Chair exercises can really be good for our bodies

Recently, I’ve been asked to do a number of corporate wellness talks for people who work in offices and are therefore tied to the desk for eight or so hours a day. Sitting for long periods of time has been shown to be very bad for our health. The breathing becomes shallow, the posture is poor, internal organs are cramped and because our head is usually held at an odd angle if we are talking on the phone and/or working on the computer, we end up with a headache or sore shoulders and neck. Our muscles become weak if we sit all the time rather than moving around.

It is important to take breaks when working at a desk. Even if you are retired and surfing the Internet or watching TV, getting up and moving around intermittently can alleviate some of the issues that a sedentary position creates.

Stretching up and back is an important move because usually when sitting for prolonged periods, we tend to slouch forward, which places a lot of strain on the skeletal and muscular tissues of the back, neck and shoulders. Even just getting up and walking around a little helps tremendously.

But here are some very effective exercises that you can do sitting right in your chair with very limited equipment. In fact you only need a $15 exercise band to work your entire body. Make sure the exercise band is intact and not degraded with nicks or cuts in it, because they can easily snap if they are in poor shape in any way.

If you have any reason to believe that you should not do exercises, if you have pain or health issues, consult your health care provider to get clearance before you start. If you do not understand some of the exercises, get a professional fitness trainer to explain and show you to moves before you attempt them. You can always call me for clarification.

The chest crossover begins with the exercise band around your back, and draped over your arms like a shawl. You pull the band across your chest, crossing out in front of your chest with your arms gently bent. This exercise works your chest and shoulder muscles. Breathe out as you cross your arms over your chest and breathe in as you open your arms wide apart. If you are new to exercise you would do each of these moves 8-10 times with a light resistance band, then move to the next exercise. Always start slowly and carefully with new exercises.

The seated row begins with the exercise band placed under the arches of your feet. Your feet are flat on the floor and placed under your knees. You row your arms back, leading with your elbows, so that you feel like you are squeezing your shoulder blades together. As you pull your elbows back, sit tall and breathe out, as you let your arms stretch forward — breathe in. Keep your back straight the whole time.

The alternate overhead should press should be avoided if you have high blood pressure because lifting your arms overhead can raise your blood pressure more. If you are cleared for exercise by your health care provider, sit with the exercise band under your knees, alternately press each arm overhead in an arc. You want to keep your back straight and your arms extending alternately so that you don’t hyper-extend your back. Breathe out as you push your arm up and slightly overhead.

The one leg press can be accomplished using the exercise band easily. Sit tall in the chair, place the band under the arch of one foot and, holding the band tight at your side with the same side hand, lift your knee up towards your chest, then press it out to the opposite wall. As you push out, breathe out and then switch to the other foot. Keep your toes of the working leg gently pushed away from your face so the band doesn’t slip off your foot and hit you in the face.

The seated alternate bicep curl is done with the exercise band under your feet, feet flat on the floor and with your elbows held down at your sides. Pull each hand alternately up towards your shoulder. It is important to do one side and then the other alternately so that you don’t impact your back, and you focus on the bicep muscle. Just go back and forth between each hand. Breathe out as you pull your hand up towards your shoulder.

These are a few starter exercises that are easily done while sitting in the chair and so are great for those who work from a chair but also great for those who are wheelchair bound or unable to get to the gym or down to the floor to exercise. If there is any question about these exercises, please call me for clarification or get a trainer to help you. Never engage in any exercise where you are uncertain of what to do, or if you have not been cleared by your doctor to do exercise.


Jane Riley is a certified personal trainer, nutritional adviser and behavior change specialist. She can be reached at, (808) 212-8119,


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