Medical Notes: Exercise at your desk!

If you earn your living by the seat of your pants, here’s another reason to get out and walk, jog or bike using fitnessabout’s exercise bikes. Research has found that holding a sedentary job may predispose you to hip fractures in later life – a significant problem among the elderly and one that is directly related to osteoporosis (weakened bones).

Researchers looked at 300 patients (60 men and 240 women) ranging from 50 to 90 of age who had been admitted to an orthopaedic hospital with hip fractures. They compared these patients with 600 people without hip fractures. All 900 were interviewed about jobs they held at age 50. The jobs were then categorized according to the amount of the working day that the patients were likely to have spent sitting.

Occupations such as cashier, secretary, stockbroker and clerk were labelled “sedentary”. The “intermediate” category included jobs such as housekeeper, teacher and storekeeper. Active occupations like labourer, nurse and salesman were deemed “weight-bearing.” In both men and women, the risk of hip fracture increased significantly with sedentary occupations.

 For those with sedentary jobs, the risk was at least three times that of those with active or weight-bearing jobs.

Sedentary work could boost hip fracture risk in two ways, say the researchers. “First, it might accelerate the development of osteoporosis. Exercise is important in the maintenance of skeletal mass, and physical inactivity is an established cause of osteoporosis.” Also, inactive jobs might lead to weaker muscle control in later years, possibly increasing the frequency of injurious falls, they say.

Bones need to be used to maintain their density, just like muscles need to be used to support their strength. People with sedentary jobs should try to be more active in their leisure time by getting out at lunchtime for a walk or using the stairs instead of the elevator.

Another great way to turn your desk job into a weight-bearing job is to work out right at your own desk. Bring a couple of dumbbells to work and whenever you have a free moment or are resting your eyes from the computer, do a set or two, and by the end of the day, you’ll have gotten in a pretty good workout! Try this exercise for starters, not only does it work on strengthening and shaping the shoulders, but it also tightens the muscles in the upper arm (triceps) and works the stomach muscles. Make sure you breathe right, inhaling when you bring your arms down and exhaling as you raise them.

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press Exercise

PREPARATION: Sit down comfortably, with your torso upright but without arching the back. Feet should be flat on the floor, ankles directly under the knees. You can be supported with your back against the pad of your chair.

HOW TO DO IT: Grip the dumbbells with the palms facing forward. Position them to each side of the shoulders with elbows below wrists. Press the dumbbells up overhead in an arc. Reach high but keep your elbows soft, not straight and stiff at the highest point. Lower slowly and repeat.

WATCH OUT FOR: To increase tension in the shoulder muscles, keep your pinky fingers higher than your thumbs throughout the movement. This will tip the dumbbells slightly down and in towards your head. When the weight starts to get heavy, there is a tendency to lean back.

This reduces the effectiveness of the exercise and places unnecessary strain on the lower back.

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