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Diabetes Forecast

The Healthy Living Magazine

10 Exercises to Get You Fit While You Sit

Arthritis or another condition got you down? These seated exercises will help

By Sheri Colberg-Ochs, PhD , ,

Illustrations by David Preiss

Exercise is crucial for strength and flexibility. You know that.

You might have even heard about studies that link sedentary lifestyles with increased insulin resistance and earlier death. What you might not know: It’s possible to exercise with a chronic condition—with your doctor’s OK, of course.

In fact, for people who use wheelchairs or who have a limited range of motion due to arthritis, loss of feeling in the feet (often a result of diabetes-related nerve damage), or other chronic conditions, improving strength through exercise is essential to being able to do the activities necessary for daily living.

The following moves can help you strengthen and flex your muscles and joints—extra important if you have arthritis in your knees or hips. Even if you don’t work up as much of a sweat as you might during a more traditional workout, you will feel your muscles working.

Seated exercises can help offset the negative effects of having to sit down most or all of the time: A recent study of people with diabetes, published in the journal Diabetes Care, found that doing some type of light activity every 30 minutes improves metabolism. It’ll also benefit your heart health and blood glucose management. What’s more, your joints, bones, and muscles will thank you for helping them stay limber and strong.

Safety Note: Talk to your doctor before making any big changes to your exercise plan.

1. Seated Knee Extension

Targets: quadriceps
A. Begin in Position No. 1: Sit up straight with your back supported by a chair and feet and knees shoulder-width apart. B. Slowly straighten your right knee, lifting your foot until it is straight out in front of you. Flex your ankle and point your toes toward the ceiling. Lower your right leg. Repeat with the left.
Repetitions: 8 to 12 with each leg, alternating legs

2. Shoulder Shrugs

Targets: upperback and upper neck muscles
A. Begin in Position No. 1 (see Seated Knee Extension above). With your arms at your sides, raise your shoulders toward your ears and slowly roll them forward and down. B. Raise your shoulders toward your ears and slowly roll them backward and down.
Repetitions: 5 to 8 forward, then 5 to 8 backward

3. Lateral Side Raise

Targets: shoulders
A. Begin in Position No. 1 (see Seated Knee Extension above). Hold a light weight (or bottle of water) in each hand. Keep your arms at your sides with your palms facing in. B. Keeping your elbows slightly bent, slowly raise both arms out to the side until your hands are just above shoulder level. Pause. Slowly lower your arms to the starting position.
Repetitions: 8 to 12

4. Triceps Extension

Targets: triceps
A. Begin in Position No. 1 (see Seated Knee Extension above). Look straight ahead, keeping your chin parallel to the floor. Holding a light weight (or bottle of water) in your right hand, raise your arm above your head. Keep your arm straight, with your elbow facing forward and your upper arm close to your ear. With your left hand, grasp the back of your right upper arm, just below the elbow for support. B. Slowly bend your elbow, and lower the weight toward your right shoulder. Return to the starting position.
Repetitions: 8 to 12 with each arm

5. Bicep Curl

Targets: biceps
A. Begin in Position No. 1 (see Seated Knee Extension above). Hold a light weight (or bottle of water) in each hand. Keep your arms at your sides, palms facing in. With your upper arms and elbows held close to your sides, bend your elbow to curl the weight in your right hand up to thigh level. B. Rotate your hand to a palm-up position and continue to slowly bend your elbow until the weight reaches shoulder level. Slowly lower the weight, palm up, to thigh level. Rotate your palm so that it faces your thigh, straighten your elbow, and return the weight to the starting position.
Repetitions: 8 to 12 with each arm

6. Abdominal Brace

Targets: core abdominal muscles
A. Begin in Position No. 1 (see Seated Knee Extension above). Place one hand on either side of the seat, next to your hips. Pull your shoulders back, straightening your posture. Take a breath in and relax your stomach muscles. B. Breathe out, drawing your stomach muscles inward. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds. Focus on relaxed breathing. Avoid holding your breath while your muscles are contracting.
Repetitions: 5

7. Seated Chest Fly

Targets: chest and shoulders
A. Begin in Position No. 1 (see Seated Knee Extension above). Place an exercise band across your back, just below your shoulder blades. Hold one end of the band in each hand. Keeping your elbows slightly bent, straighten your arms out to either side. B. Exhale and slowly bring your arms forward until your hands meet in front of your chest. Inhale and slowly return your arms out to the side.
Repetitions: 8 to 12

8. Seated Abdominal Curl

Targets: abdominals
A. Sit forward in a chair with your hips toward the front edge of the seat. Lean back so that your upper back is supported by the back of the chair. Gripping the sides of the seat for support, extend your legs out in front of you. Keep your knees slightly bent, heels on the floor, and toes up. Cross your left ankle over your right. B. Tighten your abs, then slowly lift your feet 2 to 3 inches off the floor. The effort to lift should come from your abdominal muscles, not your hips. Pause, and then slowly lower your legs to the starting position.
Repetitions: 8 to 12, then cross your right ankle over your left and repeat.

9. Chair Sit-Up

Targets: abdominals
A. Begin in Position No. 1 (see Seated Knee Extension above). Hold your hands in front of your chest, palms facing forward as if you’re going to push something. B. Slowly bend forward at the waist, pulling in your abdominal muscles and keeping your back straight. As you bend forward, extend your elbows and push out with your hands, exhaling as you go. Slowly come up and return to the starting position.
Repetitions: 8 to 12

10. Reverse Chair Sit-Up

Targets: lower back
A. Begin in Position No. 1 (see Seated Knee Extension above). Lightly grip the sides of a chair for support. B. While keeping your back straight, bend forward, bringing your chest toward your thighs. Slowly rise to a seated position with your back supported by the chair. Bonus: To increase the resistance, loop an exercise band under the arches of your feet (always wear shoes), and hold one end of the band in each hand. Bend your elbows and anchor your hands against your chest, palms in. Bend forward, then slowly straighten to a seated position with your back supported by the chair.
Repetitions: 8 to 12


Find these moves (and more like them) in The “I Hate Exercise” Book for People With Diabetes: How to Turn Your Everyday Home Activities Into a Low-Impact Fitness Plan You’ll Love. Get it at shopdiabetes.org.

Sheri Colberg-Ochs, PhD, is an exercise physiologist, professor emerita at Old Dominion University, and author of Diabetic Athlete’s Handbook: Your Guide to Peak Performance. She’s a frequent lecturer on the topic of exercise with diabetes and has helped shape fitness guidelines for organizations such as the American Diabetes Association. In 2016, she was awarded the ADA’s Outstanding Educator in Diabetes Award.

 
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