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Sitting is the new smoking, you’ll hear plenty of people say. While that saying involves a wee bit of exaggeration, sitting for too long — no matter how comfortable your ergonomic chair may be — has its own health risks. Apart from cutting off the blood flow from the rest of your lower body, those who were required to stay in this position are said to be more at risk of serious heart diseases than those who were able to move throughout the day.
If you’re a desk worker, chances are, you’re part of the group of people who spend all day sitting down. This can cause your hips and hip flexors to tighten, your hamstring muscles to feel a little sore, and your leg muscles to not get the proper exercise they need. Sitting too long can stiffen your upper body, too; nothing quite distracts you from answering emails than a pesky pain in the right arm or a sore neck.
That’s where these activities come in! You don’t need to be a fitness junkie to try office exercises. They’re easy to follow and can be done without straying too far from one’s desk. Our site has a few dedicated to different muscle groups, but this time, we’re shining the light on the lower half of the body. Here are 6 lower body exercises to try out while sitting or standing.
Heel and Toe Raises
This exercise has two variations: sitting and standing. To do this while sitting, make sure you’re seated straight, hips square and facing forward. Start with both feet planted firmly on the ground. Then, slowly raise your left and right heels until only the toes of each foot are touching the floor. Alternatively, you can raise the right foot and left foot separately. Repeat 15-20 times.
The other version of this exercise can be done while standing. First, assume the standing position with your shoulders relaxed and your chest out. Then, slowly lift both heels of your feet until you’re standing on your tiptoes. You should feel a stretch along your legs, knees, and butt. Repeat this exercise 15-20 times.
Take a small ball to work with you — it can be a medicine ball or a tennis ball. Start by placing it in between your knees while you’re seated. Squeeze for 10 seconds, then relax, making sure not to drop the ball. Repeat 10-15 times throughout the day. This exercise is not only great for your upper leg muscles, but can help relieve stress too!
Another one of the exercises in this list that involves weights, this workout targets your hamstrings and butt. Sitting down for too long can cause our hamstring muscles to become stiff and inflexible. While staying flexible might not seem like a priority for a desk worker, it’s important that our joints and muscles aren’t too stiff in order to lessen chances of injury when performing other exercises.
Make sure your weights are securely strapped to your ankles. Start by assuming a standing position near a wall or your desk for balance. Stand with your legs hip-width apart, shoulders relaxed, and upper body in a neutral, aligned posture.
Keeping your thigh straight, slowly lift your right heel towards your butt, bending at the knee. Squeeze your butt as you perform this motion for a better workout. Then, slowly straighten out your knee to go back to starting, making sure your right thigh is still straight and in a 90-degree angle toward the floor until your right foot is planted back down. Repeat this motion 10 more times with your left heel, making sure your right foot is firmly planted on the floor when doing so. This is a great way to build knee strength.
This workout targets your hips and hip flexors as well as your hamstrings. To start, sit up straight in your chair with your feet planted firmly on the ground and your back to the chair for support. Lift your left leg first, making sure it’s parallel to the floor. Then bend your knees until you’re back to the starting position. Do the same with your right leg. Do 10 reps for each leg, alternating between the left and right. Make sure your back is straight and your butt stays firmly seated when you’re performing this exercise.
This desk exercise can be done along with the above leg extension exercise as the movement is similar to seated leg lifts, this time with an added ankle rotation. Sit with your back, hips, and butt fully secure in your chair. Lift your legs up until they’re straight out in front of you and parallel to the ground. Keep your leg straight, then try to draw circles with your toes. This allows you to stretch out your ankles, which can be sore from sitting all day. Do 10 reps.
Alternatively, you can do this exercise leg by leg. Start by lifting your right leg straight out, then drawing a circle with your foot. Do 10 reps, then repeat the exercise with your other side.
Standing Leg Extension
Rounding up our list of exercises is a standing version of leg extensions. Don’t worry, as this workout won’t require you to leave your work, but it does require a little more activity from your whole body, including your arms and hands.
Look for the nearest wall or your desk. Place your hands firmly on the wall or desk for balance, making sure to keep your back as straight as possible and your legs hip-width or shoulder-width apart. Start by lifting your right leg behind you, keeping your knee straight. Hold the pose for at least 2 seconds, squeezing as you lift your leg up.
Try to keep your leg straight enough to be parallel to the ground, but if you’re unable to do so, holding it at the point you feel a stretch in your thigh is enough. With your hand still placed on your desk, chair, or wall, slowly lower your leg back to starting position. Do 10 reps for each leg.
Once you’re done with both legs, perform the exercise again, this time extending your legs out to the side instead of backwards. You’ll feel this stretch in your inner thighs, and it will also open up your hips. Start by standing once again with your whole body straight and your knees locked with a hand or two on a chair, wall, or table for support. Lift one leg out to the side as straight as you can, toes pointed, and your other foot on the floor. Hold the pose for 1-2 seconds and squeeze. Make sure your hips are square and not too lifted.
This targets your lower body muscles as well as your hips and hamstrings. It also helps stretch out each knee which can become numb from sitting too long. Repeat 10 times, then perform the exercise with your other leg, making sure your hand is still gripping a sturdy support.
Perform the same exercise once more, this time raising your legs out in front of you rather than to the back or side. If you’ve been feeling extra tight in your hamstrings, this is the stretch you need. Start by standing with your back against a wall or a chair. Keep your arm to the wall or chair for extra balance. With your body facing front, slowly lift one leg up as straight as you can until you feel a stretch in your butt or upper thighs. Squeeze for 1-2 seconds before lowering once more. Repeat the movement with your other leg, extending it in front of you as straight as possible.
These exercises, while requiring a few minutes away from work, have wonderful benefits. They stretch out all parts of your legs while also keeping your glute muscles toned. If you’re able to hold your core while doing them, they serve as an excellent way to keep your abs in shape!
Exercising is just one way to keep overall health in check, especially for those who have to sit all day at work. Staying active in the office is shown to reduce stress levels as well as boost productivity, so whenever you’re feeling a little sluggish or sore, just stretch out those toes and feet.
We hope these simple exercises help loosen up your hips and feet. Want to read a few more articles on how to relieve back pain without leaving your chair? Perhaps you want to learn a few desk stretches that won’t call the attention of the entire office? We’ve got all that and more for you right here on our site!