Article By: Whittany Gibson, RDN
Whittany is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in bariatric nutrition counseling, providing education and support prior to and following weight loss surgery.
What if I told you it's possible to get effective exercise by doing small and time efficient workouts throughout the day and week rather than having to step foot outside or in the gym? Sign me up! Personally speaking, I’m a trainer that isn’t really a fan of the gym (not for any particular reason — gyms are great). It’s more the thought of having to leave my house, drive somewhere, and then spend adequate time there to make it worthwhile. If the gym is your thing, kudos! I wish I was more of a gym person. But more often than not, neither are my clients.
There’s also the fact that we’re all busy... I get it. We live in a fast-paced world, trying to balance home and work life with a little bit of relaxation added to the mix. Amidst the flurry of life, you still need to find time to exercise. How can we fit in substantial exercise with all the chaos? Well, we find little things we can do with whatever time is available. Whether you work at home or at an office (or don’t work at all), you can aim to do these simple exercises without carving out tons of time. These three simple exercises will focus on strengthening major muscle groups in addition to adding a cardiovascular component.
Exercise #1 - Modified squats
Resources needed: Stationary chair (height in which your legs will create a 90 degree angle)
Video example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVpojWs8lQg
This one is super easy because you can always find a chair or bench. You already do this movement every day but can turn it into a lower body workout with repetitions. Begin by sitting on the middle to near edge of your chair. Position your legs hip width apart and ensure your legs create a 90 degree angle to avoid putting too much pressure on your knees while standing.
Keep your back as straight as possible and try to stand while squeezing your booty muscles as you stand. Keep most of your weight shifted to your heels, not the tips of your toes as you stand. Aim to engage abdominal muscles for extra support and include the core (mid section to the bottom of the trunk).
As you sit back down, try to not totally relax back into the chair completely but rather touch your rear end on the chair and pop back up. This may take some practice and time. Repeat this movement until you feel a burn in your upper legs, almost to the point of muscle exhaustion. This will be the first set.
The number of repetitions will be a matter of your fitness level and ability, but a good number of repetitions to aim for would be 15-20 per set to begin. You want to complete 2-3 sets within 30 minutes for this lower body exercise. Aim to do this 2-3x per week for optimal results in muscle maintenance and building. As this becomes easier, you can kick it up a notch and do more repetitions, add weights to your hands, or lose the assistance of the chair if you feel strong and safe enough. For an additional modification, you may sit your chair in front of something secure to grab onto so it can assist you in standing.
Exercise #2 - Push ups
Resources needed: Counter (bathroom counter, kitchen counter) or computer desk (optimally against a wall to avoid shifting)
Video example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2hr5OjmETA
I love this one. This exercise not only works your upper body but also targets your core muscles. If you’re at home, approach your kitchen counter or bathroom counter. Place your hands wider than your body and step back to the point where your chest meets the counter when you are on the down part of the push up movement. Engage your core muscles and prevent swaying of the back. You may have to stand on your tiptoes a bit for this one to maintain a good straight plank position and not overstretch the calves.
Do your first repetition to see how it feels as you may need to adjust for good form. As you push back up, avoid locking your elbows completely. You will perform your repetitions until you begin to feel a burn in your chest muscles, shoulders, and arms. To build muscles, you must fatigue the muscles. Find your stopping point and aim to do 2-3 total sets within 30 min.
If you are using a computer desk, it will likely be more difficult as desks are lower than counter top height. This can also be a great modification from floor push ups. If your push ups are too difficult from the kitchen counter, start out by doing wall push ups (done exactly as it sounds by pushing against a wall). You can play around with the position of your arms with this exercise too. Try this version: bring your hands together just right outside the width of the body and tuck your elbows in as you are doing your repetitions. This will work more of your triceps (the back of your arms) and focus on different areas of the shoulders. This version also may help reduce pressure on the shoulders if you have issues or previous injuries.
Exercise #3 - Modified plank
Resources needed: Chair and wall
Video example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZluAPzqQXs
Last but not least is the chair plank. This is also a great one as you can always find a wall and a chair. A chair plank is a modification from a standard plank on the floor which basically consists of you holding the beginning position of a push up (with extended arms). But we’re going to start from a chair with elbows bent. Grab your chair, place it against a wall, and make sure it doesn’t move. Get down one elbow at a time with your elbows placed below your shoulders. Your arms should be positioned in a 90 degree angle. Step one foot out at a time and make your body straight as a board ensuring the neck is in alignment with the rest of your body.
Engage your calves, booty muscles, abs, and arms and breathe! The object of this exercise is to hold this static position for as long as you can. Have a number in mind, 10 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds... Whenever you cannot hold this position any longer with good form is when you need to stop. Keep this number in mind so you can see your improvement over the next few weeks. You’ll eventually be able to hold the position for longer and longer.
Maybe set a 1 month goal of being able to hold a 1 minute plank. I recommend doing this daily, but you may need to start off a few times per week depending on what you feel from the first few days following the exercise. This exercise targets all your muscles from your shoulders down to your calves. This is why so many exercises that focus on fat burn are done from a plank position.
Give them a try!
These exercises are simple, effective, and require minimal resources. No, these shouldn’t be the only exercises you do, but they are definitely achievable and can be modified for any ability level. They can be a great way to fit in bits of exercise throughout the day and week when you are tight on time. You should aim to have a variety of activity and exercise throughout your week such as flexibility, strength training, and cardiovascular endurance. Aim for 150 minutes of total exercise per week for weight loss, maintenance, and general health.
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.