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Finals Survival: How to Shake Stiffness When Glued to Your Desk November 29, 2010

Ditch your chair and grab a ball to help reduce stiffness from sitting for hours (and strengthen your core while you study!)

Don’t sit still. Well, not too still, too long anyway.

Logging hours at your desk may leave you feeling stiff especially at this time of the year when final projects and exams leave many of us all too familiar with our desk in every shade of day and lamp light.

I know for myself that if I don’t get out and take a break to exercise and stretch properly that the time I “save” skipping a workout ends up getting wasted when tension sets in. Any kind of exercise will feel good and make a big difference in how well I can concentrate but I try to make sure that I include yoga at least once/week to make sure I put in the proper stretch time.

Meanwhile, there are some things you can do to make the hours at your desk feel better. I’ve been using an exercise ball instead of a chair since high school. The ball allows me to sit comfortably at my desk without feeling too stiff. It’s really helped strengthen my core and improve my posture because I always try to sit up straight while I’m working, which requires some work from the abdominal and lower back muscles to keep me stabilized.

Feeling pressure as work piles up is hard to avoid but here are a few strategies to help make your desk a less stressful place to work.

An exercise ball makes a great desk chair. You can then use the ball for many at-home exercises in your free time.

Try it At Home: Desk De-Stress

1. Get an exercise ball. You can order them online, pick one up from the bookstore, or at Target, T.J. Maxx, or most athletic stores.  Don’t ditch your chair completely as it may take you a while to adjust. Try using the ball as your chair for short periods at first, and gradually increase the amount of time you use it compared to your chair. When sitting at either, try to sit up straight and avoid hunching your shoulders.

2. De-clutter. If your desk feels cluttered it will be harder to concentrate on the task at hand. Get organized and clear away items that you think will distract you (including very tempting food that you were planning to save for later).

3. Keep Water Handy. Food can be a distraction but neither hunger nor thirst should be ignored. Have a tall glass or bottle of water at your desk side to sip on whenever you want it. When you do get hungry, do a quick hungry test by asking yourself “am I hungry enough that I would want an apple (or other raw fruit or veggie) right now?” If the answer is no, then it’s probably not hunger, just stress or boredom.

4. Take Stretch Breaks. At least once every 90 minutes give yourself a 5 minute break to get up and stretch. If you’re using a ball you can get a great shoulder and chest-opening stretch by lying with your back on the ball so that your feat are on the floor, your chest is pointing towards the ceiling and your arms are opened (palms facing up) so that they rest on either side of your body.

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One Response to “Finals Survival: How to Shake Stiffness When Glued to Your Desk”

  1. Important note: Using the ball as your full-time chair is NOT technically ergonomically correct. I love it but the true experts seem to be in agreement that you should use the ball for breaks rather than for extending sitting periods. A comfortable chair that allows you to use good posture is key.


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