Between work and pleasure, people spend an unhealthy amount of time sitting. The good news is that there are ways to exercise while sitting that may significantly improve your general health.
The average American office worker sits for a total of at least 10 hours a day between work and home, according to a Washington Post article. That's a lot of time, especially considering that experts suggest that sitting for less than half of that time can potentially increase life expectancy. The nature of business today, however, makes it difficult to spend time standing and moving around without sacrificing the quantity of work we're able to accomplish. While there's no substitute for engaging in physical activity, there are some things you can do in the office and even at your desk to exercise while sitting and get in more steps during the work day.
Arm circlesA big part of exercise while sitting is simply getting the blood flowing. You can get started at your desk at any time by performing arm circles. Just stretch your arms out to both sides and rotate them in circles at the shoulder. Repeat two sets of fifteen reps each, and try to do this three or four times a day. It gives both your arms and your back a rest from their static positions, and it will help to increase your circulation.
Leg extensionsIf you're working the upper part of your body, it only makes sense to follow with a lower-body workout. While sitting down with your back straight, extend and lift your right leg as high as it will comfortably go, hold it for five seconds, then slowly return it to rest. Repeat for two sets of fifteen reps for each leg. This will improve the circulation in your legs while also strengthening the hamstring and quad. (Not to mention it'll get you sitting up straight for at least a few minutes a day.) This is a great way to exercise while sitting because your hands are still free to write emails or scroll through memos. The more you do it, the happier your legs will be.
Waist rotationWhen those emails are all taken care of, take a few minutes for waist rotations. With a straight back, put your hands on your hips or out to the sides and rotate to the left as far as you can without hurting yourself. Hold for five seconds, and then repeat on the right side. Do two sets of fifteen reps and feel how your core opens up and allows for more flexible movement. (This is also another great way to get the blood flowing to this part of your body.)
Knee tucks/chair crunchesWhile you're working on your core, sit on the edge of your chair and lean back slightly, keeping your back straight and holding yourself in position with the armrests of your chair. Lift and bend your left leg so your knee tucks in. (The resulting position should resemble that of a floor crunch or sit-up.) Hold your knee in position for five seconds, and then switch sides and repeat. Do this for two sets of fifteen reps each. You might feel a little burn in your abdomen. Tolerate it as well as you can; it should lessen as time goes on and you strengthen your core.
ClenchesLooking for a workout that's a little more discreet? Clench your buttocks in your seat and hold for ten seconds. Over time, this will tighten muscles and keep the blood flowing to your backside. A perk to this exercise is that people can't tell when you're doing it, so you can keep at it all day long (or until you need a solid rest). Just remember not to neglect the other less subtle workouts!
Get in more steps during the day
There are many ways to exercise while sitting, but nothing beats the full body movement offered by taking a walk. At least once per hour, step away from your desk and take a walk. It could be to the bathroom, the breakroom, or just a few laps around the office. If you can, get out of the office and walk outside for a refreshing change of scenery. Spending even five minutes walking every hour will drastically improve your circulation and help keep your body working. And don't be too casual about it—walk with a workout in mind!
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Do you have an exercise-while-sitting regiment that works for you? We'd love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments below.