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Fitness tips for people already on the move

Robert Reames, Laura Christy, Erik Flowers suggest exercises, stretches and fitness strategies for people who get a workout at work.

March 30, 2009|Jeannine Stein

Being on your feet all day has its pros and cons.

Muscles get a workout, joints and tendons stay limber through use, and, of course, there's the calorie burn. But it also can lead to sore legs, wear and tear on the back's discs, and poor posture from hunching forward when fatigued.

Even those folks achieving their 10,000 steps a day -- doctors, nurses, waitresses, construction workers, hairstylists -- still need maintenance. Repeating movement patterns every day (carrying trays, cutting hair) means that underutilized muscle groups grow weak.

And don't think all that movement means you don't have to get your heart rate up. The body gets used to the same movements and amount of activity, expending less and less energy to get the job done. Doing more, and different, cardiovascular exercise can push the metabolism while strengthening the heart -- and preventing weight creep.

Working out has another benefit too: "Generally stress is a part of people's job duties," says trainer Laura Christy of Meridian's Bodies in Motion, "so doing cardio helps their heart and stress levels as well."

We asked three trainers what they would recommend for those continually on the go.


Robert Reames

Personal trainer, member Gold's Gym Fitness Institute

Leg strength and endurance play a huge part for people who are on their feet all day.

* For leg strength, squats and lunges are good, but I've had great success with clients on the leg press (a machine in which weight is lifted with the legs while seated or lying down). On the leg press, you're loading just your legs, so you can do it without as much strain on the back as you would if you were doing squats or lunges with weights.

If you're a beginner, get on the machine and get used to doing the motion with no weights. Make sure you can do it for two to four sets of 10 to 12 reps. Eventually you want to add weight that's a comfortable resistance, and challenging, but doesn't take you out of your form and cause you pain.

Also, make sure your feet are firmly planted [on the foot plate], with an emphasis on putting the weight on your heels. When bending your knees, don't go past 90 degrees or you'll over-stretch your knees. Make sure the movement is controlled, and do two to three seconds on the up-and-down phase. If you have to go really fast to push the weight, then you're doing too much.

This exercise targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, back muscles and glutes -- pretty much everything between the knees and the waist. Doing this twice a week will really train the legs well.

* For leg endurance, you can get on any kind of lower-body cardio machine such as a treadmill, stair climber or elliptical trainer. If you belong to a gym you can cross-train on a variety of machines, and you can also take it outside and run or do steps. The body thrives on variety -- it makes you stronger and helps prevent injury.

* For posture, standing cable rows give you core work while working large muscle groups in the back. Standing in front of the machine, feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent, grab the handle and pull it toward you, then release it, using a slow and controlled movement.

Do three sets of 10 to 12 reps. Also, when you're off the machine, make sure you're walking around the gym in optimum posture.

* Interval training helps increase cardiovascular capacity and increases your ability to burn fat, so the body is prepared to do so much more. I'd shoot for two to three days per week, minimum.


Laura Christy

Regional training manager and corporate fitness manager, Meridian's Bodies in Motion, West Los Angeles

People who move all day tend to have issues such as tight hip flexors, calves and hamstrings, lower lumbar [back] pain, core weakness and rounded shoulders -- some of the same issues found in people who sit all day. Generally the most weak areas are the core, the quadriceps and the glutes, because they're not always firing all day.

So if we put people on certain pieces of cardio, it's going to reinforce tightening those areas because they're doing the same movements they do during the day. So calisthenics are good -- jumping jacks, jump-rope, scissor jumps, side-to-side stepping, knee pull-ups -- movement exercises on different planes. It also breaks up the monotony while getting the heart rate up.

For the hip flexors, stretch the adductors [muscles on the inside of the thigh] by doing a diagonal lunge. Keep one leg straight while stepping, the other is out to the side diagonally. Keep the knee bent and under the torso. Hold for about 10 to 30 seconds, and switch sides.

The pain in the lower lumbar can come from having a weak core. If you're not activating your core muscles, then you tend to have rounded shoulders, which pulls the back forward and puts strain on those muscles. Practice exhaling, then inhaling. When you inhale, you engage your core, and it's a good, quick way to remind yourself to engage those muscles.

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