Functional For Life Blog

Movement breaks and offsetting a sedentary lifestyle

Movement Breaks in a Modern World

As the years go by, the work place is becoming more and more sedentary in nature. From desk jobs through to operating machinery and vehicles the default position for many of us when we conduct our work is to be seated. Whilst sitting is not an ideal position to stay in for long periods of time (we will explore this latter) a flow effect of sitting for work is a natural limitation on incidental movement. It is not uncommon for people to have less than 2000 steps taken throughout their work day. This default into a sedentary lifestyle can lead to aches, pains and poor movement patters over time. The good news is, a simple remedy is to offset this with conscious and well planned movement breaks. Read on to explore some great options to break up your day with targeted and effective movement breaks to help keep you moving optimally in and out of work!

Sitting For Prolonged Periods

The issues associated with sitting at a desk have been highlighted over the last few years.It has effects on spinal alignment, strain on the ligaments in the lower back, neck pain, shoulder pain and muscular atrophy due to lack of movement.

Repeating this cycle on a weekly basis can and will lead to health issues. We can all think of friends or family who have lower back issues or a lack of movement in their shoulders and neck. Often this can be put down to years of a sedentary desk job and not incorporating some movement into their day.

Movement Breaks

A movement break is taking a short time from the day to allow your body to release tension and stress that has  built up from being in a static position for a long period of time. Getting out of the chair to activate muscle groups that have been left ‘sleeping’ for a long period of time. Even if in a very busy job we can still work through movements while seated that can help to alleviate the tension and stiffness. 

When you google movement breaks, every result is associated with students and the classroom. Definitions of movement breaks are associated with school. This needs to be looked at for the workplace and how it can help the employee perform better throughout the day.

Exercise Selection 

We have looked at the problems caused by sitting at the desk all day with spinal alignment, so what can we do to work on these issues? The following exercises can help to free up the feeling of stiffness.


1 – Adductor Rock & Hinge  – 5 reps on each side



2 – Single Leg Bridge – 6 reps on each side



3 – Worlds Greatest Stretch –  3 reps on each side



4 – Hip Hinge/RDL – 6 reps on each side



The common denominator of these exercises are to work major muscle groups that are left ‘sleeping’ throughout the working day. Mobilizing the spine, hips and strengthening the posterior chain will help to work against the problems faced with sitting all day.   

There is a high likelihood you will get a few funny looks if you break out onto the floor and go through an exercise routine in the middle of your office. If so we have you covered with the following seated exercises. Or if your office is pretty chilled give the above routine a go!


1 – Chair Squat Isometrics – 5 reps with 5 second hold



2 – Chair Crab Hold – 5 reps with 5 second hold



3 – Banded Shoulder Flexion – 8 reps



4 – Seated Calf Raise – 8 reps



Go With The Flow

A flow workout looks to transition from one movement to another in the smoothest way possible without stopping. This can be ideal for a quick movement break that will cover a wide variety of movements and utilize major muscle groups. Check out a couple of our flow routines below!


1 – Supine Flow 



2 – Lateral Flow



3 – Prone Flow



When Can I Do This?

This is a question very dependent on the work environment. If you are working remotely it can be easier to schedule small pieces of mobility throughout the day. Being at the office can be trickier. Setting an alarm or picking designated times in the day for 5 minutes of mobility works best in both cases. 

For example every two hours I decided to take five minutes to take a movement break. That can be as simple as walking to get a glass of water or go through some of the exercises highlighted above.

Set out at the start of the day and select good times that fall into your work day.

It Will Help

Set a target for one week of completing two movement breaks a day and see how you feel at the end of the week. Taking less than 10 minutes out of an eight hour working day could prove to be a big difference maker in how you feel.


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