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7 Workouts You Can Do While Sitting Down

Exercise while sitting at your desk or watching TV on your couch.

Caroline Igo Editor, Sleep
Caroline Igo (she/her/hers) is a wellness editor and holds Sleep Science Coach and Stress Management certificates from the Spencer Institute. She received her bachelor's degree in creative writing from Miami University and continues to further her craft in her free time. Before joining CNET, Caroline wrote for past CNN anchor, Daryn Kagan.
Expertise Sleep, mattress accessories, vitamins and supplements, nutrition & personal care Credentials
  • Carl R. Greer/Andrew D. Hepburn Award for Best Nonfiction Essay (Miami University, 2020)
Caroline Igo
3 min read
A couple using chairs to stretch and exercise
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We spend a lot of our lives sitting down. We sit at our jobs, we sit down to eat a meal and we recline on the couch at the end of the day. According to a study published in the JAMA medical journal, one in every 10 Americans spends at least eight hours a day sitting and report to be physically inactive. 

Fortunately, simple changes can help you become more physically active -- even while you're sitting at a desk. Start with simple exercises. Here are eight sit down exercises that anyone can do throughout the day. 

Easy exercises to do while sitting down

Working out has never been easier. Spend 10 to 15 minutes doing these exercises each day. 

Ankle rotations

This simple exercise is discreet and requires little effort – you could even do it during a work meeting. Start by sitting up straight in your chair. Then, lift one leg slightly above the ground and point your toes upward. Slowly rotate your ankle clockwise for 10 whole circles, then go counterclockwise. Repeat with the other foot and loosen up your ankles while seated.

Soleus pushups

Recent research has shown that exercising the soleus muscle in our calves is very beneficial to our health. Easy, seated soleus pushups can improve the regulation of blood glucose -- meaning it has similar effects on the body to those of a full body workout. The exercise consists of placing both feet flat on the floor. Sit up straight and lift up your heels and then relax your muscles. The back half of your feet will then land back on the floor.

Upper-body twist

This exercise builds strength in your upper body and improves your range of motion. Sit up straight and cross your arms over each other, hugging your body. With your feet flat on the ground, twist your body to the left and hold for five counts. Then repeat on the other side and make sure your hips continue to face forward.

Arm raises

Seated arm raises are a great way to get the blood flowing and stretch. Start with your back up against your chair. Straighten your arms by your sides with your thumbs facing out. Bring your arms up and back down to your side, then repeat for three sets of 10.

Seated leg lift

Get some movement in your legs and abdominal muscles with this exercise. Sit straight up and close to the edge of your chair. Hold onto the side of the seat and lean back, keeping your spine as straight as possible. Lift both legs up a few inches off the ground and place them back on the floor. Repeat for three sets of 10.

Seated toe taps

Toe taps can help to strengthen and stretch your ankles. Start with feet placed on the floor and knees at a 90-degree angle. Slowly pull up your toes off the ground and bring them back down. Repeat for three sets of 10.

Seated skater

While this exercise might look a little funny, it is an easy cardio workout that intends to improve your core. First, start with your feet on the floor (you can come up on your heels) and move a little forward in your chair. Then extend your left knee so your leg is straight out and point your toe. Raise both arms out in front of you and with your left hand, bend down to touch your right foot as your right arm reaches back. Repeat the opposite on the other side. Try to do three sets of 10 on each side.

Bottom line

If you find that you sit too much during your day, these seated exercises can help to raise your heart rate without leaving your desk. All of these workouts can help prevent injury and bring movement back into your body – especially during stressful times. Do some experimenting to find the best sitting exercises that work for you. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.