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10 minute Pilates for desk workers.

1 July 2020

Today, many of us are working from home, meaning more time sitting hunched at our desks or awkwardly perched on a bench at the dining table. It’s easy to slip into the habit of waking up, taking a seat in front of the computer and staying there until the work day is over, commonly taking few movement breaks. This simple 10 minute Pilates session will help both physically and mentally.

Put simply it can be difficult to find a moment to step away from the computer or even remembering to do so! We all know sitting for too long is unhelpful. You may start the day with good intentions to limit sitting time, but when absorbed in a task the work day soon goes and you realise you haven’t really moved in eight hours! 

Many desk based workers are experiencing musculoskeletal symptoms such as neck, shoulder, upper back and lower back pain. It can almost appear that we resign ourselves to this as the ‘norm’ and something to expect with desk working. However, with some simple measures you can help minimise the risk of developing such symptoms or help manage and improve current symptoms. 

The human body is an amazing machine and it is designed to move! We only have one, so let’s respect it. Movement is such a valuable resource in helping our mental and physical health so let’s use it!

Pilates can help with the aches and pains that can come from working in the same position all day, every day. This simple workout is designed with no equipment needed (you can use a cushion as a head block). Perform each movement slowly in a controlled manner, keep breathing steadily.

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Exercise: Upper back warm up
Repetitions: 3 - 5

Mobilises mid back (thoracic spine) & shoulders. Stretches the muscles between your shoulder blades (as you push the palms away widen the space between your shoulder blades) and the latissimus dorsi (a pair of triangular muscles from the sacrum to the mid back). Follow the movement of the arms with your gaze.

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Exercise: Spinal twist
Repetitions: 3 - 5 per side

Mobilises the thoracic spine. Aim to keep your shoulders relaxed and imagine length through the whole spine. Keep the hips pointing forwards throughout.

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Exercise: Roll down
Repetitions: 3 - 5

Trains movement control from upright standing through to full flexion. Gentle hamstring stretch – keep knees bent slightly if you need to lessen the hamstring stretch. Bending gradually and slowly through the spine, aiming to articulate through each spinal segment.

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Exercise: Cat-Cow
Repetitions: 3 - 5

Stretches the muscles between your shoulder blades, mobilises the spine from flexion through to extension. Imagine you are pushing the ground away as you round the back, widening the space between your shoulder blades.

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Exercise: Breast stroke level 1
Repetitions: 3 - 5

Activates the lower trapezius muscle (as your draw your shoulder blades gently together and down towards the ‘back pockets’) and trains deep neck muscles – this helps with improving the head and neck posture – especially important if we have been sat at the desk for a while!


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Exercise: Arm openers level 2
Repetitions: 3 - 5 per side

Stretches the chest muscles (often these get tight when sitting at the desk) and mobilises the mid and lower back. Keep the hips forwards throughout.

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Exercise: Shoulder bridge level 1 + extension stretch
Repetitions: 3 - 5

Recruits the gluteus maximus (hip muscles) and extends the spine. Ensure you ‘peel’ each segment of the spine off the mat gradually.

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Exercise: Mermaid Stretch
Repetitions: 3 - 5 per side

Helps with stiffness in the mid back and stretches the quadratus lumborum muscle, which can often become tight (this muscle is between the lowest rib and the top of the pelvis). If sitting in this position is too uncomfortable for the hips, try placing a small block underneath the side at which your hip is less raised / kneeling position / standing.

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Exercise: Low lunge stretch + thoracic rotation
Repetitions: 3 - 5 per side

Stretches the front of your hips and the added rotation helps mobilise the thoracic spine. 

Liz Wright is the founder of Poise Reformer Pilates and is an experienced Chartered Physiotherapist and accredited APPI Pilates instructor. Liz offers ‘Pilates in the Park’ sessions Monday and Thursdays mornings on New Islington Green.

In the future as lockdown measures change, Liz will be delivering home visits for 1:1 mat based Pilates locally and 1:1 physio led Reformer Pilates in Chorlton. Tailored and specifically designed for your rehab/functional goals.


For more information email liz@poisereformerpilates.co.uk or visit the website www.poisereformerpilates.co.uk

Photos by Christian at Blossom. Email: christian@blossommanchester.co.uk