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Doing exercises at your desk can help ward off work-related aches and pains

Date published: 2/5/2006


Debbie Quinn works at the front desk of the Rappahannock Area YMCA, but she doesn't exercise quite like the rest of the gym members.

Quinn, 52, exercises exactly where she works: at her desk.

"People are always asking me what I am doing," Quinn said. "They'll say, 'What are you doing, flying?'"

For professionals who feel aches and pains from endless sitting at desks, small exercises such as Quinn's arm rotations can help relieve built-up tension.

Simple movements that stretch muscles include reaching toward the ceiling, shrugging the shoulders and shaking out wrists and arms.

Slowly moving the head from side to side and looking into the distance also can help ease tension. It not only works out kinks in the neck, but gives eyes a break from computer glare, says mydailyyoga.com, which promotes seated exercise.

Quinn makes sure to stretch three times each day, and she isn't alone in her quest to realize the benefits of seated exercise.

Ellen Serber, a yoga instructor from California, started mydaily yoga.com in 1996--shortly after her son found a new job requiring desk work.

"[He] and his friends were in front of a computer 12 hours a day or more," Serber said.

They started complaining about various pains, including carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel occurs when pressure is applied to the nerves in the wrist because of incorrect posture. Pain, along with numbness and weakness, are typical symptoms.

Serber, who has been practicing and teaching yoga since 1976, thought she could help her son and others by posting simple animations of yoga exercises on the Internet.

"When you sit at a computer for long periods of time and [you're] not moving, the circulation in your body gets sluggish," Serber said.

Most Americans spend a third of their waking hours at their 40-hour-per-week jobs according to a September 2003 article in Obesity, Fitness & Wellness Week.

Some spend up to 60 hours a week at work.

During workdays, people with desk jobs tend to slump forward and stare at computers. Their muscles are contracted for long periods of time, and they often end up feeling stiff, Serber said.

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