You know it's important to have a strong core: Your core muscles stabilize your spine, assist with balance and coordinate movement between your ribcage and pelvis, allowing for greater overall strength and ease of movement. But core-strengthening exercises can be tough. Change your focus and look at exercise a whole different way: You can strengthen your core muscles anywhere -- even at the office. Schedule a movement break at least once an hour.
Fun in the Office
Add some fun to your workday by looking at everyday office equipment through a child's eyes. That desk chair isn't just a chair -- it's a rolling, swiveling exercise machine. The tilting footrest under your desk is a perfect wobble board or wedge on which you can practice balancing. Even the water bottles that you drink from become an exercise prop when you change your focus.
Your core muscles activate whenever you are in an awkward or unstable position, so stand on one foot, push up onto your toes or balance on an uneven surface while you are talking on the phone. High-heeled dress shoes can be an exercise prop; simply slip off one shoe and balance on the other one, swinging the free leg forward, back and out to the side. Slip off both shoes, pull the footrest out from under your desk and balance on it. If your footrest pivots, use it as a wobble board by placing your feet toward the edges and rocking it side to side, then balance on one foot over the center of the footrest. If it's a wedge-shaped footrest, balance in different positions on the board. Most offices allow you to bring in personal items, so tuck an inflatable balance disc under your desk. When it's time for your break, stand on it with one or both feet while you swing your arms forward, backward and overhead.
Desk Chair Games
If you have a chair with wheels or a seat that swivels, perform a seated torso twist, turning your ribcage one direction and your hips the other. Do a few seated crunches. Place your hands behind your head, hollow your abdominals and crunch forward 30 to 45 degrees. If you brought an inflatable disc to stand on, place it on your chair and sit on it while you work. The uneven surface will force your core to stabilize.
Your core muscles respond to isometric resistance by stabilizing. An isometric contraction is one where the muscles are held at a constant length. Fill two water bottles about half full. Place a water bottle under each arm between your upper arms and ribcage about 2 inches above your elbows. Make sure your elbows are in line with the seam on the side of your shirt and squeeze the bottles against your ribs. As you squeeze, pull your belly button in toward your spine. Hold the contraction for a few seconds, then release. Repeat 10 to 12 times. Then squeeze the water bottles as you walk or balance. Make sure you relax your shoulder and back muscles and move fluidly.
- ACE Advanced Health & Fitness Specialist Manual; American Council on Exercise
- Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Exercises for Spine Stabilization: Motion/Motor Patterns, Stability Progressions, and Clinical Technique
- Physical Therapy Review: Participation of the Abdominal Muscles in Various Movements of the Trunk in Man
Cindy Killip is a health and fitness specialist, health coach, author and speaker who has been teaching and writing about exercise and wellness since 1989. She authored "Living the BONES Lifestyle: A Practical Guide to Conquering the Fear of Osteoporosis." Killip holds multiple certifications through the American Council on Exercise and degrees in communications and sociology from Trinity University.