Just as your favorite show gets to its climax, the screen changes and you’re on a commercial break. Usually, these regular breaks can seem like wasted time while you sit on the couch and wait for your show to return. But what if you could utilize those two minutes to reduce stiffness, improve circulation and improve your joint range of motion, all from your couch?
Sitting for prolonged periods of time has been linked to a multitude of health concerns. Unfortunately, most of us sit far too much. Health issues related to sitting include obesity, as well as increased blood pressure (hypertension), high blood sugar, excess fat around the waist, high triglycerides, and irregular cholesterol. Together these conditions make up what is called metabolic syndrome. A metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that increase your risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, and other health conditions. High blood pressure, over time, can damage your heart and cause a build-up of plaque in your arteries. Plaque in the arteries leads to the thickening of the vessel walls and puts you at risk for a heart attack and stroke. High blood sugar is a sign that your body is not able to regulate glucose, an important fuel source. Even mildly high blood sugar can be a warning sign for diabetes. A large waistline, sometimes evaluated as a hip to waist ratio, is called abdominal obesity. This presents as an “apple-shaped” stomach. Excess fat in the stomach area particularly increases your risk for heart disease. High triglyceride levels are a signal you have excess amounts of fat in your blood. Irregular cholesterol means low HDL cholesterol and/or high LDL cholesterol. LDL is the “bad” cholesterol because it readily forms plaque in your arteries, while HDL is the “good” cholesterol because it acts to clean up the LDL from your arteries.
A meta-analysis found that individuals who sat for more than eight hours a day and did not do any physical activity had a similar mortality risk to those who were obese or smoked. This analysis also found that if people were active at a moderate intensity for 60 to 75 minutes a day, this counteracted the risk of sitting. Other studies have shown that sitting for prolonged periods is dangerous even for active people, so all of us could benefit from less sitting and moving more.
Clearly, sitting for long periods of time can be extremely harmful to your well-being. So why not use those two-minute commercial breaks to get your body moving and improve your health? In this post, we will go through a quick, two-minute routine you can do while sitting on your couch.
You will alternate between exercises and stretches, performing each one for 20 seconds. There are six exercises for a total of two minutes. If you have more than two minutes (you can do this while you are watching your show too!), you can repeat the circuit as many times as you would like.
1. Opposite Arm and Leg Lifts
Begin seated on the edge of the couch or chair with your shoulders stacked over your hips. Keeping your core engaged, lift your left knee and right arm upward. Lower your arm and leg down and repeat the movement with your right knee and left arm. Lift your knee up as high as is comfortable, and work towards getting your arm above your shoulder. Remember to engage your core muscles, keeping the rest of your body as still as possible.
Modifications: To make this exercise easier, lift only your legs or arms. To make this more challenging, straighten the leg you are lifting or hold light dumbbells or weights.
2. Chest Stretch
In a seated position, reach back and interlock your fingers behind your back or grab opposite elbows. Roll your shoulders back and pull your hands/elbows away from your body, opening up through your chest and shoulders.
Modifications: If you cannot interlock your fingers or reach your elbows, reach back with your arms and bridge the gap with a belt or strap. As an alternative, you can even grab the back of your couch/chair. To intensify the stretch, begin to lift your hands up toward the ceiling as you reach back.
3. Ab Hold
Begin in a seated position. Cross your arms over your chest. Keeping your spine long, lean back slightly so that your core has to work to keep you still. The further back your lean, the harder this exercise will be. Make sure you are not arching or rounding your spine.
Modifications: To make this exercise easier, do not lean back very far. You can even start by sitting up nice and tall and getting strong in a position of good posture. To make this exercise more difficult, lift one or both legs off the floor while you lean back, moving into a v-sit position.
4. Side Bend
Begin in a seated position. Plant your left hand on the couch beside you for support and lift your right arm overhead. Gently bend to your left, looking for a stretch through the right side of your upper body, maybe even in your hip as well. Hold this position for 10 seconds, then repeat the movement on the opposite side.
Modifications: To make this exercise easier, only bend slightly. To make this exercise more challenging, don’t use your hand for support and engage your core strength to hold you in the side bend.
5. Leg Lifts
Begin in a seated position. Straighten one leg out in front of you. Keeping your upper body still, use your core to lift your leg up as high as you can. Move with control. Lower your leg back down and repeat the movement. Repeat this movement for 10 seconds on one side, then 10 seconds on the opposite side.
Modifications: To make this exercise easier, keep your knee bent and lift your knee up as you did in the first exercise. To make this exercise more challenging, lean back and lift both legs at the same time.
6. Figure 4
Begin in a seated position with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Cross your right ankle over your left knee and flex your right toes back toward your shin to protect your knee. Stay in this position, or lean forward and press your right knee down to deepen the stretch in your hip and glute. Hold this position for 10 seconds, then repeat the movement on the opposite side.
Modifications: To make this exercise easier, keep the leg on the ground straight or with only a slight bend. Place your other foot anywhere along the leg, avoiding pressing down on your knee. To intensify the stretch, press your leg down and lean forward.
Getting moving and reducing the risks of being sedentary can be easy. Try out this quick, two-minute workout and see how much better you feel. Getting in some much-needed exercise is the best way to spend a commercial break!
Eliminate body stiffness without even leaving your chair. Learn more here.