According to one Australian study, most people sit for more than nine hours a day. Don’t let all that time go to waste. Whether you’re on the bus or train to work or sitting at your desk, you can make some creative use of your chair time–and give yourself some muscle-toning benefits.
“Exercising while you’re sitting won’t pump you up like being at the gym,” says Mark Campana, a personal trainer and partner in Armstrong Health & Fitness, in Fairlawn, Ohio. “But some simple exercises can help strengthen and tone muscles. Plus, it’s a great way to take a break from work.” Here are six exercises Campana recommends.
How to: Sit slightly forward away from the backrest, and lift one leg at a time about 3 inches off the ground. Then, tighten your leg muscles and hold for five to 10 seconds. Relax and repeat two times a day on each leg.
Benefits: Because this exercise works your quadriceps, the big muscle in the front of your thigh, it may increase circulation. It may also help knee and hip stability and your balance.
How to: If you can, slip your feet out of your shoes. Sit up straight in your chair with both feet on the floor. Raise one foot high enough so you swivel in all directions. Then with your big toe, write the alphabet. Repeat with the other foot. As you make letters, spread and curl your toes. Try this two or three times a day.
Benefits: This exercise may help ankle strength and flexibility of the feet and toes along with stretching your Achilles tendon. It’s also a good way to work toes that may get bunched up in shoes.
How to: Sit up straight in your chair with your feet flat on the ground. Tighten your glutes (butt muscles) for five to 10 seconds. Relax, and repeat five to 10 times twice a day.
Benefits: Even while driving or commuting on a bus or train, you can sneak in this exercise.
How to: If you have a chair with wheels and are on a surface that allows your chair to easily scoot, try this one, carefully. Sit in the middle of your chair with your back away from the backrest. Lean slightly forward until your chest is 2 inches from your desk. Grab the desktop with both hands at about shoulder width. Your elbows should be bent along your sides. Push out until your arms are almost fully extended, leaving a slight bend in your elbows. Then, pull yourself back to the starting position. Repeat 10 to 15 times once a day.
Benefits: You use all your upper-body muscles including your triceps, biceps, chest, and shoulder muscles, along with your core muscles.
How to: Sit in the middle of the chair with your feet flat on the floor. Arch your lower back so your butt feels like it’s sticking out. Keep your hands on your desk and don’t let your legs do the movement; make your abs work. Slowly pull your hips underneath your stomach as you bring your butt back underneath you, sort of like you’re doing a crunch. Hold for two to four seconds and push back to the original position. Repeat 10 to 20 times, three to four times a day.
Benefits: This move helps tone your abs and may even make sitting less tiring. It also aids in flexibility for doing all kinds of everyday activities, such as reaching and lifting.
How to: Sit straight up, feet flat on the floor. Lift your arms out to your sides and parallel to the floor. Extend your fingers and make 20 small, tight circles in each direction. If there happens to be someone sitting to your left or right, you can also extend your arms to the front or over your head. Do this exercise once a day.
Benefits: This exercise helps strengthen the neck and the trapezius and latissimus dorsi muscles of the upper back.