This piece was kindly submitted by J.R. Faulkner, and is sourced by Katherine Shanta Wehrli, Certified Yogini and Wellness Coach.
Ages ago there was a string on the forum asking for tips on keeping healthy hands. Not being a fitness professional myself, but knowing quite a few excellent ones, I went to Katherine, (a friend and trainer at my gym) looking for some advice to share. After giving her some generalities about the worst of the artist/writer lifestyle, (long hours of sitting, drawing, typing, excessive caffeine, deadline driven stress, frequent late nights and let’s face it, some pretty unhealthy snacking habits) Katherine put together this terrific little program to help us get a little more activity into our daily lives, reduce our stress, amp our creativity and strengthen our most important tools – our hands!
To begin with, she suggests getting more general activity in each day. Everybody knows this is good advice, but more specific to us, moving the whole body around strengthens large muscles that support fine motor skills and improves circulation which helps prevent Arthritis and the dreaded Carpal Tunnel syndrome. The minimum guideline is 30-60 minutes of light cardio activity per day and even with our deadline-driven, desk-bound work habits, it’s actually not that hard to squeak in.
- When you get to work, park your car in the furthest space you can and speed walk to the door. If you work from home, get up 15 minutes earlier and go for a brisk walk or do some stretching, jumping jacks or jogging on the spot.
- If you sit at a desk all day, get up at least 3 times a day and stretch or walk around for 5 minutes. This doesn’t have to be designated time, you can stand and move about a bit while you’re on the phone or make a point of getting up and talking to people rather than sending inter-office email.
- When you take bathroom breaks, use a restroom on another floor and take the stairs there and back. (If you’re getting your minimum 64oz of water each day, this adds up fast!)
- On your lunch hour save 15 minutes for a walk before or after you eat; you’re already up from your desk anyway.
- Swap your chair out for an exercise ball. It’s easier on your joints, forces you to sit up straighter, engage your core muscles, and all you have to do is lean back a bit for a nice stretch. Think of it as active-sitting.
Granted, this is the barest of bare minimums in activity. If you’re already into a team sport, exercise class, running program or whatever, please don’t go reducing that thinking that I’m saying this is all you should have to do.
Please remember your movement should be slow and controlled. No bouncing or jerking. Hold your stretches for 15-30 seconds. You should feel a mild pull but no pain. Do as many of the exercise as you’re comfortable with, but 10-12 each is a good place to start.
Perfect posture is your seated stretch starting-line; we don’t expect you to keep it up all day.
Sit up straight on the edge of your chair. Knees bent 90°, feet flat on the floor. (No high heels.) Keep the curve in your back neutral and try to imagine lining up your heart with your pelvis, draw your belly button in to tighten your core muscles.
Starting with your perfect posture and keeping your shoulders back, lower your chin to your chest until you feel the stretch. Gently roll your head to your shoulders, back and forth, east to west then from the center point again, up and down north to south. Never roll in full circles.
Starting with your perfect posture, gently roll your shoulders in slow circles forward, then again backwards, relaxing your hands and elbows, they’re merely along for the ride.
Wrist stretch – in
From standing, lean down and place your palms flat on your desk, fingers towards your body. Gently lean back with your body, not your elbows, until you feel the stretch and hold.
Wrist stretch – out
Starting with your perfect posture, keeping shoulders back, extend your arms, palms down. Grasp one hand with the other at the knuckles and gently push in until you feel the stretch. Maintain that pressure while pulling downward on your hand and resisting upward with your shoulder. (This one is very nice after a few hours of tablet-drawing.)
Back stretch – chair roll up
Starting with your perfect posture, lean forward and touch your toes. Starting from your hips, roll your back upwards, imagining one vertebrae following the next, finishing off by rolling shoulders back and head up into your perfect posture again.
Starting with your perfect posture, raise your arms up over your head, careful not to push out your lower back in the process, keep that core tucked in. Letting one hand lead the other, gently pull down and to your side and hold the stretch, then back up to perfect posture with your hands still raised, repeat on the other side. (Always east-west, never north-south.) If you’re looking for a little extra resistance, try holding a water bottle or weighty book while stretching.
Starting with your perfect posture turn with your shoulders until you feel the stretch and hold, using your armrest if you have one is helpful, otherwise, hands on hips will do. Turn back to perfect posture and repeat to your other side.