By Jena Mays
According to The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1 in 3 adults do not achieve the recommended amount of physical activity each week. Often, it’s not because people don’t want to exercise; they simply struggle to find the time to fit it in. After all, life is busier and more stressful than ever. The good news is that it is possible to get great workouts outside the gym. In this article, I present a simple and extremely practical solution—chair exercises.
Whether I’m at home or the office, I know my chair is one of the most accessible pieces of equipment I have to get in a quick workout. Even if it is for just 15–20 minutes, I feel mentally and physically refreshed after doing a few sets of these exercises. Now you can, too!
Using a chair as your one and only piece of exercise equipment allows you to take a quick brain break from your work without having to interrupt your flow. You’ll be able to get the blood coursing through your veins, move your stiff muscles, improve posture, and give yourself some much-needed cognitive relaxation.
All you really need to get in an effective short chair workout is a stable chair or bench and about three feet of room all around. You probably don’t want to do this workout with your office chair that has rollers on the feet, as this will not provide the stability that you need.
For the chair workout that is about to follow, you will also need a stopwatch. A fitness tracker will also help you to monitor your workout.
This 10-minute chair-based workout involves 10 exercises. Rather than counting your reps, you will perform each exercise for 45 seconds. This will provide you with a 15-second rest before the next exercise begins. Be sure to strictly adhere to these timeframes to get the most benefit from this workout.
The leg extension is the ideal exercise to work your quadriceps. Sit in an upright position with your back slightly arched and your hands grabbing the sides of the chair seat. Now, starting with your left leg, bend at the knee to extend your leg fully. Contract your quads in the top position before lowering. Then repeat with the right leg, alternating back and forth for 45 seconds.
Sit in the chair. With your feet firmly planted on the ground, extend your arms directly out to your sides at shoulder level. Without bending at the elbows, make small circles with your hands. This will directly stimulate your shoulder, or deltoid, muscles. You will feel the burn after around 20 seconds of these chair exercises, but keep going until the stopwatch hits 45 seconds.
From a seated position with your back upright and arms out parallel in front of your body, push through the hips and heels to rise to a standing position. Now reverse the motion to go back to the seated position. Continue this sit down/stand up motion for 45 seconds. Do not allow your back to become rounded throughout the exercise.
From a seated position, bring your hands down to touch your toes. Then arch back out to stretch your hands as high as possible overhead. Be sure to keep your lower back slightly arched as you smoothly and continuously repeat this action for 45 seconds.
Sit in an upright position with your arms at your sides. Imagine that you are holding dumbbells in your hands. Curl your hands up to shoulder level, keeping your elbows in at your sides as you do so. From there, press your hands up overhead. Reverse the action to bring your hands back to your shoulders and then down to your sides. Carry out this curl/press simulation for 45 seconds. Do not allow your body to slump back in the chair. Maintain an upright position with your upper back muscles contracted for the duration of these chair exercises.
Sit on the chair in an upright position with your arms in front of your chest and elbows bent at 90°. Your knees should be together. Now, simultaneously move your arms and legs apart so that your arms are in line with your torso and your legs fully extended. Feel the stretch in both your chest and your upper legs. Continue this in/out action for 45 seconds.
Sit in an upright position on the chair and assume a boxing hand position. Start throwing punches at an imaginary target in front of your body. Continue smoothly with a left-right combination until you’re 45 seconds are up. Throw the punches as quickly as you can, initiating from the hips and shoulders. This is the main cardio exercise of this chair workout, so you want the action to be as fast as possible.
Stand behind the chair with your hands resting on the top of it. Without bending your knee, lift your left leg up and out to the side as high as you can. Immediately bring it back down, and then repeat. Do this three times on the left leg before switching to the right. Go back and forth in three-rep increments until 45 seconds are up.
Stand behind the chair with your hands resting on it. Now, without bending your knee, lift your left leg back as far as is comfortable. Return to the start position and repeat. Do this three times before switching to the right leg, alternating back and forth for 45 seconds.
Stand behind the chair with your hands resting on it. Without bending your knees, rise up on your toes as high as you can go. Hold the top position for two seconds as you feel the squeeze in your calf muscles. Then slowly lower to the ground and repeat. Continue for 45 seconds.
This 10-minute chair workout will provide stimulation to your entire body. If you are working an eight-hour day in the office or at home, I suggest doing this twice throughout the day with a four-hour gap between each session. Doing so will make you feel more alive, energetic, and productive.