With nearly every newspaper headline, magazine cover, and internet webpage we are inundated with reminders about the importance of exercise. “Beat Diabetes!” “Add Ten Years to Your Life,” “Reverse Chronic Pain,” etc. Those headlines sell because we all know how important exercise is for our general health as well as mental well-being. It’s one thing to intend to hit the gym five days each week, but implementing that goal is a completely different beast. After all, intentions only go so far. Life gets in the way. So we’re here to help you transform those plans into actions. Whether you’re waiting in line for coffee, picking up the kids from school, on a road trip, or trapped at your desk, here are some easy exercises you can do anywhere!
Cat and Cow
You’ve probably performed the cat and cow poses while participating in hot yoga (or maybe just watched it on TV while downing a pint of Ben and Jerry’s), but it’s not always convenient to drop to your hands and knees for an arch and dip of the spine. Instead, try it from a seated position. Even if you’re crammed into economy seating on a plane you can manage a handful of these. Simply scoot forward to the edge of your chair. Make sure your feet are planted and your core is tight. Arch your back into a “cow” position allowing it to curve from your tailbone to the top of your head. Then reverse the position, tucking your chin and pulling your navel into your spine to create an arch. Repeat several times to release tension up the spine and through the neck.
Whether you spend your days in heels or sloshing around in rubber boots, your calf muscles can tend to tighten, potentially causing problems up and down your body. That’s no fun. Keep your calf muscles elastic and ready for action with frequent use. When you find yourself waiting in line, start in with the heel lifts. These are most effective with your toes on a small platform or stair, but even without the elevation your calves will thank you for the workout. Simply rise up onto your toes, lifting your heels as high as you can with each repetition. If that isn’t challenging enough, try doing it one foot at a time.
If you’re a mother you’ve undoubtedly been told about Kegels. But, strong pelvic floor muscles do more than just support the weight of baby during pregnancy. They help with bladder control (no more crossing your legs when you sneeze) and also rectal control. “Squeeze” in a few kegels at red lights, in the coffee drive through, or when you’re dozing off during the partner’s meeting. They are easy to do and no one will even know! Lift your pelvic floor muscles into a tightened position, hold a few seconds, and release. Repeat several times. To give you an idea of what it should feel like, these are the same muscles you use when you stop a stream of urine. Remember to target those muscles while keeping the rest of your body relaxed. Also breathe naturally instead of holding your breath.
Need to go talk to the neighbor upstairs? Is your office on the third floor? Visiting a friend in the hospital? Take the stairs. Not only does stair climbing work a variety of muscles from your calves to your core, but it increases your cardiovascular endurance as well.
When you’re headed to the kitchen for your morning coffee, take big steps, drop your back knee and lunge–each step of the way. Lunges work most of the muscles in your lower extremities which creates high impact with only a few movements. Keep your core tight to support your back and hips during your lunges.
Waiting for the conditioner to do its thing while in the shower? Brushing your teeth? On the phone with a vendor? Anytime is a good time to crank out some squats. Use proper form with a tight core as you bend your knees into a seated position. Make sure you focus on sitting back so your knees don’t extend past the tips of your toes. Hold this pose or repeat several times, varying your tempo.
High knees and lower back stretch
Standing in place, balance on one leg and draw your other knee up, pulling it towards your chest. Hug your knee for a deep stretch and change legs. Lean your straight-leg hip slightly against your desk or file cabinet for stability if needed.
Forming a seated position, press your back against the wall. Hold as long as you can to engage your core and strengthen your legs. You can do this while you talk on the phone or during your child’s gymnastic practice.
Strengthen the back of your arms with the traditional tricep dip. Simply find a surface such as a counter or desk. Turn your back to it with your hands placed on top of it. Bend your elbows, pushing them away from you and push yourself back up using your triceps.
Wall Push-up or Mountain Climber
You’ve probably done these on the ground from a push-up position during P.E. or other sports warm-up. You can take the same idea and use it at the office or home as a quick way to get the blood flowing. Begin with your feet placed several feet from the wall. Lean forward and place your hands on the wall. Now perform push-ups. This can also be done on a surface such as a desk. To invite your core to the party, lift each knee in a high-knee march while in the push-up position against the wall. Alternately, or in conjunction, cross the knee in front of your body as you lift it.
Sitting all day is rough on a body. To avoid the spine slouch make sure you keep your tummy muscles working. Even at a desk or in front of the TV, you can achieve this with a seated reverse crunch. Begin by sitting near the edge of your chair with a straight posture. Extend your legs with both heels on the ground. Support your back if needed and pull your knees up towards your chest using your lower abdominal muscles. Repeat several times a few times each day.
Maintaining optimal health is a multi-faceted effort. It requires attention to your diet, sleep, medications, and of course your level of activity. Help your body help you by moving whenever and wherever you are, even if that means during the 16-hour work day or 2-hour commute.