthen your spine and tailbone
- Keep a slight bend in your knees and your heels slightly off the ground
- Distribute your weight evenly between both sides of your body, paying attention to the position of your hips and shoulders
- Keep your head in line with your upper arms or with your chin tucked in slightly
- Hold this pose for up to one minute
6. Ab exercises
Abdominal exercises aren’t just for six-packs. Strengthening your ab muscles can improve your body strength, posture, and relieve back pain, which is beneficial for everyone. To build your ab muscles, make a habit of doing at least three sets of ab-focused exercises two to three times per week.
These are some healthy physical activity examples to get you started on building your abs:
Start by lying on your back with your knees bent, preferably on a mattress. Keep your knees bent at a 90-degree angle, with your feet flat on the floor. Cup the back of your ears with your fingertips or cross your arms over your chest. Lift your torso, bringing it closer to your thighs, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat the exercise 10 times. For working out different muscle groups, you can do this exercise in two ways – lifting only your upper back or also the lower back off the floor.
Start with your legs lifted at a 90-degree angle. Slowly lower your legs 10-13 cm, so they are still hovering in the air, and hold this position for 5-10 seconds. Keep your back flat while lowering your legs. Return to the 90-degree angle and repeat the exercise 10 times.
Hold a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles as you support yourself on your forearms and toes. Start with 20-second holds and work up towards 40 and 60 seconds. Make sure you tilt your pelvis back slightly to flatten your lower back.
Lie on your back with your arms raised to the ceiling. Raise your legs at a 90-degree angle bend. Slowly lower your right arm towards the ground and simultaneously extend your left leg, so both limbs end up parallel to the ground. Then repeat the movements with the other arm and leg. Work for 30 to 60 seconds.
7. Exercises on a fitness ball
A fitness ball is a great piece of equipment for doing healthy exercises at home – not only because it’s cheap and easy to deflate and store, but also because of the numerous healthy applications for its use.
For starters, if you work at the computer while sitting on a fitness ball, your body is constantly trying to balance itself, thus helping you practice better posture and strengthening your abs. We’ve already tested how swapping an office chair for a yoga ball impacts productivity and found that it activates the brain and helps fight procrastination.
When it comes to doing physical activities at home, a fitness ball can be a great help for stretching, squatting, and many other exercises. Here are some examples:
Fitness ball roll-out
Kneel in front of the ball and place your forearms on the side of the ball closest to you. Roll the ball forward as you extend your arms and use your abdominal muscles to keep your body steady and control the wobble. Then roll it back again slowly to the start, keeping your back flat throughout.
Place the gym ball between your lower back and the wall. This supports your back and helps increase the range of movement in the squat. In addition, this technique prevents your knees from going in front of your toes.
Gym ball crunch
Lie with your back on the ball, your knees bent at a 90-degree angle, and your feet steady on the ground. Place your hands at your temples and contract your abs to bring your torso up slowly. Pause at the top, then lean back over the ball to stretch your abs.
Stretching on a ball
Lie on the fitness ball with your back fully supported. If necessary, hold onto a wall for balance. Relax your hips, neck, and head on the ball, and let your arms fall gently along the sides and towards the floor. Enjoy a deep stretch in your chest and core.
Physical activities at home don’t have to be a drag
When you have a busy lifestyle with work, family, and other responsibilities taking up most of your time, it’s hard to always make it to the gym.
But doing healthy exercises at home can also be fun, energizing, and rewarding – especially when you see the first results of your workouts.
You can create a quick setup for working out in your bedroom, living room, or anywhere in your home. Just set 10-20 minutes aside, put on your favorite music, and have fun! The best part will come soon enough when you come back to work feeling energized and more productive.
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