By Helaine Krasner, RDN, CDN

It’s important to be aware of the health risks associated with sedentary behavior and long periods of sitting, but it’s also important to realize that sitting time can be part of exercise time. For some people the possibility of exercising in the traditional sense is not an option due to a physical limitation. For others, seated exercise is a way to add some variety to your fitness routine and is a great way to increase your overall activity if you find yourself stuck behind a desk for hours at a time. Either way, there is no excuse for avoiding exercise!

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise weekly and performing strength training exercises at least two times per week. Adding seated exercise to your routine can help you meet this goal. Even 5 minutes a day is a great start! Seated exercises can also be used for stretching and increasing your flexibility.

There are many exercises that can be done from a chair or incorporate the use of a chair. No other equipment is required, but this is a great opportunity to use water bottles, hand weights or resistance bands to help work your muscles! Use a sturdy, comfortable chair without wheels that allows your feet to lay flat on the floor with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle. Start off slowly, and aim to increase the number of repetitions for each exercise. Consider your physical condition before beginning any new activity.

These are some exercises that can be done while seated:

  • Leg lifts – Straighten one leg out in front while the other remains on the floor. Hold for a count of ten, and then repeat with the opposite leg.
  • Chairs squats – Stand up, and then sit back down. Use your arms for assistance only if needed.
  • Knee raises – Lift one knee up as high as you can, and then slowly lower it back down. Repeat on the other side. This can be done slowly or at a quick pace. Think of marching in place but from a seated position.
  • Calf raises – With both feet on the floor, lift your heels off the floor by pushing down with your toes. Hold for three seconds and then lower your heels back down.
  • Arm circles – Raise your arms straight out to your sides to form the letter “T”. Rotate your arms from the shoulder in small circles, first in one direction and then the other.
  • Seated shoulder press – Hold your arms out to your sides with elbows bent straight up at a 90-degree angle and fingertips reaching toward the ceiling. Straighten your arms while reaching toward the ceiling and then lower your arms back down to the starting position. Try using water bottles, light hand weights or resistance bands.



Top things to know about the second edition of the physical activity guidelines for americans. February 23, 2019.

Hathaway JS. Seated workouts for beginners: 5 tips for starting exercise from scratch. June 6, 2017.


Helaine Krasner is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who takes great pride in helping our Bariatric and Medical Weight Management patients achieve their health and weight loss goals.