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!

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