A woman stretches at her desk.

In this age of working from home, what used to be your comfortable dining chair is now your back-pain-inducing office chair (there goes your perfect posture), and what used to be your lovely open living room is now a makeshift office. Our lifestyle might have changed thanks to Covid-19, but one factor remains the same: Our back, neck, and spine health are still important. Well, fear not fellow Houstonians—we’ve turned to fitness experts at The Houstonian Club to create the ultimate deskercise routine to improve your working-from-home experience for good.

Spending eight hours a day, five days a week at home is definitely not the same as being in an office, says certified yoga instructor Alex Ikhimokpa. Being at home, we’re more likely to be lazy and stuck at our desk,” he says. “We have fewer social interactions, no walking to the water cooler, and little things like that we take for granted.” 

This could be causing us more harm than good, says Ikhimokpa's colleague Eric Vaughn, a certified strength and conditioning specialist. “There’s a lot more sitting than there was pre-Covid, and it’s just not very good for us."

Since it's more important than ever to pay attention to posture health and our usual workday patterns, Ikhimokpa and Vaughn have outlined some tips to ensure your working-from-home is more comfortable.  

The Deskercise Routine

  • Take a three-to-five-minute break every 30 minutes. Get up, and walk around, or do simple stretches.
  • Place your computer screen just below eye level to allow for better posture.
  • Don’t let your sofa or coffee table tempt you—neither is optimal for proper support.

Vaughn suggests setting a timer to remember to get up and move, stretch, or adjust your posture. Think of it as a breakfast, lunch, and dinner dose, and take three to five minutes to do a posture check, he says.  

Breaking up your deskercise routine in this way allows it to be more manageable and achievable, with “little doses of fitness throughout the day,” rather than a daunting trip to a germy gym, Vaughn says. “Make micro changes so it’s not overwhelming.”

A woman does the bird-dog stretch in her home.

The bird-dog stretch. 

Stretching 

In addition to the deskercise routine, the fitness duo suggests the following stretches:

  • To loosen your hips, try hip flexor or quad stretches using a chair or wall. Do this move: Sit up straight, and place your ankle on your opposite leg's thigh. Flex your foot and slowly lower your knee toward the ground. 
  • The classic cat-cow movements take the entire spine through full extension, which will help activate spinal muscles. Do this move: While on your hands and knees, alternate dropping your belly toward the floor and arching your back toward the ceiling.
  • The bird-dog movement encourages neutral spine alignment from the head to the tail bone and engages deep core muscles that will improve posture. Do this move: While on your hands and knees, extend one leg back and one arm forward.

Mindfulness

Along with keeping up your strength and health, mindfulness is important. In a time when we're all craving normalcy, yoga can help create a positive mindset to tackle each workday from home with ease.

“Negative factors relating to mental health have been drastically increased during this time,” says Ikhimokpa. “Yoga and mindfulness allow us to take a moment, a very precious moment, before we respond to someone.”

According to Ikhimokpa and Vaughn, what you do after you leave your desk is also important for your spinal health. “After work, the main thing to focus on is the front side,” Ikhimokpa says. “We are tighter on the front side and more compressed and overstretched in the back. I recommend the hip flexor stretch.”

Additionally, you can incorporate Vaughn’s 20-second breathing cycle—six-second inhale, four-second hold, and 10-second exhale to wind down at the end of a long day.

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