A lady sitting at an office desk with a computer, grabbing her neck and lower back and wincing in pain

Exercises for busy Sydney office workers

Building strong postural muscles for office workers is highly important. Along with some helpful strengthening exercises, I will take you through some other basic tips that you can implement in your day to day life, to improve your wellbeing.

Sydney is the perfect blend of beach and city living. With no end to gyms, outdoor equipment, and stunning trails, there’s plenty of opportunity to increase your daily physical activity.

Take advantage of the great outdoors and your body will thank you for it.

Finding the time to exercise every day can be difficult if you’re a working professional in Sydney

Maybe you commute each day into the City or theWestern Suburbs, or perhaps you start early, finish late and have a young family in between.

Either way, you spend most of your day sitting down, and therefore your lifestyle is sedentary.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that a sedentary lifestyle has been linked to a shortened lifespan, poor health and disability. Not to mention the aches and pains, which can be annoying at best, and debilitating at worst. Read more about the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle here.

A lady sitting at an office desk in a chair. holding her back and her neck and wincing in pain.
Neck and lower back pain are amongst the most common symptoms of a sedentary lifestyle.

Common signs you might need to boost your overall daily movement include:

  • Back pain, especially lower back
  • Neck pain
  • Lethargy (think- the 3pm energy crash that makes you reach for a cookie)
  • Restlessness at night
  • Tight muscles around your chest, hips and thighs
  • Poor posture or body stiffness

It’s important to recognise that it is not natural for humans to sit still for hours on end.

Therefore, the symptoms we experience from being sedentary are completely predictable, and also very avoidable.

On top of the exercises I’ll share with you to help relieve aches and pains, there are some other things we can look at to help improve daily life as an office worker.

1. Hitting at least 8,000 steps daily


I recently had a client start tracking her steps using her iPhone, and she found on day 1 she had done a grand total of 10 (yep- ten) steps from morning until evening, when she checked her phone again.

Granted, this was after the COVID19 Pandemic lockdowns began in Sydney, but it’s still a real eye opener. Some small ways to help increase your daily step count:

A flatlay including laptop, carpet, pen and paper, shoes, sneakers being laced by a woman, pink dumbbells and a calculator
Getting more active overall is a great defence against pain
  • Let your boss know you’re trying to be more active.
    You’d be surprised how many employers encourage extra movement, for boosting productivity. They might actually be able to help you find innovative ways to get your steps up.
  • If you don’t work directly with customers, eat your lunch at your desk a little early, then use your lunch hour to get out for a long walk!
  • Start an inter-office competition (loser buys coffee for everyone at the end of the month)
  • Set the goal with a friend.
    Having someone keeping you accountable can be a great success tool
  • Walk to a colleagues desk or office, rather than phoning or emailing, where possible.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking 3L of water daily means a bathroom break at least every 2-3 hours. A great excuse for extra steps in the day.
  • Take phone calls standing up, and step from side to side.
    NB: people might think you need to go to the bathroom with this one, but hey… at least you’re getting your steps up!

2. Switch postures every 10-30 minutes (the more, the better)

Before homosapiens had chairs, we had the ground. If you’ve ever sat on the ground, you know its not super comfortable. So this meant constant position changes, and moving between sitting and standing every few minutes. This is exactly the way our bodies were designed to be- constantly in motion!

“The only bad posture is the one you spend too much time in”- I can’t remember where I read this (so if you know, please comment with the source), but it really speaks to the point I’m trying to make about sitting still.

Woman on the train in a suit, talking on the phone and looking at some paper
Neck pain can also be reduced by using hands free devices

Because we know that being sedentary is not good for our bodies, it makes sense then that even if you sat totally upright all day, this would also cause issues… because you’re sitting still!

So- move between sitting tall and sitting slouched, standing and sitting, performing some light neck and upper body stretches in your seat, crossing and uncrossing your legs, feet forward and feet underneath your seat.

3. Lose excess weight

Excess weight is a huge contributor to so many health issues and it can put additional stress on your joints, organs and arteries. Combined with a sedentary lifestyle, this is a recipe for pain.

Hiring a trainer is a great way to ensure you will show up to training, and can be a great financial motivator to ensure you don’t skip out on your sessions. If you can’t find a good trainer, my online programs are also an easy way to get in some structured exercise for strength.

If healthy eating is a problem for you, a qualified dietician or nutritionist will also be able to give you a complete meal plan, and help you choose healthy take-away options where you can’t cook yourself.

Exercises to help relieve and prevent pain

Now is the fun part; the exercises! These exercises are designed to strengthen the muscles that support the hips (pelvic), lower back and neck, because these are the most common complaint areas.

It’s important to remember to check with your Doctor or healthcare professional before starting any new exercise regime, and always work within your limits.

These exercises have been extracted from my Online Workouts, there are plenty of posture supporting exercises you can do from home in my workouts.

1. Bird Dogs

bird dog finish position
A great posterior chain and core strengthener

Works:

  • Upper back and shoulders
  • Lower back
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings

How to:

  • Begin on your hands and knees, with a neutral spine. Eyes should be looking between your fingertips
  • Bracing your core, lift one arm and the opposite leg and extend them away from one another
  • You should aim to keep your tummy away from the floor, and your hips parallel

Perform 8 reps each side, for 3 sets.

2. Pelvic Curl

hamstring walkouts start position
Build strong glutes to protect your back

Works:

  • Glutes
  • Hip Flexors
  • Hamstrings
  • Core

How to:

  • Lay on your back with knees bent, feet a comfortable distance away from your bum
  • Ensure your heels and toes stay firm on the ground, then squeeze your glutes, flatten your back and begin to roll your spine off the ground, tailbone first and all the way up to your shoulder blades
  • Abs should remain tight and chin down- don’t let your tummy push out
  • Pause for a moment, squeezing your glutes, then begin to roll back down, one vertebrae at a time, from shoulder blades to tailbone again

Perform 15 reps, for 3 sets

3. Prone Tricep Lifts

prone tricep lifts finish position

Works:

  • Triceps
  • Upper back
  • Rear Delts

How to:

  • Lay on your stomach, looking down at the ground with your arms behind you on the ground
  • Squeeze your glutes and thighs, imagine lengthening your toes away from the crown of your head to engage your posterior chain
  • Squeeze your upper back muscles to lift your arms, reaching your hands backward
  • Lower with control back to the start position

Perform 15 reps, for 3 sets

4. Prone Hip Extensions

prone hip extension finish position

Works:

  • Lower back
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings

How to:

  • Begin on your stomach, resting your forehead on your hands
  • Squeeze your glutes and thighs, imagine lengthening your toes away from the crown of your head to engage your posterior chain
  • Keeping your head relaxed and your legs tight, squeeze your glutes and “float” your knees off the ground; remember to keep lengthening your legs and keep your head relaxed
  • Lower back to the ground with control

Perform 10 reps, for 3 sets

5. Toe Tap Crunches

Toe tap crunch finish position

Works:

  • Transverse Abdominis
  • Obliques
  • Rectus Abdominis

How to:

  • Begin on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor and hands behind your head
  • Brace your abs to push your lower back onto the floor firmly
  • Float your legs into table top position (knees over hips, shins parallel to the floor)
  • Exhale as you curl your head and shoulders forward, at the same time as lowering one foot gently to the floor
  • Inhale to return to the start position and repeat on the other side
  • Your back should remain flat throughout the entire movement

Perform 20 reps, for 3 sets

Once these exercises become easier, it will be time for some progressions to keep building strength, please email me!

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Jess Neill

Jess Neill

I'm a Personal Trainer, Pilates Instructor and Pre and Post Natal Training specialist. I'm also a mother of two, and I live on the beautiful Northern beaches of Sydney. If you liked this post, don't forget to leave a comment and share! Subscribe to my monthly newsletter for the latest health and fitness news.

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A lady sitting at an office desk with a computer, grabbing her neck and lower back and wincing in pain

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Building strong postural muscles for office workers is highly important. Along with some helpful strengthening exercises, I will take you through some other basic tips that you can implement in your day to day life, to improve your wellbeing.

Read More »