Strengthen Your Muscles While Sitting

Do you spend a lot of time sitting? Perhaps you sit at a desk for work, or maybe you have some mobility challenges. When you sit for hours at a time, you might not only start feeling stiff and uncomfortable, but your body is also suffering from the lack of movement. The following stretches and strengthening maneuvers are designed to be done while sitting, so that even if you find yourself stuck in your seat, you can get your circulation going while toning your muscle groups. 



Shoulder Circles1

  1. In a seated position, place your fingertips on your shoulders.
  2. Circle your shoulders 15 times in a forward direction, then 15 times in the opposite direction.




Upper Back Stretchback str

  1. Relax your shoulders with your arms resting by your side.
  2. Extend your arms forward at shoulder height and grab one hand with the other and push outwards while pulling your back and shoulders forward. Hold for 10 seconds and release. Repeat.



Chest Stretchch1

  1. Relax your shoulders with your arms resting by your side.
  2. Pull your arms back while grabbing one hand, keeping both hands down near your buttocks.
  3. Pull your shoulders back and hold for 10 seconds and release. Repeat.



Sit and Reachsitrea

  1. Sit at the edge of a chair and extend your legs forward with your knees slightly bent.
  2. Keep your heels on the floor and toes pointed toward the ceiling.
  3. Extending both arms in front of you, reach down and touch your toes, slowly bending at the waist, stopping when you feel resistance. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat.


Neck Stretchch2

  1. In a seated position with your feet flat on the floor, slowly tilt your head to your right shoulder.
  2. Hold this position and extend your left arm to the side and downward at waist level.
  3. Release, then repeat on the left side.
  4. Repeat twice on each side.



Strengthening Exercises

Front Arm Raisesfront arm

  1. Begin seated, holding a ball in both hands with your palms facing each other.
  2. Extend your arms forward so the ball rests on your legs, with your elbows slightly bent.
  3. Slowly raise your arms to lift the ball to shoulder level, then lower back down, taking about 3 seconds to raise and lower. Repeat 10-15 times


Shin Strengtheners1

  1. Begin seated on the edge of a chair with legs extended, heels on the floor and knees slightly bent.
  2. Point your toes downward, then flex upward.
  3. Do 15 repetitions, then relax.
  4. Repeat with 15 more repetitions.


Side Bendssidebend

  1. Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place one hand behind your head and the other arm stretched out to one side.
  3. Lean over to the side as if reaching toward the floor.
  4. Return to the starting position, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Repeat 5 times on each side.


Knee Liftss2

  1. Begin seated on a chair.
  2. Slowly draw one of your knees towards your body until it touches your chest.
  3. Perform 15 to 20 repetitions for each leg.
  4. Slowly work up to doing 3 sets at a time.


Bicep Curlcurl

  1. Begin sitting in a chair with one dumbbell (or anything weighted—even a canned soup!) in each hand, with your palms facing up, keeping your elbows close to your sides.
  2. Bend your arm at the elbow to lift one dumbbell almost to your shoulders, without moving your elbows away from your side.
  3. Do 10 to 12 repetitions with each arm.


Tummy Twists

  1. Facing forward in a seated position, hold a ball with both hands close to your stomach, your elbows slightly bent.
  2. Slowly rotate your upper body to the right as much as you comfortably can while keeping the rest of your body stable.
  3. Return to the center and repeat on the left. Complete 8 twists per side.



*The information in this post can be found in Being Empowered for a Healthy Heart: A personal guide to taking control of your health while living with chronic conditions, by Phoebe Chi, MD, MPH.



Want these exercises around for handy reference?

Below are the printable PDF versions with all information included:

Seated Stretches


Strengthening Exercises

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