Some movement is better than none, especially when busy schedules get in the way, and there are countless ways you can get in physical activity. Even small bouts of exercise can add up to big benefits.
Here are a few key exercises that work major muscles groups and improve overall strength. These exercises also can help raise the heart rate, enhance balance and burn calories. Ideally, aim to perform each exercise for at least one minute, depending on your fitness level. Squeezing in multiple sets of these exercises each day will accelerate your progress.
“Office variations” are offered if you’re more likely to exercise daily by sneaking in some movement throughout your workday, during your commute time or while in line at the grocery store. With some effort and planning, exercise can be squeezed in almost anywhere, so think about the spaces in your day that could be powered up with some movement.
Squats reign supreme as a multifunctional exercise. While they primarily strengthen quadriceps muscles, squats offer the additional benefit of working the glutes and low-back muscles, improving balance, and promoting mobility and independent living as we age. Add pulses, holds and single-leg variations for variety and challenge.
Office Variation: Seated leg lifts also work the quads. Sit upright in a chair and straighten the leg until it is parallel to the floor. Hold for a few counts before lowering and switching legs.
Though primarily touted for its core-strengthening benefits, the plank also strengthens the low back, glutes, shoulders and arms. Additionally, the plank is good for posture and balance, especially when the side versions are incorporated. Add plank jacks and side planks for variety and challenge.
Office Variation: Seated crunches target the abdominal muscles. Sit on the edge of a chair and lean back so that the shoulder blades touch the top of the chair. Crunch up by lifting both knees toward the chest while bringing the shoulders and head down toward the knees.
Lie down on the floor, face up with the knees bent and pointed toward the ceiling. Squeeze the glutes and raise the hips to create a straight line between the shoulders and the knees. This exercise primarily targets the glutes, but the hamstrings, low back and abdominal muscles are all involved in this strengthening and stability exercise. Variations include holding and pulsing at the top of the exercise or raising one leg off the floor for a single-leg version.
Office Variation: While in a seated position, maintain good posture and engage the abdominals. Squeeze the glutes together as tightly as possible and hold for a count of 10 before releasing and repeating.
Tip-toe Calf Extension
Suitable for nearly every location, simply engage the core muscles and raise up onto the balls of your feet to strengthen the calf muscles and improve balance. Hold for a count of 10 before lowering and repeating. Closing the eyes adds a balance challenge.
There is no office variation needed for this little exercise gem! It is appropriate for the gym, the living room, the office—and even while waiting in line for coffee, the ATM or the bus (basically anywhere you can stand).