10 exercises you can do while you’re stuck on a video call

It’s easy to squeeze more activity into your day, even when you’re glued to a screen. Read on for moves you can do in your chair—without anyone noticing.

With video calls replacing everything from book clubs to birthday parties, you’re likely sitting more now than ever—and that’s bad news for your health. “The body is not designed to be in the same position for long periods of time,” says Ellen Barrett, an ACE-certified trainer. And it’s not just about your butt falling asleep: Sitting for eight to 11 hours a day is associated with a higher risk of conditions like type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

To counteract the negative effects of seated screen time, get up and walk around for five to ten minutes every hour. “Small bursts of activity are great for circulation and overall energy flow,” Barrett says.

Can’t click “leave meeting” on a never-ending Zoom? You can still get moving—read on for easy, no-one-will-notice ways to do it.

 

10 exercises you can do while you’re stuck on a video call

Try doing a few of these moves during every long meeting, or anytime throughout the day.

1. Knee extension

This exercise strengthens the quadriceps muscles (on the front of your thighs) as well as your core.
How to do it:

  • Sit on the edge of a chair with shoulders aligned over your hips, knees bent, and feet on the floor.
  • Lift right knee. Keep right leg raised as you extend it in front of you.
  • Bend right knee and repeat, keeping leg raised the entire time.
  • Do 15 reps, then repeat on the opposite side.

2. Calf raise

Strengthening your calves can help boost your endurance when you walk and run.
How to do it:

  • Sit on the edge of a chair with knees bent 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
  • Push off the balls of your feet as you lift your heels. Pause, then lower heels to the starting position. Do 15 reps.
    To make it harder: Hold a dumbbell on each thigh.

3. Scissors 

This exercise strengthens all the muscles of your thighs and revs your heart rate, too.
How to do it:

  • Sit on the edge of a chair with shoulders aligned over your hips and hold the edge of the chair with your hands.
  • Extend legs in front of you, knees slightly bent. 
  • Lift legs a few inches, and then cross right lower leg over left; immediately reverse the motion and cross left leg over right. Continue, alternating legs at a quick pace, for 15 to 30 seconds.
    To make it harder: Fully extend your legs. 

4. Toe lifts

“There’s a saying in yoga, ‘so goes the feet, so goes the body,’ and it’s true,” says Barrett, who does foot strengthening exercises like the one below every day.
How to do it:

  • Sit on the edge of a chair with knees bent 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. 
  • Lift your right big toe, pause, and lower it back to the floor. Do 10 reps.
  • Next, keep your right big toe on the floor as you lift your other four right toes; pause, and then lower toes to the floor. Do 10 reps. 
  • Repeat the series on the opposite foot.

5. March 

This may look like a leg exercise, but it also challenges your abdominal muscles.
How to do it:

  • Sit on the edge of a chair with knees bent 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
  • Lift right knee, then lower it and lift left knee.
  • Continue, moving your legs in a marching motion for 15 to 30 seconds.

6. Leg abduction

Moving your leg out to the side strengthens the inner and outer thighs.
How to do it:

  • Sit on the edge of a chair with knees bent 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
  • Extend right leg at thigh height in front of you, and then move it out to the right. Return right leg to center and repeat, keeping leg raised the entire time.  
  • Do 15 reps, then repeat on opposite side.

7. Leg circles

This leg strengthener is usually performed while lying down, but it’s effective seated as well.
How to do it:

  • Sit on the edge of a chair with left knee bent, foot on the floor. Extend right leg straight out in front of you, toes pointed and foot on the floor.
  • Lift your right leg a few inches and move it in a clockwise, circular motion. Do 8 reps, then do 8 reps in a counterclockwise direction. 
  • Repeat on the opposite side.
    To make it harder: Extend both legs instead of keeping the non-working leg bent.

8. Quadriceps stretch

This move gives the muscles on the front of your thighs a soothing stretch.
How to do it:

  • Sit on the right edge of a chair with your knees bent and feet on the floor. 
  • Lift your right foot toward the seat of the chair and grasp your right ankle with your right hand.
  • Point your right knee toward the floor as you pull your right ankle toward the chair. Hold for 15 seconds, then switch sides.

9. Heel slide

This exercise strengthens the hamstrings, which are the muscles that run down the back of your thighs. To make sure you can slide, wear socks if you’re on a hardwood floor, and place your shoe on a paper plate if you’re on carpet.
How to do it:

  • Sit on the edge of a chair with knees bent and feet on the floor. Flex your right foot, so your heel is on the floor and toes are pointing toward the ceiling. 
  • Push right heel into the floor, and extend your right leg straight out in front of you.
  • Push right heel into the floor as you bend right knee to return to the starting position. 
  • Do 15 reps, then repeat on the opposite side.

10. Side curl

Get your biceps in on the action with this exercise. (To keep it subtle, get close to your computer’s camera before you start so only your head and the tops of your shoulders are visible.)
How to do it:

  • Sit in a chair with your shoulders aligned over your hips. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms extended at your sides and palms facing each side.
  • Keep your upper arms pressed against your body as you bend your elbows, curling the weights toward the outside of your shoulders.
  • Extend arms to return to the starting position. Do 15 reps.

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Jeanine Detz is a writer and editor in Los Angeles. She has contributed to many publications, including: Consumer Reports on Health, Cosmopolitan, Family Circle, Men’s Health, Parents, and Women’s Health.

 

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