Healthy Living

Walk, breathe, stretch: Short lunch-hour exercises

If you want to take the edge off your workday, lots of strategies can help.

And if you’re looking to get fit while on the job, there are plenty of options for that too.

Here are two ways to do both – and get a dose of the outdoors. Each incorporates walking, breath-work and yoga poses. Just make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes and clothes.

These exercises work well because steady breathing relaxes your nervous system and refreshes you. Meanwhile, walking and practicing yoga poses each have their own benefits.

“Walking is a great aerobic exercise,” says Christine Hagemeyer, an exercise specialist with Colonial Life. “It will improve your sleep, elevate your mood, boost your energy level, decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.”

You’ll get the most out of the exercises in a natural setting – a grassy area as opposed to a city street. And as a bonus, if your skin is exposed, you’ll get some vitamin D.

Just figure out how much time you have and pick an option. You can even vary the number of minutes for each part if you have more or less time.

If you have about 10 minutes

1-2 minutes. Build to a brisk walk.

1-2 minutes. Continue walking, but swing your arms vigorously, staying loose in the shoulders and elbows and taking wider strides.

1-2 minutes. Stop. Take a wide stance, pointing your toes ahead and bending your knees a little. As you inhale, face your palms forward and lift your arms to shoulder height, then reach them back as you press your chest forward and squeeze the lower edges of your shoulder blades together, lifting your chin to the sky. As you exhale, bring your arms forward as if hugging a beach ball, rounding your upper back and creating space between your shoulder blades, then drop your chin to your chest. Repeat several times, lengthening your breath as you go.

3 minutes. Turn back toward your starting point, walking at a brisk pace. Feel free to vary your gait, perhaps lifting the knees.

1 minute. Stop. Take a comfortable stance. As you inhale, spread your fingers and reach your arms out to the sides then overhead. As you exhale, drop your arms back to your sides. Turn your head back and forth a couple times, and then repeat your arm movements a few times.

1 minute. Stand or walk gently, letting your breath flow naturally before you return to work.

If you have about 20 minutes

5 minutes. Build to a brisk walk, increasing your pace and intensifying your gait.

2 minutes. Stop. Do standing twist, chair and triangle – the same sequence we tried a few weeks ago.

3 minutes. Walk, continuing with deep and rhythmic breaths.

3 minutes. Turn back toward your starting point, continuing to walk vigorously with wider strides. Try to make your deep breaths audible.

2 minutes. Repeat standing twist, chair and triangle.

2-3 minutes. Walk, slowing to a normal pace.

1 minute. Stop. Take a wide stance, pointing your toes ahead and bending your knees a little. As you inhale, bring your hands to your hips and lift your chest. As you exhale, hinge forward at your hips without rounding your lower back, and fold. Bend your elbows and hook your hands in the crooks of the opposite elbows. Close your eyes and keep taking deep breaths for as long as feels comfortable.

Return to standing upright by taking two breaths to get there and using the strength of your legs and core to rise.

1 minute. Stand or walk gently, letting your breath flow naturally for a few rounds before you return to work.

 

Journalist Mitra Malek has taught yoga regularly since 2006 and was a senior editor for Yoga Journal  magazine. Learn more at www.mitramalek.com.

 

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