Exercises for Engineers

May 11th, 2016:

So you're an engineer? You sit at a desk for 8+ hours every day? How is your health? Are you physically fit?

Here are a few tips and tricks to get you on the right track.

Let's think about the highest level of activity you perform sitting at a desk. It's probably that little scrolling button on the mouse, right? Let's embrace that scrolling button. Let's leverage that exercise and get the most out of it. This motion activates muscles all the way up through the forearm which promotes good circulation and improves muscle tone. Traditional Chinese medicine includes similar activities that are said to decrease the risk of illness and prolong your life by gently bringing awareness and increasing energy flow through the Meridians or energy pathways in your arms.

When scrolling, perform the action with vigor and assertion. Scroll down scroll up then scroll down again. Sometimes do that just for the exercise. Remember to give all five fingers a chance on the scrolling wheel. Feelings of pain and discomfort are completely normal and natural. Take a deep breath and continue your exercise. When you begin to break a sweat, switch hands and start scrolling with your non-dominant fingers. If you have trouble catching your breath or feel faint, consult a physician immediately. There may be something terribly wrong with you.

Now that we've toned the arms, let's get into a little cardio. Again, let’s leverage the movement you are already doing and capitalize on it. Getting up for bathroom breaks is a great way to stay moving. Ideally your restroom is at least 100 steps from your desk, and if it's not, make it so by taking the scenic route.

Added health bonus: Drinking more water will increase the frequency of your bathroom trips, resulting in more steps taken, more calories burned and of course, a more hydrated system. See if you can drink enough water to take a viable bathroom trip every hour. Of course you have the option of either alternating or piggy-backing your bathroom and watercooler trips. I will let you use your discretion based on your workload.

If you are unable to make the best of your bathroom trips, or if your legs still feel like they need to move a bit more, try out a static flexure or dynamic tension exercise as outlined below.

Static Flexure: Under your desk, extend your legs out straight, point your toes up in the air and pull them back toward your knees (flexed upward) as far as possible. In this posture, and using only the muscles in your legs, pull your toes up as far as possible. This will flex your quads, shins, and feet and will activate these large muscle groups throughout your legs. It will essentially squeeze them and promote blood flow through your legs. It will eliminate stagnation and acid buildup in these bored muscles and wake them up. Hold this posture and flexed muscles for 30-60 seconds at a time. Do this 5-10 times throughout the day and your legs will feel much better at the end of the day.

Dynamic Tension: Similarly we will be flexing our legs again and lifting them, pointing the toes up as far as possible. However, before you do so, tighten all the muscles in your legs and clench them as tight as you can. Now in this clenched state, move your legs up to the "toes up" position. Hold there for a few seconds, point the toes downward and slowly lower your feet to the ground. This will, again activate and mobilize blood in these large muscle groups, but will also help to develop and tone muscles at the same time.

Of course, if you can swing it, I would highly recommend a treadmill desk [ http://amzn.to/1S5RU3q ] or stationary bike desk [ http://amzn.to/1Su8U0z ]. Good luck to you! And stay in shape!

-Timothy Johnson, Principal Mechanical Engineer

Posted in: Tim Johnson