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Abdominal Work from the Chair

By Mary Ann Wilson, RN

Sedentary lifestyles are robbing us of good health! Recent studies have shed light on the magnitude and long term costs of this behavior. We, here at Sit and Be Fit, have a remedy. Sit, but don’t sit still. There are many many ways to exercise throughout your day while you sit at your desk working. In this blog post we will show you one easy exercise that can be done anytime, anywhere, to work your abdominal muscles from a chair.

Seated Abdominal Exercise

You will begin this exercise seated toward the front edge of your chair with your feet firmly planted on the floor. When doing this exercise for the first few times, it’s a good idea to place a pillow behind your lower back for additional support.

Check your posture before beginning. Make sure your upper body is in good alignment with shoulders back and down, spine lengthened, and chin slid back so that the ears are directly over the shoulders.

Exercise abs in the chair step 1
Abdominal exercise Step 1.

Step 1

1. Hold the sides of the chair and engage the abdominal muscles by tightening (contracting) them. Hold the contraction and take a moment to become aware of what this feels like. Don’t hold your breath! By simply engaging the core muscles, holding the contraction, and releasing them, you have learned one easy exercise that can be done throughout the day. Tip: To become familiar with what it feels like to engage your abs, imagine you have a corset on and it is being laced up tightly. Another suggestion is to imagine you are bracing yourself to receive a punch in the stomach.

2. With the core muscles engaged, brace with the arms and lift the knees. This motion will elevate the feet off the floor. Slow down the movement as you progress to add more challenge to the exercise. Tip: The knees don’t have to be lifted as high a shown in the photo. If you have osteoporosis see the warning below.

Exercise abdominal muscles from a chair step 2
Abdominal exercise Step 2.

Step 2

1. With the knees lifted continue the movement by gently swinging them over to one side. Use a slow controlled motion and don’t let momentum take over.

Tip: Make sure the core muscles stay engaged. This will protect the spine and lower back. If this step is too advanced and you are not able to keep your core muscles engaged then modify the exercise by keeping the toes in contact with the floor at all times. Slide them lightly from the center position to one side. Pause and return them to center and then to the opposite side.

2. Gently touch the toes to the ground (off center in one direction). Tip: Use your arms to brace yourself during this movement. Remember to breathe and maintain good postural alignment.

Exercise abdominal muscles from the chair step 3
Abdominal exercise Step 3.

Step 3

1. Keep the core engaged and lift the knees back to the center position (see step 1 photo). Continue the movement by moving the knees through center and over to the other side. Gently touch the toes down as described in step 2. Continue with this back and forth pattern.

3. Do as many repetitions of this exercise as tolerated. If at any time you feel your core muscles are not supporting your spine and lower back, stop or modify the exercise.

Warning: For those with osteoporosis use the modified version of this exercise (see step 2). Keep the toes in contact with the floor at all times and don’t lift the knees. Tip: The knees and feet should stay in alignment. Move them together as one unit from side to side. The movement can be small. Focus on the keeping the core muscles engaged and maintaining good posture.


Abdominal Strengthener with Band

Abdominal Exercises on the Floor


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  1. I really enjoy your DVDs, Sit and be Fit, that I borrow from the library. Your exercises are just the right speed for me. I try to get in at least 30 minutes of exercise daily including walking. I attend two Yoga classes at our local Senior center weekly. Exercise keeps me active and feeling great. Even when sitting and watching TV, I stretch my legs, point my toes and do finger and arm exercises. It has becomes an addiction with me, but that is not a bad thing, It keeps us young and healthy.


    Marcia Butler

  2. My sisters, mother, and myself have all had hip replacements and need to work on strengthening our cores.

    Youngest sister has had a series of falls so the sitting exercises, at least at first, will be helpful.

    One sister has had both hips replaced.

    One sister has had a few neck/back surgeries and has one arm, hand fingers affected.

    I’ve had shoulder surgery April 29th, 2019 after a black ice slip/fall in Dec 2018.

    So I guess if we all want to work on issues- core, fall prevention, shoulder/arms/hands, necks, getting up.

    Have to admit all of us have trouble getting up from chairs, and the floor is almost impossible.
    None of us want to climb step stools or ladders anymore.

    So which episodes, dvds etc do you recommend?

    1. Dear Carolyn,
      The two workouts that I think might be the best are the Chair Exercise Basics and Balance and Fall Prevention Workout. Here are links to both:
      Sit and Be Fit Chair Exercise Basics
      Sit and Be Fit Fall Prevention Workout
      It’s wonderful you are being proactive. One of my mom’s favorite sayings is, “No matter where you start, you can always do something to improve how you feel and function through gentle, safe, exercise.” Please e-mail me directly if you have other questions. My address is [email protected]. Wishing you, your sisters and your mother the very best in health and happiness!
      Warmest regards,

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