Consultant in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders,
Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai.
If you can't walk, have problems standing, or just can't find the time to exercise, chair exercises might be able to help. These exercises are simple and easy to do but they're effective.
Doing these exercises can help build strength and tone your muscles. You can do these exercises at home, in the office, or wherever you happen to be.
What type of chair should you use? Try to use a straight back, armless, wooden chair with a firm seat. This type of chair will give you the best support for doing these types of exercises. If the chair has arms they will only get in the way, and you won't be able to hold on to the seat for balance when you do some of the movements. The chair shouldn't have wheels so you'll have a stable place to sit while you exercise.
At first you might want to try these exercises without using light weights. Get the feel of the exercises and allow yourself to adapt to putting exercise into your daily schedule.
Later, if you want to add weights, get some light handweights, or you can use cans of food. Try to use 16 ounce (1 pound) cans, or 15 ounce cans. Another option is to use weights that can be strapped to your arms and legs and can be worn while you exercise.
You may want to play your favorite music while you're doing these exercises. If the beat of the music is appropriate you can use it to pace your movements.
Work at your own pace. If the only thing you can do today is lift your arm for one biceps curl that may be 100% improvement over what you did yesterday. You're not in a race.
Take things slow and try to set aside the time you need to do your exercises regularly. As with all exercises, CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE YOU TRY THEM. Even though these exercises look "light" they can still cause injury. You need to get the go ahead from your doctor FIRST. Once you do that try to do these exercises at least every other day.
Press your right ear toward your right shoulder and hold this position for seven seconds. Rotate your head forward. Lean your head forward until your chin touches your chest. Hold for seven seconds. Lean your left ear toward your left shoulder and hold this position for seven seconds. Repeat as many times as you like.
(for your stomach and middle of the back muscles) Sit in a chair with your back against the back of the chair. Have your feet flat on the floor. Grip the sides of the chair to steady yourself.
Slowly bend from your waist, to a count of 1-2. Try to touch your left knee with your nose. If you can't, don't worry, just keep trying every day. Slowly return to your original sitting position with a count of 1-2. Do the same thing, touching your nose to your right knee this time. Remember, if you can't touch your knee or get your body all the way down, that's ok. Exercise at your own pace.
Do ten of these exercises, then rest. Try to do 30 of these exercises, giving yourself a one minute rest after each set of ten.
(For your front thigh muscles) Sit at your desk, holding on to the bottom of the chair for support. Place your hands below the seat. This will help you keep your balance.
Extend one of your legs fully until it's straight out in front of you. Slowly lower your leg to the floor so it's in the same position it was in when you started. Do this ten times with each leg. Ten more times with each leg. Try to increase the amount of times you do this exercise until you can do 30 leg lifts with each leg. Alternate legs every ten lifts.
If you can only do a few leg lifts now that's fine. Make ten leg lifts your first goal.
L-LIFTS (deltoids and triceps)
Sit on your chair with your feet placed flat on the floor. Tighten your stomach muscles (as much as you can), sit up straight and relax your shoulders.
Hold your weights (or cans) in your hand. Hold your arms up, and out to the side with your elbows bent (it should look like an "L" or each side of your body). Push your arms straight up, but don't lock your elbows when you reach the end of the movement. You want to feel this exercise in your deltoid muscles, not in your elbows. Return to the starting position.
Exhale as you lift the weights and inhale as you bring the weights back down. Always keep your wrists directly over your elbows as you lift the weights. Try not to squeeze your weights too tight.
Try to work up to 30 of these exercise with each arm. Alternate arms every ten times, and take a 1 minute break between switching arms.
Sit on your chair, tighten your stomach muscles and sit up as straight as you can. One weight (or can) should be in each hand. Your arms should be hanging down by your sides with your palms facing forward. Keep your elbows close to your waist.
Lift the weights (or cans) up and contract your triceps when you end the motion (you should feel this exercise in your arms right above your elbows). Slowly move the weights (or cans) back to the starting position. Try to do this exercise 30 times. Rest for one minute after 10 repetitions.
Try not to drop the weights on the way down. Lower them slowly. Also, don't swing the weights or rock back and forth. Your movements should be deliberate. Grip the weights or can lightly. Don't squeeze them.
Sit up straight on your chair, with your stomach muscles tight. Think of a string being attached to the top of your head, and it's pulling you an upright sitting position lifting you toward the ceiling (this is your starting position).
Lift your right arm and reach toward the ceiling. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the left arm.