Maybe your job keeps you stuck in a seat for hours at a time. Maybe you’re injured and can’t go for a jog, or perhaps you just started exercising and don’t feel ready to join a gym. That’s OK, but it doesn’t mean you have to give up on working out. You can still build your strength, burn calories and improve flexibility—all from a seated position—with chair exercises.
Check out these sample chair exercises, from the American Council on Exercise. All you need is a sturdy chair: Firm bottom, no wheels and no arms. Some moves require light hand weights or an exercise band. Before starting any new workout, talk to your doctor; he or she can determine which of these moves are safest for you and help create a routine that fits your needs.
Try these six chair exercises to build strength, burn calories and improve flexibility:
1. Biceps Curls
Sit comfortably in the middle of the seat, with your back straight, feet flat and knees bent at 90 degrees. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and let your arms hang at your sides. Bend one arm at the elbow and slowly curl the weight toward your shoulder; slowly lower back to start position. Do the same with the other arm. Repeat.
2. Hip Abduction
Sit with your back straight, feet flat and knees bent. Wrap an exercise band around your legs so it rests just above your knees. In a slow, controlled motion, move your knees away from each other, then back to start position. Repeat.
3. Heel Walking
Sit near the edge of the chair, with your back straight and elbows at 90 degrees with your hands in front of you and knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Slowly push your right leg straight out and tap your right heel on the floor while your left arm hinges up (bringing your left hand toward your left shoulder) and your right arm hinges back (bringing your right elbow up behind you and right hand pointing toward the floor). In one fluid motion, bring the right leg back to start, push left leg forward to tap left heel to the floor, and switch arm positions. Continue alternating your legs and pumping your arms. For more calorie burn, include intervals at a faster pace.
4. Seated Jacks
Sit with your back straight, knees bent at 90 degrees and touching. Clasp your hands directly in front of your chest, with your elbows up to the left and right. Keeping your knees bent, open your legs wide, bringing your knees and feet apart; then back together. To add upper body cardio, spread your arms straight out to the left and right when your knees are touching; then clasp them back together when your knees are spread apart. For more calorie burn, include intervals at a faster pace.
5. Hamstrings Stretch
Sit with your legs extended in front of your, heels touching the floor. Slowly lean forward, sliding your hands down your legs until you feel tension in the lower back or the back of the legs. Hold for five to 10 seconds; then slowly return to the start position and repeat.
6. Chest Stretch
Sit up straight, knees bent, feet flat on floor. Keep your arms at your sides and hands slightly behind you, with palms facing forward. Pretend there is an imaginary wall behind you and the backs of your elbows and hands are touching it. Looking forward, slowly slide your hands up the “wall” to about shoulder height; lower to start position. Then slowly slide them higher to just above the head, extending your elbows little more; lower to start. Then slide your hands back up as high as you can, straightening your elbows; lower to start. You should not be able to see your hands, elbows or shoulders as you lift; they should remain slightly behind you to get a full chest stretch.