As I talked about in my last blog, the benefits of exercise not only benefit your body, but also your brain. Exercise stimulates the growth of cells in your brain and throughout your body. Whether you are fully remote, hybrid, office-bound, or somewhere in between, there are simple ways to add some movement, stretching, and aerobic physical activity to your work day.
Here are a few workday workout examples to help get you started:
Exercise/Stretch # 1: Sit Stretch:
Purpose: Loosens the hamstrings, lower back, hip extenders, and flexors which all tend to shorten and tighten when we sit for long periods of time.
Directions: Sit in a sturdy chair on a non-skid surface. Bend and cross one leg over the opposite leg at the ankle and above the kneecap. Use your hand and gently push the inside of the top knee down towards the opposite ankle to feel a slight stretch in the back of the top leg and possibly the lower back. For more advanced exercisers, reach forward with your arm and hand extended to increase the stretch intensity. Hold for at least 15-30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.
Exercise # 2: Chair Abs:
Purpose: Strengthens your abdominal muscles and obliques without compromising your neck and back.
Directions: Use a sturdy chair with a raised back placed on a non-skid surface. The key is to lean back and sit closer to the front edge of the chair, with your feet on the ground about shoulder-width apart, while keeping your lower back straight until you feel your abs contract or activate. Start by crossing your arms across your chest while holding that position. Once you start to feel your abdominal muscles tighten or 'activate,' stop and then raise one leg up in a knee-bent position to about 90 degrees and hold for 15 seconds for beginners, 30 seconds for intermediate, and up to 1 minute for advanced. Experiment with different variations by elevating your arms with your hands clasped and gently swinging them side to side.
Exercise #3: Marching in Place and Triceps Dip Chair Exercise:
Purpose: Cardio endurance, ab, and leg strengthening while engaging triceps and upper body muscles.
Directions: Use a sturdy chair with a raised back placed on a non-skid surface. Sit at the front edge of the chair, lean back slightly, and alternately raise your legs in a bent knee position while tightening and engaging your abs. Place the palms of each hand on the sides of the chair and gently push down with your arms straight at your sides to activate your triceps. For beginners, start by sitting on the chair and performing for 30 seconds (roughly 15 repetitions each leg). For intermediate exercisers, try briefly moving your entire body on and off the seat so that all your weight is on your arms while marching in place. The most advanced position is to stay off the chair the entire time while performing this exercise. Just make sure you have enough strength to safely get back onto the chair!
Exercise #4: Sit to Stand Chair Exercise:
Purpose: The sit-to-stand exercise strengthens your lower body and core, while helping you to maintain balance, improve your mobility and independence. The goal is to do the sit-to-stand exercise without using your hands or losing your balance.
Directions: Use a sturdy chair with a raised back placed on a non-skid surface with or without armrests. Sit toward the front edge of the chair. Your knees should be bent and your feet should be flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. For beginners, place your hands lightly on each side of the seat. Keep your back and neck as straight as possible, with your chest slightly forward. Breathe in slowly while leaning forward and slightly shift your weight to the front of your feet. Breathe out as you slowly stand up using your hands as little as possible. The key is to make sure while standing and sitting back down that your knees stay in alignment with or behind your toes to use the back leg muscles and glutes while preventing knee overuse and discomfort. Breathe in as you sit down slowly and tighten your core and abdominal muscles to control your lowering as much as possible. Do this exercise 10–15 times. If needed, do it fewer times until you build up strength. As you build up strength, try placing your arms fully extended out in front of you and in an overhead position.
Exercise #5: Straight Arm Push-up into Inverted V Position:
Purpose: Strengthens muscles and bones in the front and back upper body, core, and legs, while increasing flexibility and range of motion in the upper and lower body regions.
Directions: Use a study chair with a raised back placed on a non-skid surface securely against a wall. Start in a straight arm pushup position, facing the chair bottom with your wrists under your shoulders and legs extended so that your back is flat and your body forms a straight line. Exhale through your mouth as you tighten your core and push your glute and pelvis up towards the ceiling, while keeping your legs and arms straight so your body forms an inverted V. Try pushing the balls of your feet back to point where your feet are close to or flat on the ground. The key is to keep your core tight, your back flat and your arms extended straight when raising and lowering your pelvis. Perform these movements 10–15 times each. If needed, do it fewer times until you build up strength. For beginners, hold the straight arm position briefly and the inverted V position for a longer period. As you build up strength and endurance, try holding the straight arm push-up position longer and perform more repetitions.
Exercise #6: Seated Boxing-Style Arm Jabs and Torso Rotation:
Purpose: Higher intensity cardio endurance and coordinated arm movement while strengthening arms and rotating and tightening torso.
Directions: Use a study chair with a raised back placed on a non-skid surface securely against a wall. Sit straight up (head, neck and back) without using the chair back for support if possible. Place arms at your sides with your elbows bent and pushed past your back on either side, with your fists clenched and shaped like a boxing glove. Start by punching across your upper body into a full arm extension and then quickly retract the arm back and punch the same way using the other arm. The key is to twist and rotate each punch using your torso so that the body drives the hand. Experiment using different hand and punching positions (i.e., upper, and lower cuts, short and full arm jabs, low to high punches, etc.). Perform each series starting off at 30-second intervals building up to 1-minute. Focus on tightening your arms, rotating through the torso, and keeping your upper body in a tensed position each repetition.