People may have begun returning to office, but the reality is that many are still logging in to do their job remotely. If WFH is hanging around, the same possibly can't be said for your working from home exercise routine, which may have slowly fallen by the wayside (understandably) during the pandemic.
Want to get back on track? If you were the type back in 'normal times' to schedule in a pre-work spin class or head to the gym for a PT session once you clocked off, it's likely that you need to train differently now. For starters, you'll probably need to reflow the money saved on memberships and classes into investing in some equipment to challenge your body the same way at home. (The best dumbbells for women are a good place to start.)
Then there's the fact you probably no longer have that active commute—that featured walking, cycling, or hopping on and off trains—still bookending your nine to five. And, without colleagues to go chat to or Pret to pop out for, chances are you're pretty glued to your seat (read: sofa) that was never designed for you to be hustling from.
Indeed, months of WFH are sure impacting our bodies. “Sitting down all day at your desk without being able to get up for a stroll around the office, or walking to get a coffee or some lunch, can take its toll,” says David Wiener, training specialist at fitness app Freeletics (opens in new tab). “When you sit at your desk for prolonged periods of time with minimal movement, your muscles begin to shorten, eventually leaving your whole body feeling tight, which could lead to aches and pains.” Ouch.
So, we've called on the experts to give your fitness schedule a little refresher—with a focus on counteracting lack of movement and poor posture. Not only will reintroducing regular exercise boost your immune system (still, err, a hot topic), but it’s key for brain power (hello: promotion!), improves your mood, and helps you tone up (also nice).
Here's the motivation you need to shut your laptop and lace up those trainers pronto...
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Working from home exercise: do these 6 things
1. Take a break
Yep, we're not your boss—but your body will thank you for briefly stepping away from your desk, says Lyndsay Hirst, a physiotherapist and clinical Pilates instructor at Your Pilates Physio (opens in new tab). “Working from home often means a poor workstation set-up and intense working hours, leaving you sat in the same position for a long time,” she explains. “Most people sit in a flexed position, the hips are stuck at a right angle and often the shoulders round.”
To combat this, Hirst recommends all her desk-bound patients take a quick time out for a cobra stretch. You lay on your tummy with your hands on either side of your head, inhale to prepare, then as you breathe out push your chest and head away from the floor to arch your lower back,” she explains. “Repeat this ten times, two to three times a day.” She also advises standing up and walking around regularly, noting: “Changing your posture is much more important than maintaining a 'good' posture.”
2. Stretch it out
However, you needn’t even move away from your desk for a reset. “A few simple stretches can help ensure your blood is flowing nicely—and also wake the body up,” says Wiener.
First, target your neck. “Sitting in front of a computer screen all day can cause discomfort—not only can this literally be a pain in the neck, but it can also lead to headaches,” explains Wiener. “It is important to ensure you are moving your neck around every hour to relieve any tension that may have built up. Tilt your head forward as far as you can, and then move it around in a circular motion.”
Then, loosen out your shoulders. “When you are sat down all day you may find yourself slouched and with an uncomfortable back," continues Wiener. “Shoulder rolls can really help—lift them as high as you can, then slowly roll them back and around, before changing direction.”
Lastly, ease out your spine. “If you are sat on your chair, all you need to do is turn your shoulders around and hold the top of the chair, pulling your shoulders around your back as far as you can,” adds Wiener. Repeat on the other side.
And barely an email missed!
3. Go for a walk
While you may be wondering when the intensity will ramp up, bear with us. Because going for a stroll—of any pace—is one of the most crucial things you can add to your WFH day. “With no commute, this is the part that suffers the most and it’s also the biggest variable contributor to body composition,” explains personal trainer Luke Worthington (opens in new tab), of how it can crucial walking is if fat loss is your goal. “Aim to hit your 10,000 steps daily.”
And going some quick outdoor cardio will also do wonders. “Leaving the house for a run in the fresh air will also have a positive impact on your mental health,” says Wiener. “If you can't get outside, even ten minutes spent jogging on the spot or running up and down your stairs will get your blood pumping and have a positive impact.”
4. Don't neglect strength
But just clocking up the kilometers simply won't cut it when it comes to fitness—incorporating resistance training into your WFH fitness routine is key. Research has found that two sessions a week—be that with your bodyweight, or lifting weights—can boost your metabolism. And a University of Sydney study (opens in new tab) has found it’s also good news for your brain.
Not sure where to start? Worthington has created an affordable 16-week program (opens in new tab) —requiring just a set of dumbbells and a chair—that can be followed from your living room or garden.
5. Head online
On that note, if you’re looking for some at-home guidance—and can’t afford your own physical trainer on Zoom or in the park—joining online classes or downloading a workout app can be a great way to stay motivated and see your performance improve.
“If you’re short of time and are looking to get your heart rate high and sweat a lot I’d recommend doing a short, sharp 30-minute HIIT workout,” says Josh Davies, personal trainer at Aimee Victoria Long (opens in new tab). “But it’s important to listen to your body. If you’re stressed and muscles are tight and have a little more time, maybe look for a yoga or Pilates class that can help relieve some of that soreness and tension.”
6. Try these 3 moves
“Stretch your arms out in front of you horizontally and squat as if you are going to sit, going down as far as you can and then back up,” says Lucy Arnold, personal trainer and founder of activewear brand Lucy Locket Loves (opens in new tab). “Repeat this as long as you can. If you have the equipment, hold a weight towards your chest—instead of having your arms out—for an added challenge.”
Close-grip wall push-ups
“Stand rigidly and at arm's length from a wall, facing towards it,” explains Arnold. “Place your hands on the wall and bend your arms to lower yourself toward the wall—as if you were doing a vertical push-up. Repeat this for as long as you can. For an extra challenge, you can stand slightly further away.”
“This exercise, with a funny name, is fantastic for your core,” notes Arnold. “Lie on your back with your arms directly up in the air, and with your knees bent in line with your hips. Extend your left arm behind you and your right leg out, without placing either on the ground. Hold for a second and return. Do the same with your right arm and left leg. Repeat for as long as you can.”
Lauren is a freelance writer and editor with more than six years of digital and magazine experience. Most recently, she has been the Acting Commissioning Editor of Women's Health—where she co-produced the Going For Goal podcast—and has previously also written news and features for titles including The Telegraph, Grazia, Stylist, Dazed, The Sun's Fabulous, Yahoo Style UK and Get The Gloss. She covers all aspects of lifestyle, specializing in health, beauty, and travel. Can't live without: oat milk lattes, new podcast episodes, long walks, and great skincare.
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