Got a chair? Then you’re ready for this sit-down, total-body workout. Tone and strengthen with the first five exercises from personal trainer Jessica Smith, a certified wellness coach and co-author of The Thin in 10 Weight Loss Plan.
To alleviate aches and pains, try the final three exercises from Tracey Porter, a personal trainer, certified sports nutritionist, and student of the posture therapy method, Egoscue.
Safety precaution: Pay attention to your body during the movements — if anything hurts or causes pain, stop immediately. And check with your doctor first before beginning this, or any, exercise program.
1. Posture check
According to Smith, simply sitting up straight in a chair tones a variety of muscles in your torso. Turn straight posture into an exercise by pressing your knees together to engage your inner thighs, squeezing your buttocks, sitting tall, and pulling in your belly button (abdominals) toward your spine. It’s important to press your shoulders back and down and to keep your neck neutral, while doing this exercise. Try to maintain this posture as long as you can while sitting.
2. Seated jumping jacks
Get in a little cardio, without any impact on your joints, by doing modified, seated jumping jacks.
While sitting on the edge of your chair, open and close your arms and legs as you would during a normal jumping jack, and move your limbs, as quickly as you can, in and out. Start slowly and work up to 3 sets of 20 reps.
3. Abs twister
Not only do strong abdominal muscles make you look great in clothes, they also help stabilize your torso, which reduces aches and pains in your lower back and hips, according to the Yale School of Medicine Medical Group.
Sit tall on the edge of your chair and cross your arms over your chest. Inhale and squeeze (flex) your abdominal muscles lightly. Without relaxing your stomach muscles, exhale slowly, squeezing your abs in tighter and turning your upper body to the right. Inhale and twist back to center. Then repeat to the left. Work up to 3 sets of 20 alternating reps.
4. Seated leg extensions
To strengthen the thigh and hip muscles, you need only extend your leg.
Sit on the edge of your chair with your arms by your sides. Extend your right leg out straight and flex your foot so that just the right heel is on the floor. Lift your leg up as high as you can without rounding your back. Keeping your foot flexed engages the muscles in the shins and ankle. Hold for three counts and then lower. Work up to 3 sets of 10 reps on each leg.
5. Seated press-ups
Engage your shoulder and triceps muscles with this joint-friendly move.
Sit on the edge of your chair with your arms by your sides, palms over the edge of your seat. Press down with your arms as if you were going to try to lift yourself off the chair (you don’t have to lift up). Hold for three counts and then release. Work up to 3 sets of 10 reps.
Smith says doing each of the previous exercises 3 to 4 days a week will have you seeing results, but there’s also no downside to doing them daily.
6. Work out with a water bottle
People who sit hunched at desks all day often develop pain in their back, shoulders, and neck. To alleviate pain, Porter recommends a series of three exercises done in a chair, using a plastic water bottle.
To get into position, sit halfway off your chair keeping your back straight and shoulders down and pulled back. Place a plastic water bottle between your knees, lining up your ankle with your knee, so that your thighs and calves are at a 90-degree angle. Make sure your feet are about 4 inches apart. Turn this into an exercise for your thighs by squeezing the water bottle 30 times.
7. Sitting elbow curls
To open up your chest and shoulder muscles, try these elbow curls.
Raise your arms at your sides and bend your elbows, so that your knuckles are at your temples. Bring your elbows together and then all the way back to the starting position at moderate speed about 30 times.
8. Arm circles
Increase flexibility and improve posture with gentle arm circles.
Raise your arms straight out to your sides and press your shoulder blades together. Extend arms with palms down, thumbs facing forward, and do 20 forward circles with your arms. Then flip your palms up, thumbs facing behind you, and do 20 backward circles with your arms.