Have you ever considered doing leg exercises while sitting at your desk, either at school or at work? As the world continues to change, more and more people find themselves leading a very sedentary lifestyle. A huge portion of the population spends most of their days sitting down – during the day you may be working at your desk all day and later in the evening you end up on your couch surfing through Netflix trying to find something to watch. Such a lifestyle is very dangerous as it leads to a slew of health problems including obesity, heart diseases and high blood pressure, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes and much more. If your schedule does not allow you time to hit the gym, you can try to counter the effects of a sedentary lifestyle by doing some simple leg exercises while sitting.
If you are curious on how to exercise those legs while seated, read on for some important tips and exercise example to try!
Why You Should Do Leg Exercises While Sitting At Desk
Spending your days sitting down for hours and hours means you are leading a sedentary lifestyle, which increases your risk of chronic illnesses as well as obesity. The lower body has more muscle than the upper body and thus doing lower body exercises may help prevent these issues.
Chronic illnesses, unfortunately, are not the only risk brought on by sitting for too long. Spending all day seated is also really bad for your legs.
Some leg/lower body issues that you may experience include:
- Varicose veins – Also known as spider veins, they are unsightly large and twisted veins. While these veins can appear on any part of the body, they mostly occur in the legs and feet.
This condition occurs when your vein walls and valves become weak or damaged. It can also occur when the veins themselves are enlarged, dilated, and overfilled with blood (3). While the condition isn’t serious or even life threatening, it often causes insecurities in people with them. Doing exercises for leg circulation while sitting will go a long way to ensure that you don’t end up with varicose veins.
- Muscular atrophy – This is a condition where muscles simply waste away from lack of use, malnutrition, age, or certain medical conditions (1). The lower body has very large muscles which we use for walking and play a huge part in balance and stability.
When you are always seated, you end up not using these muscles and overtime they weaken and waste away. When this happens, you will end up having problems when walking and lose your balance which increases your risk of injury from falls or strains when exercising.
- Deep vein thrombosis – This is a condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in one or more of the deep veins in the body, usually in the legs.
Sitting for too long, not moving around very much – possibly due to hospitalization, and varicose veins are among the causes of this condition (2). If left untreated, the blood clot can cut off blood supply to other parts of the body leading to a pulmonary embolism.
Clearly, not moving your legs for extended periods of time will cause more issues than we are aware of. To reduce the risk of these issues, be sure to always do some leg circulation and leg strengthening exercises while sitting down.
How To Build Leg Muscles While Sitting
If you are looking to learn how to tone legs while sitting, here are some easy leg exercises to do while seated. These workouts can be done by anyone, regardless of age or gym experience.
Seated Knee Raises/Lifts
- Find a comfortable and sturdy chair and sit in the middle of the seat. Do not lean all the way back or hang right at the end.
- Keep your back straight, eyes looking forward and core tight.
- Ensure that your knees are bent and your feet are flat on the ground.
- Grasp the sides of your and lean slightly back.
- On an exhale and lift both knees towards your chest and move your upper body forward. It should look like you are doing a crunch.
- On an inhale, lower your knees and move your upper body back. Make sure your feet do not touch the floor.
- This is one rep. Do 8 reps for 1 set. Do 3 sets for a proper workout.
If you cannot lift both knees at the same time, alternate the legs and lift one at a time.
Seated Leg Circles
- Sit upright on a sturdy chair and roll your shoulders back.
- Make sure that both legs are comfortably flat on the ground.
- Place your hands down by your side on the edge of the chair, and grasp the edges
- Extend one leg straight out in front of you with a slight bend in the knee.
- Circle your ankle 10 times in one direction and then 10 times in the other direction.
- Switch to the other leg and repeat.
Seated Leg Extensions
- While seated, shuffle your butt till you are seated at the edge of the chair.
- Using both hands, grasp the chair on either side of you. Ensure that your shoulders are relaxed and rolled back and your chest up and tall
- Flex the knee and slowly lift your left leg up straight in front of you. If you are seated at a desk, try hitting the underside of it.
- On an inhale, lower the leg till the foot is back down and flat on the ground.
- This is one rep. Do ten reps on the left leg and then switch to the right leg.
- Do 3 sets of ten reps per leg.
Seated Calf Raises
- Seat comfortably and ensure that your feet are flat on the ground and toes pointed forward.
- Keep your back straight and core tight.
- Slowly lift your heels off the floor as high as you go. Basically, go on your tippy toes.
- Hold this raised position for 3 seconds before lowering the heels back to the floor.
- This is one rep. Do 12 reps for 1 set.
Ps. To make this exercise more challenging, place something heavy, e.g. large books or files on your knees.
When it comes to easy leg exercise while sitting, this is probably the easiest of them all.
- Sit up straight with your feet flat on the ground.
- Lift up one knee at a time like you’re marching in place.
- Make sure that your butt does not lift up off the chair as you do this
- March in place for 1 minute.
Seated Heel-To-Toe Raises
- Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Raise your toes as high as you can keeping your heels on the ground
- Come back down, and then raise your heels as high as you can keeping your toes on the ground.
- This is one rep. Do 3 sets of eight reps each.
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How Many Leg Exercises Should I Do?
If you don’t regularly work out, 3 to 5 exercises are enough for you. Make sure to do 3 sets of your chosen exercises with 8 to 12 reps per set. If you want more leg exercises, make sure to walk around more – either during the day (walk around the office/class or climb some stairs), walk to or from work, etc.
If you work out, either at an intermediate or advanced level, do 5 or more exercises – make sure not to overdo it especially if you are planning on doing some leg day exercises later in the day.
The Bottom Line
Leg exercise while sitting is a great way to get some simple exercise throughout the day while seated at your desk. Not only do they help tone your lower body muscles, but they also help increase circulation in the lower extremities, preventing blood clots and varicose veins. Try them today for improved health and leg strength!
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Disuse-induced skeletal muscle atrophy in disease and nondisease states in humans: mechanisms, prevention, and recovery strategies (2022, journals.physiology.org)
- DVT (deep vein thrombosis) (2023, nhs.uk)
- Varicose Veins (2022, nhlbi.nih.gov)