strong core

Build a Strong Core Without Leaving Your Desk!

Ok, you might not get ripped abs typing away on your computer all day. But you can develop a strong core and improved wellness with these three simple moves.

Alex Teixeira, Owner and Head Trainer at Golden Fusion Fitness, has been generous enough to offer our readers some easy exercises to promote good health, balanced with a productive lifestyle.

This is part two of a five part series.

Last time, we touched on correct sitting posture. By focusing on this you’ve already begun to build that strong core! Just by keeping proper alignment while sitting, you are activating your postural muscles including the lumbar and abdominals.

So here are three more moves that can help with wellness, while being productive at work.

Belly Breathing: Our first exercise will take this correct sitting posture and add a type of belly breathing into the mix. Belly breathing is taught in dance, martial arts, singing, and other disciplines.

The majority of adults who have not been formally trained in belly breathing from one of these disciplines usually breathe using the expansion and contraction of the rib cage. This fills little more than the upper chambers of the lungs, just over a third capacity. To fill the rest of our lungs with vital oxygen we must consciously draw down our diaphragm by expanding your belly while inhaling.

To make the cleansing effect of our respiratory system extremely efficient, we must also come as close to completely emptying our lungs as possible when exhaling. To make this happen, simply flex those abdominals as you breath out until past the point you feel you have nothing left. Yes, this will help strengthen those stomach muscles. And what’s the wonderful side effect? How about increased blood flow to the brain even more rich in oxygen! Are alertness, thought power, and focus important to any of you?

Lounging: No, I don’t mean lunging. But lounging might not be quite as easy as it may sound either. More like edge-of-your-seat action!

First, shift forward in your seat so that your back is well away from the backrest. Now, slowly begin to lean back maintaining a straight spine. You should notice your abdominals are forced to flex, with the tension increasing the further you lean. Find a position that works for you and provides a sufficient challenge. Start with 30 seconds to test the waters, but you could potentially work to 20-30 minute stretches of this exercise rather quickly.

Knee Lifts: Alternating knee lifts will help you target your lower abdominals. Choose a time when you know you have a few minutes of reading or reflecting to do this exercise.

Push that keyboard drawer in and move back enough to give your knees some clearance. If you’re reading, adjust your monitor to make sure you are not straining your eyes in the process.

Now raise one knee towards your chest, as high as you can go before returning to the original position. Try to maintain a steady movement with a 3-4 count up and a 3-4 count down, consisting of about 10 reps each leg per set. You can alternate performing sets of the exercise by thrusting the knee as quickly and high as you can and gently returning it down.

WARNING: Do not throw your head and body forward to raise your knee higher! Keeping good posture throughout these exercises is paramount!

Bonus Move! Since the above exercise does require you to be slightly further from your desk, let’s look into another option you can even perform while writing!

You can also engage your core focusing on lower abdominals by extending your feet off the ground and away from you under the desk.

Begin by shifting forward until your sitting bones are close to the edge of your chair. When you hold your feet away from your centre, your core is forced to engage utilizing the lower fibres in order to counterbalance the weight. Your abdominals will receive a sustained isometric contraction building muscle tone and endurance.

Start with 10 second repetitions and work your way up. When you can maintain the hold for at least 30 seconds, try easing in some paddling with the feet (moving them up and down alternately).

A strong core will help you in your daily life, whether you’re lifting a child, carrying groceries, painting a wall, or delivering a presentation. Don’t neglect it!

Part Three coming soon!

Alex Teixeira is the owner and head trainer at Golden Fusion Fitness.

Richard S. Todd is President at The Editor’s Desk, providing professional business copywriting services, as well as comprehensive manuscript editing and proofreading.

neck and back

Office Wellness: Neck and Back Stretches

When you sit at your computer for long periods of time, often the only exercise you get involve your fingers clicking away at the keyboard. But prolonged periods of inactivity can lead to issues with joint health, repetitive strain injuries, and other complications associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

So what can writers do to avoid compromising their overall wellness without sacrificing blocks of precious writing time?

Alex Teixeira, Owner and Head Trainer at Golden Fusion Fitness, has been generous enough to offer our readers some easy exercises to promote good health, balanced with a productive lifestyle.

This is part one of a five part series.

Part One: Neck and Back

It is important to keep your back and neck supple. Some cultures even proclaim this to be the key to youthful longevity!

As a writer, or anyone spending a lot of their day in a fixed position, suppleness can be easily lost. You’re probably familiar with the mainstay methods of dealing with back health at the desk. For example, there are proper ergonomic angles associated with your workstation and its relation to your structure that are good as a general rule, and in itself can save a lot of injury. Your chair should be at a height that allows your hips and knees to be at 90 degrees. Shoulders relaxed and back aligned. Elbows around 90 degrees and keyboard height adjusted so that you can maintain your wrists in a neutral position. Take a ten-minute stretch break every 2 hours.

I believe that’s a really great start. But even sitting properly all day long isn’t going to cut it in the long run. Things get too stagnant. Muscles will spasm and vertebrae will seize. Lets look at some simple things to add to the mix to prevent this from happening.

The Slither:. Imagine you are a snake and your next idea lies across the field ahead of you. All you need to do is slither over and get it!

First check and make sure your back is in good alignment. Need help? Now begin by tilting your head slowly to one side (try to manipulate one vertebrae at a time). When it has reached its limit, fluidly allow the tilt to continue at the shoulders, then further down your back until your hip is about to rise off your seat. Now you can switch directions again starting by tilting your head to the other side.

Once you get the hang of it you can try adding in a small twisting motion and changing the size and speed of your slither. Not only is this an inspiring visualization, you will be flexing and extending the spine and all of its connective tissues laterally, giving your whole back a gentle stretch. Do it a few times on either side or as much as you need to. Remember, even when you speed it up a bit, this is meant to be a softer exercise.

The Flower Stretch: Another great stretch for the back and shoulder girdle is a modification of what I call the Flower Stretch.

Again, make sure your posture is on point. Hands on your thighs, eyes forward, breathe in deeply to the bottom of your belly. Slide your hands down towards the inside of your knees as you exhale, lips relaxed. Tuck your chin and round your shoulders spreading the shoulder blades away from each other. At this point, you should be feeling a good stretch in the upper back and neck.

Over the next few breaths, work your way down to target the lower areas. You can add a slight slither into this as well and cross your arms to use your fingers to crawl down your shins. When you are ready to come up, do so while inhaling slowly. Go past your original position, pulling your shoulders back and looking up.

Don’t miss this opportunity for a big smile!

Owl Stretch: Once again, begin by checking for proper alignment of your back. Next, simply rotate to one side beginning at the head, down to the shoulders followed by the remainder of the spine to the hips. Aim to achieve 180 degrees looking directly behind you. You may use your hands on your leg or the arm of your chair to assist the stretch. Hold for up to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

After completing these three exercises throughout your day, you may find yourself feeling like you’ve been out for a massage!

Speaking of being out, I can’t over state the importance of just getting out for a walk every once in a while. Not only are the physical benefits fully evident, it also works wonders to regain a creative flow when your thoughts are stifled.

Next up we’ll discuss core strength. Now that we know how to keep our backs loose and supple, we need to develop the necessary strength to support its structure!

Alex Teixeira is the owner and head trainer at Golden Fusion Fitness.

Richard S. Todd is President at The Editor’s Desk, providing professional business copywriting services, as well as comprehensive manuscript editing and proofreading.