Fitness tips

Tribune Newspapers

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, "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.

A good exercise for the core is a roll-down. Start by sitting on the floor, legs and arms extended forward, and try to reach past your toes. Sit up tall, then collapse your torso, as if you've been punched in the stomach, and your torso forms a "C" shape. Begin to lie back, one vertebra at a time, ex- tending the arms overhead, until you're all the way down. Exhale and reach up toward the ceiling, come up slowly, and reach forward again past the toes.

This engages the abdominals and stretches the hamstrings and the calves and also engages the rhomboid muscles [in the back], which are good for posture. Do this about five times. It's OK if you elevate your feet as you come up from the lying position -- it just means that your core is weak. But eventually you'll increase your strength and endurance. And if you feel any pain in your lumbar region, it means your abs are fatigued and you're done for the day. If you continue, then your neck will start doing the work.

Erik Flowers

Personal trainer and co-owner of Body Builders Gym, Los Angeles

When I'm working with a client, I need to know where their head has been all day. Some jobs are done by rote -- it's the same activity and they know what to expect, and it may not be stimulating intellectually. But other jobs are intellectually stimulating. Their mental endurance is related to their physical endurance.

For the first group, I'll put together things that they're not used to, to keep them off balance -- literally. I'll throw them off a bit physically to get them to focus mentally. I have a guy who loves to lift weights, so I make him walk up a steep incline, then come down walking backward.

The second group doesn't want to figure things out. You don't want to ask them a lot of questions and you want to give them routines they can easily follow.

If you don't want to think too much at the gym, write down some things ahead of time. Or do the pre-programmed routines on the cardio machines. If you're at the gym and you're wondering what to do, my rule is, if you look at a machine or touch it, you have to do it.

In terms of cardio, you need to look at the pace you're doing all day. If you're just walking back and forth and not sprinting, then get on a bike or a treadmill or do a group cycling class and do some sprints to get some intervals in. If you're at a hectic pace all day, do something at a more even pace. Reset your body by doing the opposite. Even if you walk all day, walk backward on the treadmill or pedal backward on the elliptical. Your posture will be different and it will put you back in balance.

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Need advice for the desk-bound? Check out “Ask the Trainers: Cubicle Stretches” at

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