The hidden benefits of chair exercises

Believe it or not, you can get effective exercise from a chair. Whether it’s from your office, the comfort of your own home or in a class format, chair exercises are a great low-impact way to incorporate movement into your routine.

Most people can burn 120 to 250 calories in a 32-minute session, and with weights or resistance bands the calorie burn is even more.

Most adults should get 150-300 minutes of moderate cardio activity each week and strength and flexibility exercises 2-3 times a week, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Chair exercises can help you achieve this — and they’re also a tool you can use to alleviate some cramps and aches. Busy parents struggling to find a balance can use chair exercises to get a quick workout in.

You can also try a Chairobics class. You may think, “A class is too intense for me right now, or the instructor will move too fast for me.” But there are ways to make the exercises easier or more intense, and a classroom is a supportive environment, not a competitive one.

To join the wait list for new sessions starting in the summer ask your dietitian at your next nutrition appointment or email [email protected]. It’s $40 for four classes and you don’t need to be a patient to join.

Try this full-body routine from a chair:

Seated jumping jacks
(Warmup)

Chairobics - Seated jumping jacks start

Chairobics - Seated jumping jacks finish

Sit up straight with knees bent and together, toes touching the floor, elbows bent and arms open to sides with palms facing forward. Quickly open legs out to sides, flexing feet, landing on heels, and extending arms overhead. Return to starting position for 12 reps.

Seated toe stretch
(Hamstrings and lower back)

Chairobics - Seated toe stretch

Sit on the edge of your chair, lean forward and reach for your toes, one arm at a time.

Leg lift and twist
(Quadriceps and abdominal muscles)

Chairobics - Leg lift and twist

Sit up straight on the edge of your chair, knees bent. Extend your right leg out straight with foot on the floor, arms crossed over your chest. Tighten your abdominal muscles, then rotate your torso to the right as you lift your right leg level to your left knee, squeezing knees together while exhaling. Return to starting position while inhaling for 20 reps. Repeat on the opposite side.

Seated bicep curl
(Biceps)

Chairobics - Bicep curl down

Chairobics - Bicep curl up

Sit at the edge of a chair. Hold two dumbbells down at your sides with your palms facing forward. Slowly lift the dumbbells up just past your chest and toward your shoulders. At the top of the movement, pause for a second to squeeze your biceps muscles. Slowly return to starting position for 12 reps.

Lean back chest press
(Chest)

Chairobics - Lean back chest press start

Chairobics - Lean back chest press finish

Sit at the edge of the chair, feet flat on the floor and dumbbells in hands. Lean back so the back of your chair is supporting your upper back and shoulders. Raise the dumbbells up to your shoulders, palms facing out and elbows elevated.  Slowly press the weights upward at about a 45-degree angle until arms are straight, then bring back to starting position. Repeat for 12 reps.

Skater switch
(Core, shoulders, biceps, triceps, inner thigh muscles)

Chairobics - Skater switch left

Chairobics - Skater switch right

Sit on the edge of your chair, bent right knee out to the side, extending left leg out straight to the side, toes pointed. Extend arms straight out in front of you and lean forward slightly, reaching left arm to inside of right foot and raising your right arm up behind your body, twisting through torso. Switch to the opposite side and repeat the same motion. Repeat for 30 alternating reps.

Seated toe and chest presses
(Chest, calves)

Chairobics - Seated toe and chest start

Chairobics - Seated toe and chest finish

Keep your back straight and press your hands together, in a prayer position, as hard as is comfortable. While maintaining that inward pressure on your hands, drive your hands outward as you extend both arms. At the same time, rise up onto your toes so that you feel a contraction of your calf muscles. Bring your arms back in while at the same time dropping your heels back to the ground, keeping your palms together the entire time.


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