Working at a desk all day means your fingers get a lot of exercise, but the rest of your body, not so much. If you’re concerned that all that sitting is wreaking havoc on your-lower body strength, you are correct. There are, however, exercises you can do for your legs and butt while sitting down or standing by your desk that take very little time -- only a couple of minutes every hour -- and will make you feel as if you’ve done something good for your body.
Squat with an Attitude
Yes, you can get out of your chair at the top of every hour and rip off a set of squats, but here's something a little different. Master yoga teacher Shiva Rea developed a move that's half squat, half plie and performed in unison with deep inhalations and exhalations. Not only do you get to exercise your legs and butt but you receive the stress-relieving benefits of deep breathing. While taking a plie stance and then squatting, you exhale as you turn your head to look over your left shoulder while pressing your right hand into your right thigh. Continue turning from left to right up to 15 times per side.
Have a Ball
You can stash it under your desk and haul it out every couple of hours to not only change the way you sit, but to give your legs and butt a little workout. And that's your big, colorful stability ball of course. Apart from receiving the benefits of the constant mini-adjustments your legs and butt will have to make to help keep you upright, you can perform exercises like leg lifts to work your quads, hamstrings and glutes, and as a bonus, your abs. Contract your legs, butt and abs as you lift one leg at a time slowly until it is parallel to the floor, and hold at the apex for two seconds.
Yoga students do it all the time. They engage the powerful muscles in their upper thighs and butt to suspend themselves above an invisible chair. All you have to do is roll your real desk chair behind you, stand with your feet together and your arms raised at shoulder height for balance and lower down, but don't quite sit on your chair. Breathe naturally as you hover above your chair for up to 30 seconds. You can also perform this move by standing with your feet hip-width apart and hovering over your chair as in the yoga move, then slowly sit down on the chair. You can repeat this alternate version up to 20 times.
If you have a dragon of a boss who wouldn't be amused by your attempts to exercise your legs and butt while working at your desk, then there's something you can do, even if she's standing right over you. Isometric exercises are basically contracting and releasing your muscles. While isometrics won't build a whole lot of muscle, they will keep the ones you have strong. Squeeze your leg and butt muscles at the same time or independently; hold for up to 10 seconds and then release and repeat as many times as you'd like. Don't ever hold your breath while contracting your muscles, as it may raise your blood pressure, and for those people on medication for hypertension, isometric exercises are contraindicated.
- Yoga Sanctuary; Shiva Rea; CD
- Indiana University: Using a Stability Ball as an Office Chair Can Help More Than Just Your Abs
- Abs on the Ball; Colleen Craig
- Forbes.com: Best Exercises to Do at Your Desk: Invisible Chair Sit
- MayoClinic.com: Are Isometric Exercises a Good Way to Build Strength?
Linda Kaban is a certified yoga teacher and professional life coach who specializes in helping people achieve their fitness goals. With a bachelor's degree in the humanities, Kaban has been writing since 1998 and has been published in YOGALife magazine along with other healthy living publications.