The Handbook
The Handbook

Most of us are used to long hours at a desk but during these WFH months and more time inside generally, we’re likely sitting more than ever. Far more than is good for us. But there are plenty of exercises you can do without even needing to leave your chair – the key is to simply just move more.

We asked the woman on a mission to get the UK workforce moving more, Kerrie-Anne Bradley, Founder of Pilates At Your Desk, for some exercises and stretches that you can do while seated. 

Take five whenever you can and follow her easy exercises below to give your muscles and joints some TLC.

The basics of sitting well

I always start any workshop by saying that sitting per se is not bad. It is how we sit and how long we sit for that we need to pay attention to.

Crossing your legs, sitting on your knees, sitting like a cashew are all valid postures to move in and out of, however, the issue is that we do not really move in and out of them – we pick our preferred and stay there every time we sit down.

Over time this can cause muscle imbalances and in some cases, pain. Sitting like the way I am here allows the bones to be position in the best way for them to be stacked. If this seems alien, you can always start small. Do it for the first 10 minutes you switch on your computer and build up from there.

Here’s how: 

  • Feet flat on the floor
  • Knees at a right angle
  • Sitting on your sit bones
  • Ribs over hips
  • Shoulders wide and down
  • Neck in line with your spine (interlock your fingers, place hands behind your head and press head into hands – this is also an exercise in itself)

Breathing to stretch your middle back and calm your nervous system

In Pilates we use a breathing technique called Lateral Breathing which means breathing into the sides of the rib cage. It’s a great breathing exercise for taking in big breaths but also for stretching the rib cage.

Here’s how:

  • Hands on bottom ribs
  • Inhale in through your nose expanding ribs out to the side
  • Exhale through the nose ribs relax
  • Move your ribs like an accordion

Roll with it

Shoulder rolls – the devil is in the detail!

  • Tap the back of your armpits as this is where you will move from
  • Push your shoulders up to where you just tapped, take them back and roll them down
  • Do a few in each direction

Neck rotation

  • Turn your head to one side and then the other
  • Keep your shoulders still
  • Try to keep your chin on the same plane as you go around

Sit bones squeeze to get that bottom peachy

This exercise is great for strengthening the muscles under your bottom.

These are where the top of the hamstrings and the bottom of the glute max attach and are important for pushing your legs forward when you walk (and giving you a peachy behind).

  • Still sitting up on your sit bones
  • Squeeze sit bones together (you bob up)
  • Release them (you bob down)
  • Do a few times and play around with the tempo. It’ll make you smile too!

Stretch your spine sideways

  • Stay on both sit bones
  • Reach arms above head
  • Grab one wrist and bend to the side away from that wrist. Lift up and away from your waist like a long curve but not compressing your side
  • Come back to centre and do the other side
  • Do both sides a few times

Rotate your spine

  • Hands on knees
  • Rotate your spine to the right pulling your right hand towards you, pushing the left away.
  • Do both sides a few times

Legs lifts to work the belly

When we move in Pilates we think about starting all movement from our centre (the belly).

  • Put hands on lower tummy.
  • Sitting on both sit bones (not shifting) lift one foot off the floor. Think of lifting your leg from your belly button. You should feel your tummy.
  • Foot returns to the floor. Do a few on each side

Be a star!

Stretch your arms above your head. Do this one standing with legs apart too – it’s a great reset for the whole body.

For daily movement videos follow Pilates At Your Desk on Instagram and YouTube. 

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