Leg Exercises to Do While Sitting

Kathryn Vera
leg exercises sitting down

Increasing strength and muscle mass in the lower body is a must for those who want to live long, active lives. Individuals who are new to physical activity may want to consider the use of seated leg exercises when starting a workout program.

Leg Extensions

According to Wexner Medical Center, leg extensions can be helpful when it comes to strengthening quadriceps muscles - which are found on the front of the thigh - and those that are located in the hips.

For optimal results, exercisers should sit with their back pressed firmly against the backrest of the chair, and their feet flat on the floor. To perform the exercise:

  1. Lift your right foot off the ground.
  2. Extend your right leg so that it is parallel with the floor.
  3. Slowly lower your right foot back to the ground.

Repeat nine more times for a complete set of ten repetitions of the exercise. Perform ten repetitions of leg extensions with your left leg to maximize the results of this exercise.

Modifications

To make leg extensions more challenging, consider the use of ankle weights, which are weights that can be wrapped around the ankles and secured in place with Velcro straps. Holding your leg in the fully extended position for a count of three during each repetition can also make this exercise more difficult.

To make leg extensions easier, alternate back and forth between your right and left leg while performing the exercise, instead of completing all ten repetitions at one time. This provides the working muscles with a brief recovery and decreases the intensity of the workout.

Knee Raises

As with leg extensions, knee raises can help to increase strength and muscle mass in the quadriceps. For this exercise, individuals will need a Theraband, which is a type of stretchy latex band designed for use in resistance training.

Tie the two ends of a Theraband together, creating a continuous loop, similar to a rubber band. Individuals may also be able to find Therabands that are already sold in loop form.

  1. Sit on the edge of your chair, with both feet flat on the floor.
  2. Hook one end of the Theraband over your right knee and step on the other end with your left foot.
  3. Slowly raise your right thigh toward the ceiling, keeping your knee bent at a 90-degree angle the entire time.
  4. Lower your right foot back to the floor. Perform another nine repetitions of the exercise for a complete set of ten repetitions.
  5. Reverse the position of the Theraband, so it is now hooked over your left knee.
  6. Step on the other end of the Theraband with your right foot, and repeat the exercise as described above.

Modifications

To make knee raises more difficult, consider using a Theraband that features a greater resistance. Reducing the resistance of the Theraband that you choose, or foregoing its use altogether, can make the exercise easier.

Inner Thigh Squeezes

As suggested by the name, inner thigh squeezes are an exercise that target muscles in the inner thighs and relies on the use of a foam or plastic air-filled ball.

To perform inner thigh squeezes, the University of Georgia encourages exercisers to sit on the edge of their chair with their feet flat on the ground and the ball firmly placed between their knees.

  1. Use the muscles in your inner thighs to squeeze your knees together, applying pressure to the ball.
  2. Hold the pose for one to two seconds before releasing the tension.
  3. Repeat the exercise nine more times for a complete set of ten repetitions of the exercise.

Modifications

To make this exercise more difficult, increase the length of time that you squeeze your knees together. Performing short, quick pulsing squeezes for an extended period of time - such as one minute - can also increase exercise difficulty, notes the University of Georgia.

For an easier version of inner thigh squeezes, use a ball that is slightly deflated or can be easily squeezed with little effort. Forgoing the ball and simply pressing your knees together can also make this exercise less taxing.

Marching in Place

In addition to strengthening the hip flexors, marching in place while seated in the chair is also an effective form of aerobic exercise. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can be helpful in reducing body weight, reducing rates of chronic illness, and boosting mood.

  1. Sit near the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands resting on your knees
  2. Alternate lifting your feet off the ground, as if you were marching, while using your hands to apply pressure to your thighs. The harder you press, the more resistance your legs will have to work against, increasing the difficulty of the exercise.
  3. March in place for 30 to 60 seconds. As you get stronger, you may want to increase the amount of time that you spend performing this exercise.

Modifications

Placing hand weights on top of your thighs can make it more challenging to march in place.

Make this exercise easier by not applying pressure to your thighs. Slowing down the pace at which you march in place can also result in a less strenuous exercise.

Heel Raises

Heel raises target the calf muscles - an often neglected part of the body during exercise.

  1. Sit near the edge of the chair with your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Carefully lift both heels from the floor, coming onto the balls of your feet.
  3. Hold this position for one second, then lower your heels back down to the floor.

As with the other exercises described above, individuals should perform nine more repetitions of this activity, for a complete set of ten repetitions of the exercise.

Modifications

As with leg extensions, heel raises can be made more difficult through the use of ankle weights. For a less strenuous workout, consider alternating between right and left feet while performing the exercise, instead of completing ten repetitions with both feet at the same time.

Exercise Program Design

You don't have to get out of your chair in order to get a workout. Before incorporating these exercises into your daily routine, consider talking with your doctor to ensure you are healthy enough for physical activity.

Leg Exercises to Do While Sitting