To many people, exercise means no fun. Or, some people typically claim that either “There aren’t enough hours in the day,” “I’d rather spend time at home with my family,” or “I’m too tired to fit it in my schedule.” So, let’s explore different ways to conveniently add some lower body exercises to your day if you work at a desk.
As always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. When you begin your program you can exercise your calves, thighs and hips without drawing attention to yourself, even if you work in a busy place.
Let’s start from the bottom up, with toe curls. Simply curl all your toes tightly and slowly relax them—15 times. This helps strengthen the muscles supporting the arches of your feet and causes some calf muscle contractions, which assists circulation in your lower legs.
Next, lift one heel off the floor by pointing your toe on the floor, then do the opposite by lowering your heel back to the floor and raising the toes and ball of your foot off the floor. Do this 15 times with both feet, either together or alternating. In this exercise, you maintain contact with the floor with either your heel or toes alternately at all times. It will work the calf and front shin muscles and act as a pump to milk fluid out of the lower legs and ankles.
Next, work the front thigh muscles (quadriceps) by straightening your knee and pulling your foot toward your body. Hold your knee out straight for a count of 10 seconds for 15 repetitions on each leg to get good action for the muscle fibers. Alternate your legs so one is straight out, while the other is situated for your normal sitting position. You may have to pull your chair away from your desk, depending on how long your legs are and how much room you have under your work area. It is important to sit up straight in your chair and not slouch during these exercises.
The next four exercises are called isometrics, which mean that you contract the muscles, but don’t move the body part involved. It is similar to pushing down on the gas pedal and the brake at the same time, so you hide the fact that you are exercising, but get the benefit of the workout.
To isometrically strengthen your back thigh muscles (hamstrings), dig your heel in the floor and try to bend your knee at the same time as you hold the contraction for 15 seconds. When you do this exercise correctly, you should feel the muscles on the back of your thigh tense while you keep your upright sitting position. Repeat this 15 times, alternating sides.
To strengthen your outside thigh muscles (abductors) push the outside part of your knee and thigh against your desk or against something stable under your workstation. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 15 times on each side. This exercise may need to be modified depending on whether your chair has wheels and what your workstation setup is like.
Next, strengthen the inside thigh muscles by squeezing your thighs together for a count of 10 seconds and repeating this 15 times. If your hip muscles are too tight to do this comfortably, or if you have had any type of hip surgery, place a cushion or ball (size of a kick ball) between your knees when you squeeze your legs together.
Lastly, strengthen your buttock muscles by squeezing and tightening your buttock muscles while you sit. Hold for a count of 10 and repeat 15 times, doing both sides at the same time.
To strengthen your lower abdominal and hip flexion muscles, alternately raise your whole leg off the floor while you keep your knee bent at 90 degrees. Hold for a count of 5 seconds and repeat 15 times.
By doing this complete series of lower body exercises regularly, you can keep your leg muscles toned and boost the effectiveness of your circulatory and lymphatic systems even while you sit and work.
If you take an hour at lunchtime, try walking at a brisk pace for 20 minutes if weather permits. Getting out of your workplace and inhaling some fresh air will add an aerobic component to your workout (especially if you walk up a few hills) as it helps clear your mind. If weather or work location doesn’t permit an outside walk, hike up flights of stairs for 10 minutes for an excellent aerobic and strengthening workout.
Just remember that even 10-20 minutes of an activity like this is a great way to begin a consistent exercise program without interfering in the non-work part of your day. Also remember to consult your doctor before you begin any exercise program.