Exercise or physical activity is crucial for strength and flexibility. However, today’s busy lifestyles leave little time for exercise, and we tend to become sedentary. Many Americans drive to work, sit at their desk all day, drive back home, and then sit down to relax after their long day. People who use wheelchairs or who have a limited range of motion due to arthritis, loss of feeling in the feet (often a result of diabetes-related nerve damage), or other chronic conditions also face barriers to exercise. Sitting for long periods is detrimental to health. According to a study from the University of Colorado, “Long periods of sitting are linked with obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even cancer”.
The good news is that it is possible to stay physically active as you sit! Here are ten chair exercises that can increase daily movement, burn calories, and increase energy levels and combat the negative effects of having to sit down most or all of the time. You can do these exercises anytime, anywhere – even in your office. All you need is a stable chair or a bench.
- Arm Circle: This exercise target shoulders and core. Sit on the chair with your back straight, legs bent at the knees 90 degrees and feet planted on the floor. Touch your shoulders with your fingers, and without moving any other parts of your body, roll your arms backward continuously in a circular motion. Make 40 arm circles dynamically.
- Seated Knee Extension: This exercise targets your quadriceps. Sit up straight and with your back against a chair. Feet and knees should be shoulder-width apart. Then slowly straighten your right knee, lifting your foot until it is straight out in front of you. Flex your ankle and point your toes toward the ceiling. Lower your right leg. Repeat with the left.
- Shoulder Shrugs: This exercise help to increase muscle mass and postural strength. Sit straight with your back against a chair. With your arms at your sides, raise your shoulders toward your ears and slowly roll them forward and down. Then, raise your shoulders toward your ears and slowly roll them backward and down. Repeat 20 times.
- Seated Hip Thrust: Sit on the edge of the chair and hold the armrest of chair for support. Bend legs at the knees 90 degrees with toes touching the floor. Lean back about 45 degrees—or as much as the chair allows. Pull your legs towards your chest. Extend your legs straight out in the air. Pull your legs back again towards your chest, then drop your feet without them touching the floor. Repeat the exercise 20 times. (https://www.workingmother.com/)
- Triceps extension: Sit on a chair or bench and hold one light weight dumbbell (or bottle of water) with both hands directly above your head. Slowly flex your elbows and lower the weight behind your head as you keep your upper arms still.
- Push and Pull: This exercise can be done at your desk. Put your hands on the table and push yourself backward until your arms are fully stretched. Your upper body should be as low as your arms are. Now, pull yourself to the table using your abdominal muscles. Repeat several times.
- Core challenge: This helps exercise your abdominal muscles. Sit on a chair with your back straight. Turn your body to the right while your legs are bent with the knees going in the opposite direction. Then turn to the other side (legs go the opposite direction).
- Yawning stretch: Similar to yawning, all you have to do is rest against the back of a chair and put your hands behind your head. Now, lean back even more so that your belly stretches and return to the original position. Repeat 10 times.
- Abdominal Brace: This activity targets core abdominal muscles. Start with sitting straight to the chair. Place one hand on either side of the seat, next to your hips. Pull your shoulders back, straightening your posture. Breathe in and relax your stomach muscles. Breathe out, drawing your stomach muscles inward. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds. Focus on relaxed breathing. Avoid holding your breath while your muscles are contracting. Repeat the steps 5 times.
- Chair Sit-Up: This workout also targets the abdominals. Sit straight on the chair and hold your hands in front of your chest, palms facing forward (as if you’re going to push something). Slowly bend forward at the waist, pulling in your abdominal muscles and keeping your back straight. As you bend forward, extend your elbows and push out with your hands, exhaling as you go. Slowly come up and return to the starting position. Repeat the steps 8 to 12 times.
On a safety note: talk to your doctor before you make any big changes to your exercise plan.