Easy workouts using the "Core Four"
A busy holiday schedule is no reason to skip exercise. Qcitymetro.com fitness writer Sondra E.Z. Hines suggests four exercises you can be done right at your desk to strengthen the body's core muscles. (Photo: Courtesy of Sondra E.Z. Hines)
Exercise is low on most priority lists this time of year.
Between holiday gatherings, shopping, work, traveling, deadlines and taking care of loved ones, I’m seeing a seasonal attendance dip in my aerobics classes. Who has time for fitness?
To keep you on track during the holidays, here are my “Core Four” -- four exercises you can do daily at your desk or in your home office. These exercises strengthen core muscles, the center of the body that encompasses abs, shoulders, back and hips.
According to MayoClinic.com, strong core muscles improves your physical appearance, boosts your body's calorie burn rate, increases your ability to perform most activities and decrease your risk of physical injury.
So let’s get started:
The squat is a multi-joint exercise targeting a few muscle groups: gluteus maximus (butt), hamstrings (back thigh) and quadriceps (front thigh).
1) Stand with your back facing the seat of a chair.
2) With arms dangling loose at your sides, slowly bend down, aiming your butt toward the chair’s seat. Be sure there is adequate space in front to avoid bumping knees. When bending, avoid extending the knees over the toes and maintain good posture (back slightly straight and shoulders square).
3) As your bottom barely touches the seat of the chair, squeeze the buns and slowly rise to starting position. Repeat exercise.
Toning abdominals is the one area I’m most often asked about. Here are two to do while sitting.
1) Option #1- Adjust posture so that your back is against chair, with both feet flat on floor.
2) Inhale and pull abs in. Continue to breathe in and out while still holding in abs for approximately 30 seconds to one-minute. Repeat exercise.
3) Option #2 - First, sit up straight.
4) Bend arms and place hands behind your head; elbows should be extended outward just above shoulders.
5) Slowly bend forward, about 1/3 of the way with forehead aiming toward desk. Slowly lean back in chair to starting position.
6) Keep hands on head to help with alignment. Repeat exercise.
Triceps Desk Dips
By using the weight of your body, dips are effective for building muscle mass, power and strength in the triceps, (back of arms), shoulders and back. While many people focus on building biceps (muscles in front of arms), the opposing muscles -- the triceps -- need to be worked too. Dips also work chest muscles.
1) Scoot to edge of a chair. Keep feet close together. Be sure chair is steady (not one on wheels).
2) Keeping feet together, move hands next to hips and wrap fingers under the seat of chair.
3) Using the arms, lift hips forward and off the chair.
4) Keeping your back close to chair, bend elbows and slowly dip hips downward. Avoid hunching shoulders and keep shoulders down.
5) Using the arms, slowly push back up without locking elbows. Repeat exercise.
Sitting for hours increases the likelihood for bad posture, which is bad for the back. Regular stretching improves flexibility, relives stress and can help improve posture.
1) Spine Twist: From a seated position, place left hand under chair, just under left hip. Rest right hand on lap. Pull in abs and gently turn to left side. Place right hand under chair, just under right hip. Rest left hand on lap. Pull in abs and gently turn to right side.
2) Neck: With back against chair, slowly drop chin to chest; hold for 10-15 seconds. Slowly raise head back to starting position.
3) Legs/Back: Sit straight in chair. Slowly lift one knee (aiming towards chest). Place both hands under knee and gently pull/hold knee into chest. While keeping back straight, hold 10-15 seconds and change to stretch other leg. Be careful to not lean forward.
Sitting in one position all day can cause muscles to shorten and weaken. By adopting the Core Four, you can squeeze daily workouts into a hectic holiday schedule.
Until, next time, I wish you Merry Fitness, good health and wellness!
Editors Note: For more health/fitness-related articles, visit Qcitymetro.com/health.
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