It's scientifically proven that sitting down for prolonged periods of time can be damaging to your health, but doing regular low impact exercise can help combat those health risks and boost your energy levels.
Julie Jennings, Occupational Therapist and Head of Comfort at HSL, offers advice on five simple exercises you can do around the home to improve your general health and mobility and help you maintain your independence.
1. Arm raises
This simple exercise is great for beginners as you can remain seated throughout. Arm raises help to increase upper body mobility and build shoulder strength.
It’s important to remember that if you spend a lot of time sitting down at home, it is worth considering an ergonomic chair with orthopaedic lumbar support for your back and neck, and to keep pressure off aching muscles and sore joints.
Sit upright on your chair with your arms by your sides, then with your palms forwards, raise both arms out and to the side and up as far as is comfortable then lower them slowly. Keep your shoulders down and arms straight throughout the exercise. Remember to breathe out as you raise your arms and breathe in as you lower them. Repeat this five times, then rest; try and do this 5 times a day.
2. Ankle stretches
The less active you are, the higher the risk of joint stiffness and blood clots. Ankle stretches are extremely beneficial for those who would like to increase flexibility and strength in the ankles and it helps maintain effective blood circulation.
All you have to do is sit upright and hold onto the side of your chair, and straighten your left leg with your foot off the floor. With your leg straight and raised, slowly point your toes away from you. Then slowly point your toes back towards you. For this exercise, try two sets of five stretches with each foot and repeat 5 times a day if you can; if you have a chair with a leg rest or foot stool you can still do this exercise but try adding in gentle circulatory movements as well; 5 rotations in one direction and then repeat for 5 rotations in the other direction.
3. Calf raises
Calf raises are an easy to execute exercise, keeping the lower leg mobile and in shape.
To begin with, simply stand behind your chair and place both hands on the back of the chair for stability. Lift both heels off the floor as far as is comfortable, keeping the movement slow and controlled (as if standing on tiptoes). Repeat this exercise five times. To make it more challenging and incorporate an element of balance, try doing the movement without the aid of the chair.
4. Chest stretch
This chest stretch exercise is excellent for improving posture and flexibility and also reduces discomfort in the back, neck and shoulders. It contributes to the prevention of chronic back pain and secondary problems occurring in the spine.
Simply sit upright and pull away from the back of the chair. Pull your shoulders back and down. Extend arms out to the side. Gently push your chest forwards and up until you feel a stretch across your chest. Hold this position for five to 10 seconds and repeat five times; try doing this 5 to 10 times a day.
5. Neck rotation
This exercise is ideal for reducing aches, pains and general stiffness in the neck and encourages neck mobility and flexibility.
Sit on your chair in an upright position with your shoulders down and look straight ahead. Slowly turn your head towards your left shoulder as far as is comfortable and hold in this position for five seconds then return to the beginning. Repeat the exercise to the right hand side. Do three rotations for each side. Then with your head looking forward tilt your chin to your chest and look downwards, as far as you can without discomfort, hold for a count of 5; bring your head back to the centre and then look up to the ceiling, as far as you can without discomfort and hold for 5 before returning to the beginning; try and repeat this three times.
I recommend you do these exercises every day, but if not doing a few of them weekly will, over time, improve your overall fitness and mobility, making you feel healthier and full of vitality.
- West Yorkshire-based HSL, the UK’s largest back care furniture specialist, has teamed up with Julie Jennings, one of the UK’s leading Occupational Therapists (OT),to be their ‘Head of Comfort’ across its 44 store network across the UK.