6 Exercises You Can Do Sitting in a Chair

If you think you need a gym membership, a rack of dumbbells or the stamina you had 30 years ago to get a workout in, think again. If you can sit, you can get fit. Try these six seated exercises the next time you’re behind your desk at work or on your couch binge-watching “The Crown.”

1. Arm Circles

They may look a little silly, but arm circles are a great workout for your arms. They use your arms themselves — plus a little gravity — for resistance, so you can do them virtually anywhere.

Sit up straight and extend your arms to each side like you would while crossing a balance beam or pretending to be an airplane for your grandson. Move your arms in small circles like you’re polishing the rim of a coffee cup with your fingertips. Continue “polishing” until you feel the burn, then do your circles backward.

2. Punches

These are a personal favorite. Channeling your inner Sugar Ray Leonard for a quick air-boxing session provides an excellent workout for your upper body. It targets not only your arms but also your back, shoulders and core.

Start by throwing 20 punches in front of you, exhaling as you hit your imaginary target. Take a breather, and then repeat five times.

3. Soup-Can Press

You don’t have to use cans of soup to do this overhead press, but it’s my preferred method. You can hold whatever you want, including nothing at all.

Hold your cans up to your ears. Your elbows should be bent, with your upper arms parallel to the ground. Slowly extend the cans above your head, straightening your arms completely, then bring them back down slowly. Repeat for three sets of 15 reps.

4. Marching

Were you in marching band in high school? If you’re like me, you have fond memories of band trips and football games, and you have less-fond memories of marching through town in a sweaty polyester uniform. With seated marches, you can put your legs through their paces, literally, without having to remember how to play the theme from “Love Story.”

Here’s how to do it: Put your hands on either side of your chair for support (or on either side of you if you’re on the couch). Keeping your tummy tucked in tight, bring your right foot off the ground as high as you can, knee bent. Bring it back down, keeping your core muscles contracted, and repeat with your left foot. Do three sets of 15 reps on each leg, and if all that core tightening is too tough, try leaning backward a bit.

5. Ankle Stretches

Another personal favorite, these stretches both boost your ankle flexibility and reduce your risk of blood clots.

Sit up straight and hold on to your chair for support. Lift your leg off the floor so that it’s parallel to the ground. Point your toes away from you and hold, then point them back toward you and hold.

That’s it! I usually do three sets of 10 reps, but as with all of these exercises, do what feels right for you and your experience level.

6. Leg Extensions

Leg extensions are like squats without all the, well, squatting. Sit up straight and once again brace yourself by holding onto the sides of your chair. Your feet should be flat on the floor or, even better, dangling above the floor.

Next, contract your glutes (yes, your rear end) and straighten both of your legs out in front of you, as parallel to the ground as you can get. Hold that position for three seconds, and then lower your legs slowly. Repeat for three sets of 15 reps.

Staying active is fundamental to longevity. You know the old saying: “If you don’t move it, you’ll lose it.” Keep your joints and muscles active by adding these seated exercises to your regular routine.

4 Replies to “6 Exercises You Can Do Sitting in a Chair”

  1. Thank you. I think all your information is very helpful toward my health, I have a hard time doing stairs also so anything that you could give on that would be appreciated also. Thank you very much.

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