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Move more at your desk with these daily exercises

Move more at your desk with these daily exercises

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​​Kerrie-Anne Bradley, a confessed ex-slouching-economist-turned-Pilates-teacher, has made it her mission to get us all moving more at our desks. She believes that saving movement for when not at the desk isn’t enough. Yes, it’s great to go for a run, jump on the mat for a Pilates class, or punch your stresses out at a boxing gym. However, if you are relatively still for the rest of the day, your body will not be happy about this. 

At the very least, you will experience stiffness and tension around the body, low energy, aches and pains, and so on.

It is easy to incorporate movement into the working day with simple activities that you can do while seated or standing at your desk. Kerrie-Anne and the Pilates At Your Desk team encourage incorporating the below strength and flexibility movements into your day.

Your next posture is your best posture

I am not entirely sure of the origins of the above quote because it is used a lot, but I love it. Essentially, it means moving in and out of different positions best for your body. I am asked a lot about posture and how we get better posture.

My answer is always “more movement and moving in ways that act to undo some of the positions we find ourselves in while we work at a desk. Indeed in anything, we do on a repetitive basis.”

Break up your day

Yes, there are some better ways of positioning yourself while you are still (and if you are still for long periods at a time each day). You want to be embracing your inner fidget as much as you can. Indeed, move your body in as many different ways as you can, even when seated!

It would be great if you could manage a couple of minutes every 20-30 minutes to break up sitting still. Select movement breaks that work better within your schedule if this doesn’t seem possible. Every extra move counts in our day, and one movement break is better than none. You can build up to integrating more. Keep it simple but varied so that all the body parts get moved.

How to work at your desk

Try to be less croissant (bottom tucked under and shoulders and upper back rounded forward), and sit more upright. It is not only more active, as you use more energy to hold yourself up there. It is also a more balanced position for the body in terms of how your bones are stacked and the muscular effort needed at the body’s front/back & left/right.

Sit with your feet flat on the floor, upon your sit bones (the bones under your pelvis). Ensure your ribs relaxed over your pelvis (not lifting your chest to the ceiling). Keep your neck in line with your spine. You can interlock your hands behind your head. After that, press your head back into your hands to help you find the position.

It will be better for your body insofar as you will be using your middle to hold you upright, your hamstrings and front of legs are in balance, and your head is in line with your spine.

Having a standing desk is excellent and mixing it with sitting is also good. When standing, however, you still want to move around and embrace your inner fidget. Standing uses more energy than sitting, but it is still not the same as moving around. It will not be enough to help with flexibility and mobility, or indeed the strength of the upper body.

 However, if you do stand to work, make sure that you stand on your feet in a balanced way. Be conscious of any tendency to lean on one leg (most often the mouse side) or stand in the front of your feet and not onto the heels. Maybe shift your weight from foot to foot to find balance. And rock forwards and backwards before settling with the weight under the balls of the feet and the heels. 

Remember how to move

It depends on your situation and the type of learner you are. Visual reminders work for many people. I recommend having post-its up reminding you to move or strategically placing the Move More at Your Desk book on your desk.

You could set the alarm on your phone/watch/computer to remind you to move. If you likely switch it off, you could put the device on the other side of the room (if WFH, ha!) because then you will need to move to go turn the alarm off.

You could also buddy up with your work colleagues to hold each other accountable. You could all move together before a meeting starts or set targets for how many movement breaks you should have each day. Make it fun!

Doing a movement that you enjoy because it feels good or makes you smile means you are more likely to do it, so focus on that!

Take 5 in between meetings

Oh, and lastly, I have an idea in mind for companies. Instead of holding 1h+ meetings, it would be great if sessions could run 5 minutes later and finish 5 minutes earlier (so in the case of 1h, that would mean a 50-minute chat). It would then give people more scope to move between meetings.

I have heard too many cases of people sitting at the computer on zoom all day because of back-to-back meetings. Changing the length of time and sticking to the time boundaries would incentivise movement between meetings.


Kerrie-Anne shares moves from her programme, Pilates At Your Desk, on her Instagram account @pilatesatyourdesk, at corporate workshops, on her membership platform, and she has written a book, Move More At Your Desk which will be from watkinspublishing.com and all good book retailers.