Saturday, April 28, 2007

Healthy Office Space Workouts

Ever since I stopped teaching ballet full time and began working in an office space, I have been bothered by not having the time in most givens days to work out, or just move around, as much as I would like.

Then a few years ago Doris Bondi, a rehabilitation trainer, came into our office to work with a patient. The patient was elderly and weak, and yet in a few months of once-a-week training on a physio ball, this patient showed marked improvement in his muscular strength.

At the time I was living in a small apartment with no room to add exercise equipment. I started training with Doris, and added a ball to my home office space, simply by replacing the chair in front of my computer with a ball. What a difference that made to my daily exercise!

Firstly, the ball gives with every breath I take, so there is no pressure moving up my spine causing my back muscles to hold a position, resulting in tension. This is not a cardio-vascular workout, but will keep the body oxygenated with better circulation, far better than merely sitting.

Secondly, while reading on the computer, or waiting for a page to load, I exercise! (I soon became able to type while I am bouncing - just takes practise!) The simplest thing to do is to simply bounce gently, with both feet flat on the floor, placed either directly below your knees, or slightly in front of. This keeps you on balance and in control of the ball. And when I say bounce, I mean a movement like a fidget. This uses your stomach muscles ALL THE TIME. Isn't that wonderful?

Posture on the ball should be a 90 degree angle at the hips. Especially, the hips should not be lower than the knees. (If you have had a hip injury of any kind, the physio ball may aggravate joint inflammation from previous strain or scar tissue. You just have to try it and see. Of course, don't continue anything that hurts.) Balls come in several sizes, and the size in relation to your height would likely be written on the packaging. If not, find a brand that does supply this information.

There are several exercises you can do sitting on a physio ball in your business or home office space. Be warned, the ball can roll and dump you on the floor. You can purchase a hoop type of frame that the ball can sit in to confine its movement, or a round pan that allows a small amount of movement but will not allow the ball to roll. Putting a large book on the floor behind the ball also restricts rolling. Wrapping a rolled up towel around the hind curve of the ball achieves the same thing. Safety first!

You can experiment with using certain muscles by moving your weight slightly forward or back. If you roll the ball forward one inch or so, you'll feel the pressure of balancing go onto your quads, or thigh muscles. If you bounce gently in this position for a few minutes, you will be engaging those muscles.

If you bounce by moving your heels up and down, you will be exercising your calf muscles, and also the muscles around your ankles and under the sole of your foot. Caution: (dancers already know this) when you are lifting and lowering your heels, look down to see that you are not leaning the foot toward the big toe, or toward the little toe. This is called 'sickling the foot' (because you are making a shape like a sickle) and you want to keep the line of motion going up and down the center of your foot.

Want to tighten up your butt muscles? Relax the thighs and focus on squeezing your buttocks up and down. Bounce for a few minutes using only your butt muscles. This is mindless and easy to do. Done several times a day while you are reading or typing, is a lot different than just sitting there with your muscles in that spread position!

While doing these exercises, or by only sitting on the ball, all your abs, hips and leg muscles will be doing tiny movements to effect your balance, without any effort on your part.

Push that chair into a corner and get a physio ball, and turn your office space into a healthy space! If you are the boss in your office space, be a leader in health and fitness. You and your employees will benefit in invisible but healthy ways.

Breathing will be deeper and more oxygen will be going to the brain! Metabolism will stay gently stimulated. Muscles will be moving with no strain instead of gripping in positions leading to spasm and pain.

This is not dramatic but it is evolutionary. Think about what a truly comfortable and supportive office chair costs. Not a little! And not that everyone shouldn't have one. But a good quality physio ball costs under $35.00, and many come with a hoop or pan to prevent rolling. Some office supply stores even sell a chair with a ball in the frame.

Just remember that you are on something that can roll, set it up for safe use, and you will change what your body does all day, every day. Think about how many hours a year you sit on a chair!

Evolutionize your office space - and have a ball!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Office Space and How its Location Affects Productivity

Whether you are looking for office space rentals, or managing some, or are already working in one, you have your own reasons for liking the space - or not. What if you could do one enhancement, and like your space even better, like the job even better, and feel more well-being in general?

Rachel Kaplan, PhD, and husband Stephen Kaplan, a professor in both psychology and computer science, are leaders in research on what they refer to as "restorative environments". The results of their studies show that individuals who can see a portion of green nature, from their place of work, do better. So it appears that what one can see from one's desk, or one's window, really matters.

Terry A. Hartig, PhD, MPH, is another researcher who also concludes that nature helps people
recover from what he expresses as "normal psychological wear and tear".

In a research paper "The Surprising Connection to Green Play Settings" by Andrea Faber Taylor, and Frances E. Kuo, their introduction begins with the following statement:

"Attention Restoration Theory suggests that contact with nature supports attentional functioning, and a number of studies have found contact with everyday nature to be related to attention in adults."

So, back to office space, office rentals - and last but not least - your home office space - it seems that there could be a very simple way to enhance our environment to support our drive to produce and succeed, optimizing our energy and moods at the same time!

For example, if you have an office space at home or in a business building of offices, and you do not have a window (never mind the coveted "corner office") studies show that you would do well to add at least one attractive plant. It doesn't even have to be a real plant, but it should be where you can see it, and it should be worth looking at.

If you have a view of real greenery, appreciate it, notice it, drink in the scenery...but if not, you could add a wall calendar with gorgeous photos or paintings of nature, or an art print. Many offices provide some art work and plants because their managers and consultants have read these studies too. Then again, some don't.

If you have a window behind you with a view of tree tops or landscaping, put up a mirror wherever you can. Failing all else, you can put a tiny convex mirror on your computer monitor, the kind you get for your rear view mirrors.

Just turning around and taking a few deep breaths while you view the available greenery, is a very restorative quick break.

Speaking of breathing, I will digress shortly for a comment on real versus fake plants. There are volumes written on indoor air pollution - particularly relative to office space, though the same data is true for our homes. Many green indoor plants remove noxious fumes generated by everything that is in the typical office space - from the paint, the carpeting, the furniture, the machines - everything! Fresh air created by air purification machines is a bonus of course, but plants in your office space area do a tremendous job in cleaning the air.

Greenery in urban office spaces is important. In a home office, or corner of a room, (as that is what many of us have), we have direct control over what we look at - real greenery, or reasonable facsimiles.
It seems a simple way to add to our techniques of manifesting success - managing internet marketing means managing a lot of detail. Adding greenery would be one of the easier ones! So whether you sit in a huge office in an urban commercial office space, or you sit at the corner of your kitchen table, it matters. Everybody matters, you matter.