If you're crunched for time and can't get to the gym, look no further than the chair you're sitting on for a convenient way to exercise. Chair exercises can be a safe and low-impact way to work out, meeting your stretching, strength training and cardio needs. It's inexpensive, and simple chair exercises can be done any time you have a break at work or at home.
Simple stretching exercises or yoga stretches, which can increase your flexibility, can be done standing or seated on a chair. For a standing exercise, such as a vertical stick stretch, face your chair and place your right heel on the seat of the chair. Keep your right leg straight and flex the foot. Reach your arms over head, lift through the crown of your head and stand tall. Hold this stretch, take three to five breaths and then switch legs. Use the chair to make this exercise more challenging: Turn the chair around, lift your leg higher and place your heel on the top of the chair back, stand tall and hold.
Employ a chair for simple strength-training exercises that use your body for resistance. A seated chair twist, for example, is an oblique abdominal workout. Sit on the edge of your chair, knees bent and heels off the floor. With your hands behind your head, lean forward and twist to the right, bring your left elbow toward the outside of your right knee -- exhale as you twist into the abdominal crunch. For a seated tricep dip, which works the back of your arms, hold onto the seat of your chair and scoot your lower body so it's just slightly off the chair. Bend at the elbows, and lower your body until your elbows are approximately 90 degrees, and then push back up.
Aerobic workouts with a chair increase your circulation and benefit your heart. You can do these types of exercises seated in a chair -- put on your favorite music and do leg movements, such as marches, and upper-body movements, such as arm reaches overhead or clapping your hands. For example, sit on the edge of the chair, alternate straightening your legs out quickly in front of your body and push through the heel as you straighten. Continue the leg movement and add an alternating arm reaches forward. Do 10 to 20 repetitions and then change to an exercise such as a seated jack -- open and close your legs with arm reaches out to the side. Match your movements to the beat of the music, and use music with a faster beat to get your heart rate up. Chair aerobics can be done as low-impact, low-intensity or low-impact, high-intensity workouts.
Always check with your doctor before staring any exercise program. Use a sturdy chair -- avoid folding chairs and chairs with rollers. If you're stumped for ideas on what types of exercises to do, DVDs and online resources are available for yoga, cardio and strength workouts with a chair. Some gyms and YMCAs also offer chair classes.
Kris Heeter is a research scientist specializing in basic cancer and disease research. Her work has appeared in several scholarly journals and online publications. Heeter has also been a wellness professional for more than 15 years, teaching healthy cooking courses and fitness classes. She holds a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology.