A staggering 86% of Americans spend most of their day sitting down. More and more, we’re shaping the world to require as little movement as possible. And while that means a lot of good things for scientific advancement and for helping people with disabilities, it also means that perfectly able-bodied people are allowing themselves to fall into poor health because they’re not moving enough.
If your job requires you to spend most of the day sitting, you’re already operating from a disadvantage. And that walk to the break room doesn’t count as enough exercise to keep yourself healthy.
That’s why we compiled this list of 9 sitting exercises that you can do to keep yourself active even when you can’t get up and move around as often as you’d like!
Sitting All Day is Bad for Your Health
First, let’s take a look at why staying seated all day is bad for your health. The world health organization attributes 3.2 million deaths to people not getting enough exercise.
You should be getting 6-9 hours of sleep every night. Then, you sit down to eat breakfast, you sit down on your way to work, and you sit down all day at work too. There’s more sitting on your way home, sitting to eat dinner, and even more sitting while you wind down for the night.
And if you got your CDL from somewhere like the Truck Driver Institute, you probably spend even more time every single day sitting down than anyone else.
That’s a lot of sitting!
This lack of physical movement can lead to anything like obesity or even the formation of blood clots in your legs.
That’s why it’s important that even if you take an hour to go to the gym every day that you pause during your work day to get in some quick exercise to break up that monotony.
Start By Sitting Up Right
Before we tackle some exercises you can do sitting down, let’s take a look at how we’re sitting wrong.
If you notice that you have a lot of back or neck pain, you’re not sitting right. Most of us spend the day slouching or craning our necks.
Imagine that your head is a bowling ball. When you stick your fingers in your bowling ball and hold it upright, your wrist and arm have no problem holding onto all that weight. Now, crane it forward slightly and what happens?
Your wrist snaps forward and you lose all control of the ball, right?
Your spine works the same way.
When you crane your neck too far forward, you’re putting constant strain on your neck and spine to support the incredible weight of your noggin.
This can lead to being out of alignment, sciatic nerve pain, arthritis, and compressing your discs.
So adjust your desk chair so you can sit in a comfortable way. Keep your feet flat on the floor, and honor the curve of your back.
A Few Simple Tools
To start out with, sitting exercises require no additional tools. But if you work your way up and want to add some weight or resistance to your sitting exercises, you could invest in a resistance band or a small medicine ball.
Also, it’s a good idea to get a cushion that is designed for your back if you have a job that requires you to sit for extended periods of time. This will help with posture and will allow your blood to flow to your extremities a little easier.
Now that we know a little more about how to sit right, let’s get into the exercises you can do while sitting down!
Arm circles are one of the most basic things you can do to get the blood flowing through your body. And they get your heart rate up fast!
Just extend both of your arms out to your sides and start to rotate them in one direction, making circles with your hands. Start out small and work up to bigger circles, and then move back to small again.
Once you’ve done 10-15 rotations, stop and reverse the direction of your circles.
Do this three or four times a day to get your heart rate up!
This is where the small medicine ball or small hand weights will come in handy. But even if you don’t have these tools at your disposal, you can still do weightless overhead presses just to get your body moving.
Start by holding your arms up and at a 90° angle, elbows parallel with your shoulders. Then, just press them upwards until they meet above your head. After that, drop them back down to their starting position.
Make these movements slowly and deliberately about 10-15 times so you can feel the full effect.
Seated Lateral Raise
This is another exercise that would benefit from small hand weights.
Start by letting your arms to hang at your sides, your palms facing you. Then, keeping a small bend in your elbows, raise your arms out to your sides until they are parallel with the ground.
Hold there for a second, then return to the starting position.
Remember to take your time so your muscles have time to engage.
To do a bicep curl, start with your arm by your side. Then, with your weight in hand, bend your elbow and bring your hand up near your shoulder.
Repeat this movement 10-15 times to get a good bicep workout.
Bent Over Pec Fly
This is an exercise that requires you to lean forward a little bit, but that extra movement will do wonders for your body.
Grab your weights again and scoot forward until you’re on the edge of your seat. Bend forward just a little bit and let your arms hang forward.
Then, allowing just a slight bend in your elbow, bring your arms back until the weights are even with your shoulders. Hold there for a minute and return to the starting position.
We’ve talked a lot about the different arm exercises you can do while sitting, but let’s talk about some of the leg workouts you can do too!
Leg lifts are an easy way to get the blood flowing and your heart pumping.
While keeping the rest of your body stationary, lean back a little. Using just your ab muscles, lift your legs up and down 10-20 times.
While keeping your feet on the floor, slide your feet back and forth, just lightly touching the ground, engaging everything from your hamstrings to your quads to even the muscles in your buttocks!
This one is a little more difficult to do, but over time your muscles will get used to it!
Start by bending your knees so that your heels are up towards your backside. Lean back, but keep your back as straight as you can.
Place your arms in front of you, hands on top of each other, keeping them level with your ribcage.
Then, twist to the left, making sure that the effort comes from your abs and ribs and not your arms. Then rotate to the other side.
That’s one rep!
Repeat that motion 8-10 times, then give your body a minute of rest before going for another set.
Seated running is another great exercise you can do with your legs. Put your legs out in front of you and lift one up, keeping the other down. Then quickly switch those positions back and forth as if you were running in place.
It might seem simple, but you’ll be surprised at how quickly this easy move can get your blood pumping!
Stay Active With These Sitting Exercises
It might seem impossible to stay active during a day where you have to spend all day sitting. But these sitting exercises prove that it’s easy to get in extra movement during the day. And it’s so important that you move your body as often as possible to stay healthy!
If you liked this article about how to stay healthy while sitting down, check out this one about destressing after work next!