Let’s face it: It’s easier not to exercise at work. After all, the famous law of physics states that an object in motion stays in motion; an object at rest stays at rest.
But with a recent high-profile medical study concluding that sedentary people face a higher risk for premature death, even if they exercise regularly, it’s become imperative that office workers get out of their chairs more often.
Here are some chair exercises you can do in the office. If fighting belly fat on the job is one of your goals, choose chair exercises that will help you burn the most calories. This will be accomplished if you pick traditional strength-building exercises that activate the largest muscle groups. For best results, wedge your chair against a wall or door.
1. Chair squats
Start from a standing tall position. Reach your arms out forward, preferably at least at heart level. Stick your rear end straight back, maintaining a flat, non-rounded back. The weight of your feet should be toward the heels, not the toes. Make sure your knees stay roughly in line with your ankles. (Look at the photo above to make sure you're properly aligned.) Squat until you feel contact with the chair (see photo below) and then stand back up to the original position.
If you have bad knees or need support, you can hold on to your chair. Try to squeeze your glutes (buttocks) and the front of your thighs when you come up to the starting position. The movement will be made easier if you use your hips for momentum (think pelvic thrust forward). Your glutes are the largest muscles in your body, so if you engage them often, you’ll be rewarded with greater calorie burn and firmer buns.
2. Chair dips
About the only area of your body that gets a workout at the office is your fingers. Involve the largest muscles of your upper body — shoulders, chest and triceps — by performing simple chair dips. Place both hands on the edge of your chair, roughly shoulder width, and bring your tailbone one or two inches off the chair. Your fingers should be pointed forward or slightly at an angle. Stick your chest out and drop your hips a few inches toward the ground. Use your upper-body strength to propel you back to the starting position. Try to squeeze the back of your arms (triceps) at the very top of the chair dip.
For beginners or those without much upper body strength, go down only one or two inches; if you’re stronger, try to come down to the point where your elbow and shoulder form a 90-degree angle.
3. Chair lunges
Laurie Bachner, a self-proclaimed corporate chair yogacise expert based in New York City, recommends chair lunges to her corporate clients. “Start your day being on your chair, not in it,” she advises. One way to get the blood flowing into the lower extremities and strengthen the glutes and thighs first thing in the morning is chair lunges. Either on the side of the chair or placing the back of the chair in front of you, place one leg in front of the other. The front leg’s knee should be in line with the ankle. Drop the rear leg’s knee to the ground, stopping when the knee and hip make a 90-degree angle. Repeat until a comfortable burn is felt. Switch legs.
You can also do alternating legs, lunging one at a time. “Your chair shouldn’t be an added adversary but rather a tool to use in a therapeutic way and chair lunges are a perfect example of how to do that,” says Bachner.
4. Chair pushups
You might want to consider following these exercises in this specific order and perform them as a circuit. So far, you’ve done a lower body exercise, followed by an upper body, then lower body, and chair pushups focus the blood flow and strengthening back to the upper body. Place your hands on the side of the front edge of the chair. You should immediately start from an ending push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart with your shoulder blades spread out and your back in a straight line. Make sure to activate the front of your thighs (quads) even though this is primarily an upper-body exercise. This will help keep your core abdominals engaged. Slowly lower down to the chair.
Similar with chair dips, if you lack strength, drop down only an inch or two, but do remember to squeeze the back of your arms when you push back up to the beginning position.
5. Chair crunches
Sit toward the edge of your chair. Your fingers should face the ground. Lean backward until you feel your core engaged (even if you don’t, just lean back a few inches). Extend both legs out slowly. Bend the knees, bringing them toward your chest.
There you have it: two lower-body exercises, two upper-body movements and one for the core. Try to perform at least three circuits every day. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.
Know any other highly effective chair exercises? Let us know below.
Judd Handler is a health writer in Encinitas, Calif. He can be reached at CoachJudd@gmail.com.
Photos by MNN associate photo editor Catie Leary, demonstrated by MNN SEO editor Lisa Agostoni.