Any form of exercise that doesn’t overextend your body is good for you – you’ve heard over and over that you “should” exercise more. Today, I’m going to discuss a half dozen light exercises you can do without leaving your chair at work, or getting up from in front of the TV. There’s nothing wrong with starting small – the key is to start, and these are very easy.
These exercises are suitable for anyone, including the pregnant or elderly. Always start gently, and check with your doctor, particularly if you have pre-existing medical challenges.
Why Exercise Helps You Lose Weight
Exercise (any physical activity) is important to weight loss not only because it burns calories which might otherwise be stored as fat, but also because it builds muscle. Every little bit of muscle that you build (or maintain) keeps your metabolism better prepared to fend off weight gain. While it’s certainly possible to lose weight and keep it off without exercise, adding just a little makes the challenge easier and the results faster.
Exercise also helps you sleep better, and reduces stress, both of which have been proven to assist in weight loss.
Finally, exercise leads to more exercise… When you feel more energetic and capable of meeting the physical challenges of the day, you’re more likely to walk up that extra flight of stairs or park a little further from the mall. When you’re not winded and tired all the time, doing a little extra physical activity doesn’t seem daunting, and that helps keep weight off in the long term.
Exercise Helps You Feel Better
Because exercise helps your heart keep your blood moving through your body efficiently, your whole body gets more oxygen. Your cells are better-nourished and toxins are carried away more efficiently. In particular, your brain thrives on getting more oxygen, letting you focus more and think more clearly. You’ll also benefit from the release of endorphins in your body that comes from exercise, which will make you feel good. This elevation in mood can help exercise become a habit, once you overcome inertia and get started.
I could go on for some time about the other health benefits – a strong immune system that fights off illness, healthy organs, reduced chance of getting some types of cancer, etc… but lets get to some of the easiest exercises you can do, that don’t even require getting out of your chair. Think of this as a starter list – you’ll probably come up with additional similar exercises and stretches on your own.
Exercises You Can Do While Sitting Down
Sit in a chair with your feet planted firmly on the floor (or on the foot rests of a wheelchair, if you’re wheelchair-bound). Raise one leg up – keeping your knee bent and foot down. Raise the leg up a couple of inches and hold it there for a few seconds. This is good for your hip muscles. Alternate legs.
Keep your feet flat on the floor. Raise one leg up until you get it as straight as you can and hold it there for a few seconds. If you can, flex your foot up (point your toes towards your chin) while you raise the leg. These are good for your thigh and calf muscles. Repeat with the other leg. Do this exercise in a slow and controlled motion. Don’t rush it.
Inner Thigh Squeezes
Place a small object like a drinking water bottle between your inner thighs. Bring your inner thighs in to gently squeeze the bottle. These are good for your inner and outer thigh muscles.
Bicep Curls or Twists
You can use the same drinking water bottle and raise your arm out to your side so that it’s shoulder level. Slowly bend your elbow in, bringing the water bottle towards you as if you were doing bicep curls in a gym. Do a few repetitions with that arm and then switch to the other arm.
Optionally, try turning your wrist so the bottle is upside down and bring the bottle towards your chest, and turn it back upright as your arm moves back out to the side. This gentle wrist and forearm twist can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
Front Raise for Arms
Sit as straight as you can in a chair. Hold a drinking water bottle in one hand for a little extra added weight if you choose. With that arm straight out in front of you, raise it up shoulder level. Hold it there a little bit and release. If you choose, you can raise the arm higher as if you were raising your hand in the classroom. Repeat with the other arm.
Sit on the edge of your chair as straight as you can with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Raise your arms out straight in front of you and slowly lean back toward the back of the chair. When you get as far back as you can, slowly raise yourself back to a normal sitting position. Keep your abdominal muscles pulled in while you do these exercises.
If you’re looking for something a little more challenging, read my previous article on gentle exercises to help you lose weight. They’re still very easy, but they’ll make a significant difference if you make them a regular part of your lifestyle. If you’re in Hawaii and are challenged by weight loss, contact my office for a free initial consultation.