Functional Fitness


Published 5th November 2019

We all know that humans weren’t designed to sit for hours on end and that quite possibly our posture and lack of movement must contribute to poor posture, back pain and digestive issues. Despite what Generation Z may believe, we also weren’t born with iPhones in our hands. So the tilt of the head towards the uplifted phone controlled largely by one thumb is a heavily repeated pose that also has a detrimental effect on physical and mental health. I’m just going to talk about physical fitness here, as the mental side of all this is a whole ‘other discussion.

So if we know all of this, and if relaxed shoulders are a distant memory, do we all actually do enough to counteract the effects of these unnatural positions? I’m going to guess probably not, so let’s make it easy. By building in some really simple moves into your daily working routine, the idea is that they become second nature, not taking up an extra time and saving valuable minutes and money when you discover you can say goodbye to your favourite chiropractor / physio / osteopath.

I’ll make some suggestions as to when you might carry out a few moves, but it will work best if you decide yourself what you’ll do and what will be your time trigger for each exercise.

No offence to your amazing boss and scintillating team catch ups, but next time you find yourself suffering an energy dip mid meeting, awaken yourself with some “Lower Leg Lifts”:

Great for mobilising legs and also engaging your core. It’s also really subtle. Sitting straight, shoulders back and down, core engaged, have your feet flat on the floor. Next, lift one knee up a few inches, then place the foot back down and go to the other side. Keep repeating as many times as you like (without getting distracted from your colleague’s update!). If you want to increase the load, lift both knees up at the same time.

Feeling the stress rising and need to reset – it’s a perfect time for some “Neck Stretches”:

Slowly turn your head to the right as far as you can go without pain! Repeat to the other side. Look slowly up to the ceiling, then down to the floor. Next tilt your head to one side, so your ear is heading towards your shoulder, and again on the other side. So very simple but brilliant at dissipating or preventing a build up of tension.

On a call and want to energise a little without losing the thread of the conversation? Go for a few “Oblique Twists”:

You have one of those swivelly office chairs, right? (And if not, just stand for a few moments for this one). Literally just slowly twist to one side as far as it feels comfortable, then back the other way. Repeat as many times as you like.

Just finished on that call and ready to start with some computer work? Time for some “Shoulder Squeezes”:

For this exercise, put one palm onto the opposite side’s upper shoulder, just where the shoulder meets the upslope of your neck. Now imagine the muscle you feel here is a sponge and as you breathe in, squeeze the sponge, visualising squeezing out dirty water or toxins. It can help to lift your shoulder up at the same time. Then breathe out and relax your grip and relax your shoulder back down. Once you’ve done this a few times, relax both arms by your sides and notice the difference. Hopefully the exercised side is feeling good, which will inspire you to then do the same on the other side!

Standing in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil or in the queue for the coffee machine? Slot in some “Calf Raises” right now:

For risk of looking as though you’re checking for dust on top of the kitchen fittings, simply lift up on to your tip toes, and slowly lower back down. Repeat several times. If no one is looking, or if you’re feeling that the benefit of some stretching is worth some question handling, you can add in a counter stretch by stepping one foot back and lowering that heel carefully towards the ground, then treating the other calf to the same stretch.

Just popped for a bathroom break… Skip checking your hair in the mirror and instead ease off with a few “Extended Arm Stretches” (my personal favourite):

Breathe deeply and lift one up straight up above you, then very slowly start to circle it back. When you feel you’ve reached the point of most tension, hold there for a few seconds, then complete the circle. Repeat on the other side. If you have a few more moments, do a couple more on each side.

Reinvigorate to avoid that post lunchtime slump with a spot of “Arm Tapping”:

Whether you did the right thing and took a break from your desk, or whether you committed the cardinal sin of eating over your keyboard, a quick stimulation of your sensory nerves will improve your proprioception: your body to mind feedback. For this one, vigorously tap one arm with the opposite hand, from the shoulder, down to your hand, trying to cover as much surface area as you can. Next cover the same area but this time rub as though you’re washing your arm. Move from shoulder to hand again, this time “brushing” as though you’re wiping away dirt. Finally give your arm a forceful shake before repeating the process for the other arm.

So there you have it. It’s all about making a few simple moves a habit. And while you spend a few seconds on each, you’re giving your mind a short but sweet restorative rest as well. Think you’ll get weird looks from colleagues? Most of the moves are pretty subtle, but if they ask or if you’re just a natural sharer, explain what you’re up to. If they too want to ease away a little stress, they’ll surely have the sense to join in.

Written by Lorna Dunn

Freelance Marketing Consultant, Pure Communications Cambridge Limited