It's been such a lovely Summer and hopefully there's still some more good weather to come! It's so much easier to get out about and be active when the weather is sunny and dry. For most of us though we spend the majority of our working day sitting at a desk. With our working life taking up a big portion of our week that ends up being a lot of our time.
So how can we incorporate more movement into our days? A few small changes is all it takes to bring some more movement into your day and can make a big difference to both your body and your mind. Physical activity reduces stress, improves energy levels, helps with sleep and relaxation, and keeps our bones and muscles strong. Really though, we all know that exercise is something we should be doing and we don't need to overhaul our lives to get some more activity in.
Do your Morning Stretches
Start your day as you mean to continue; get your body warmed up and moving with some stretches. This small task takes less than 10 minutes and I find it energises me and puts me in the mood for being active.
The reclined spine twist is a good one to add to your morning stretch routine as well; it helps to lengthen and keep those spinal muscles mobile. It also stretches the shoulders, upper back, chest and hips.
Begin by lying comfortably on your back, you can pop a rolled towel under your neck if that is more comfortable for you. Bring your knees in to your chest and then stretch your arms out to your sides with your palms facing upwards, so that you are in a T-formation.
Inhale deeply and lengthen your tailbone towards the ground. On your exhale bring both your knees over to the right, and gently turn your head over to your left, keeping your knees and ankles together and your shoulders touching the ground. Try to keep your knees parallel with your hips. Hold for ten breaths, focusing on long exhalations and the lateral expansion of the rib cage (moving out to the sides with each breath). Repeat on the other side.
This is a great pose to do each morning, you can even do it before you leave the bed. If you can spend a couple of minutes on each side with this pose three times a week you will get a very deep release within the connective tissues along the spine which we refer to as a dural release. The dural membrane from the cranium extends along our spine, sacrum and even down to the bottom of our feet. So you can feel a release anywhere along this path. This pose will help to reduce pelvic tension, hip pain, back pain and allow for deeper breaths.
Ditch the Car.... Cycle or Walk Instead
It's so easy to jump into your car when you are popping out for something. Making the extra effort to walk or to hop on to your bike is really worth it. It feels so nice to be out in fresh air rather than in a stuffy car, you'll soon find yourself taking a lot more trips by foot or bike.
Last year my family and I made the decision to go car free and it has been truly life-changing. If you missed my blog post on it and want to hear more click here.
Rethink your Work Space
For most people, myself included, a large chuck of time sitting at a desk is unavoidable. There are some things you can do to keep your body active during this time. Here at Be Well you may have noticed that we've swapped our desk chair for a swiss ball. The movement of the ball forces your core to engage as it has to stabilise your body to keep you balanced. After making this swap I found myself being much more aware of my posture and body in general while sitting at my desk. For people who are kinesthetic/ tactile learning type being able to move on the ball while working is likely to stimulate thinking and focus.
Using a swiss ball instead of a desk chair may not be something everyone would like but there are alternatives. We stock an air cushion which can be used for sitting on. It works in a similar fashion to a swiss ball; it keeps your posture active and can be used to flex your back muscles. With an air cushion you can easily travel with it from work to home. It's also a little more inconspicuous than a swiss ball!
Get Moving on your Work Breaks
Use your lunch break to get out into the fresh air. Eat your lunch outside and take a walk around the block; it's great for resetting your brain. I always return from a walk feeling like I'm starting anew which is really helpful for getting stuck into a task you were struggling with before lunch.
Walking meetings are becoming more popular as well. They work really well for meetings between two or three people. Changing your work environment in this way can be great for brain stimulation so who knows what great ideas could be sparked!
Give yourself plenty of breaks from sitting at work. Take those idle times where you are standing and waiting for something and use it to do a forward fold.
Standing with your feet hip distance apart bend your knees slightly. If your hamstrings are very tight you can bend your knees more to reduce the tension so you can continue focusing on releasing you back and hips. Slowly begin rolling down from the top of the head from vertebra to vertebra moving down to the mid back, low back and lastly the hips all the while breathing slowly. Don't worry if you can't fold forward the whole way, a lot of people can't. If a particular area is tight pause there for a couple of breaths before moving any further.
Let your arms dangle towards the ground or hold each elbow and give your head a little nod to make sure you're not holding tension there. Breathe deeply while you let your upper body hang heavily. As you exhale gently press your legs towards a more straight position (only if it is not painful) keeping a slight knee bend. Stay in this position for at least six slow breaths.
To come back to the standing position slowly curl up from the pelvis first and rolling up the same way you rolled down vertebrae by vertebrae and bringing your head up last. Remember to breath as you unfold!
If you have the time and can hold this for two minutes you will get a fabulous release that is quite energising and mobilising for the hips and back. I recommend doing the extended version at least three time a week.
Get a Friend on Board
Last but not least..... life is better when you have people around to experience it with. This applies to my ability to accomplish my goals as well as I always do much better when I have someone holding me accountable. Enlist a friend to join you in being more active for mutual support; it will make it so much easier and more fun. Perhaps it will encourage a bit of healthy competition too!
So really it's quite simple.... now let's get moving!
photo credits from the top to bottom of the page: www.m1psychology.com, www.effortlessskin.com, www.beachbodyondemand.com, www.nicershoes.com, www.blog.nj.com, www.yogauonline.com, www.becomegorgeous.com www.feelgoodyogavictoria.com