Healthy Aging: Know the Facts

By John Sandgren, MD
John Sandgren is a recent Evolve grad and a member of the Vital Aging Network’s Wellness 50+ Design Team. We are pleased to have his contribution to our knowledge base about how to age well.

Feb 012015

This is the second of a series of installments entitled: Fitting Exercise into Your Daily Routine

Twenty years ago, I took lessons in hip hop dancing, which employs muscles I was not accustomed to using. My dance instructor recognized this immediately and taught me dynamic stretches, which are slow and continuous movements unlike static stretches where you hold each pose for a while. One particular stretch seemed to loosen my back and chest in a way no other stretch has, so I have performed it ever since, most every day.

In Part 1 of this series, I suggested you not fret about the duration or intensity of your workouts as you begin; just start with a little something and do it several times a day. Work a few muscles in the morning while you swish mouthwash or get dressed and then maintain that exercise mindset by doing chair or office exercises during sedentary portions of your day.

Tips for Getting Started

Like me, you can learn exercises from fitness trainers, dance instructors, or exercise classes. Here are some other ideas to get you started:

  • Search online or at the library. Good online resources are and Search on terms such as “chair exercise,” “office exercise,” or “workplace exercise” and you will find sources for a multitude of exercises.
  • Look for exercises using hand weights, ankle weights, and resistance bands once you feel ready to increase your strength.
  • Pick just a few exercises that appeal to you and seem feasible in the space you have.
  • Methodically practice each exercise while looking at the book or video until you have it correct and committed to muscle memory.
  • Add a couple new exercises every 2-3 weeks, gradually developing a repertoire that works a variety of muscle groups.
  • Discard exercises that lose their appeal. Retain only those that meet your needs.

Sources That I Recommend

I recently reviewed a number of books, DVDs, and videos under the subject headings mentioned above. Here are four that I recommend. The first two are YouTube videos you can click on and play. The last two are at the Hennepin County Library and can be obtained from your library, via inter-library loan if need be.

  • 5-5-5 Chair Workout with Lawrence Biscontini (YouTube video). This is a good 15-minute aerobic and strength workout in a chair. (Thanks to Mia Bremer, owner of Ablebodies and a Vital Aging Network board member, for this suggestion.)

  • Priority One – Getting Started – 106 by Alexis Mason (YouTube video). This video offers 27 minutes of good, beginning chair exercises.

  • Office Yoga: Moderate Exercises in Your Cubicle (DVD) by Danielle Scane.[1] In 20 minutes, this DVD demonstrates a remarkable repertoire of exercises, performed in a cramped office cubicle.
  • Stretching In The Office (Book) by Bob Anderson,2 a good source for stretching exercises designed to be done in an office setting.

A word of caution: Not all sources provide the guidance you need to avoid injury. Here’s one pointer: Do not ad lib with hand weights; do only the exercises shown to you by skilled trainers. It may be safest to avoid videos where the instructors mostly smile and groove to the music as they exercise. Good instructors may get into the music but you’ll see that their focus is really on instruction, and they offer frequent tips and precautions as they demonstrate their exercises.

New Office Workstations

Standing and height-adjustable workstations have been available for some time; treadmill, cycling, and elliptical workstations are now being developed. The research on these suggests improvement in mood, depression, overall fatigue, and musculoskeletal discomfort, but other results—on worker satisfaction, boredom, stress reduction, productivity, and ability to concentrate—are still preliminary.

Watch for Part 3 of this series next week, ”Time-Saving Workouts.”


John SandgrenJohn Sandgren is a recent Evolve grad and a member of the Vital Aging Network’s Wellness 50+ Design Team. We are pleased to have his contribution to our knowledge base about how to age well. Thanks to Marcia Robert, MPH, for editorial assistance on this article.





1 Scane D. Office Yoga: Moderate Exercises in Your Cubicle (DVD). Costa Mesa, CA: Danielle Scane, 2009.

[2] Anderson B. Stretching In The Office (Book). Bolinas, CA: Bob and Jean Anderson and Shelter Publishers, Inc, 2002.