When your mid-afternoon slump hits, you’re probably tempted to fight back with copious amounts of coffee and less-than-healthy snacks. But what your body really needs is a quick, 15-minute workout.
“Humans aren’t meant to sit as much as we do, especially at a desk job, because it stresses the spine and hips, leaving you feeling tired and achy,” says Jennifer McCamish, owner of Dancers Shape, a Pilates-based fitness studio in Austin, Texas, where she works with NFL players like Fozzy Whitaker and Emmanuel Acho. “That said, some of the most common issues are easy to fix. All you have to do is take a few minutes to stretch and alleviate stiffness.” So if you’re having a hard time keeping your eyes open at your desk, try McCamish’s 15-minute pick-me-up. You won’t even break a sweat.
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Stretch It Out
Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
“Tight hips are a common complaint, and can contribute to lower back pain,” McCamish says. The standing hip flexor stretch is an accessible and effective option you can do practically anywhere.
- Take a wide step forward with your right foot and bend both knees, keeping your weight in your front heel.
- Tuck your pelvis under and hold the position. You should feel a stretch through the front of your left hip.
- Reach your left arm up over your head to deepen the stretch.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat to the opposite side; perform the stretch twice on each side.
Supported Back Bend
The supported back bend (or standing camel pose) is a great way to open up your chest and shoulders.
- Place both hands on your lower back, your fingers pointing down toward your glutes.
- Tighten up your core for support and pull your shoulders back as you arch your upper back and look toward the ceiling.
- Only bend as far as you feel comfortable, then hold the position, breathing deeply.
- Hold for 10 seconds, release, then repeat two more times.
McCamish’s ragdoll-like hamstring stretch does three things for you: It stretches your hamstrings, relaxes your neck and spine, and allows blood to rush to your head, leaving you feeling invigorated.
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart or slightly wider, your knees slightly bent.
- Tilt your head forward, drawing your chin to your chest before rolling your torso down toward the floor one vertebrae at a time.
- Hang like a ragdoll, or gently swing your torso to the right and left, then shake your head “yes” and “no.”
- Hold the position as long as you like, aiming for at least 20 to 30 seconds; repeat the exercise two to three times.
Standing Figure-4 Hip Stretch
The standing figure-4 hip stretch helps loosen up your glutes, which can help alleviate low back pain.
- Stand behind a sturdy chair and place your hands on its back for support.
- Cross your right ankle over your left knee, allowing your right knee to flare outward, as though forming the number 4.
- Bend your left knee and press your hips back, lowering yourself as if you were sitting down in a chair in a half-squat.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, release, and repeat to the opposite side; perform the exercise two times per leg.
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Get Your Heart Pumping
Once you’ve worked out a few of the kinks, McCamish suggests moving around the office to wake your body up a little more. One option is to head to the nearest stairwell and take about five minutes to walk up and down the steps, going at a pace you feel comfortable with. If you don’t have stairs, take a two-minute walk to the water cooler and back, then perform a quick circuit of squats, lunges, and planks at your desk. Simply perform each move for 30 seconds, cycling through the moves twice.
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