5 Energizing Exercises to Undo Hours of Sitting

By Elizabeth Millard, A.C.E.-certified trainer, RYT-200 registered yoga teacher |

Relieve tired, aching muscles from prolonged couch time with these expert-approved moves.

energizing exercises to undo hours of sitting

When your energy starts to flag, rest is certainly in order. But too much time curled up on the couch or settled into your favorite chair can lead to stiffness and pain.

More worrisome, research shows prolonged periods of sitting put you at greater risk for heart disease and early death, according to a 2019 study by researchers at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center. The risks for diabetes and weight gain also go up the more sedentary you are.

And while a steady fitness routine locks in many health benefits. It doesn’t offer complete protection from the woes of long stretches of downtime. Other research shows that sitting without frequent activity breaks can slow down the body’s metabolism in such a way that accelerates the age-related loss of muscle mass and bone — even if you do a daily workout.

Enter these restorative moves that you can do anywhere and as often as you’d like to feed your body what it really needs — more movement.

Stay active, have fun, get fit — with SilverSneakers! Classes and events are happening right now at participating gyms, online through SilverSneakers LIVE, and at community centers near you. Activate your free online account to get started.

How to Use the 5 Energizing, Anti-Sitting Exercises

This sequence is gentle enough to do safely every day, whenever you move from a seated to a standing position — or at least once day. For the most health benefits, do them in addition to your favorite SilverSneakers fitness classes, gym workouts, and/or daily walks.

As always, safety is key. Get your doctor’s OK before beginning a new exercise program. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition (including osteoporosis), balance issues, or injuries, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

What you need:

  • Space to move
  • Comfortable clothing
  • Sturdy chair for support
  • Water to sip, as needed

Exercise #1: Alternating Reach

How to do it:

  • Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Reach to the left with your right arm overhead. Then reach to the right with your left arm overhead.
  • Reach to the left with your right arm across your chest. Then reach to the right with your left arm across your chest.
  • As you move your upper body, pivot your feet.
  • Make it easier: If it’s uncomfortable to reach overhead, alternate reaching across your chest.

Recommended FREE SilverSneakers On-Demand Class: SilverSneakers Exercises to Do at Your Desk

Exercise #2: Combination Chest Fly to Chest Press

How to do it:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent.
  • Tighten your abdominals and extend your arms in front of you at chest height. Don’t allow your lower back to arch.
  • Palms facing in toward each other, open your arms to the side. Use your bodyweight to add resistance to the movement.
  • Pause, then press your hands back together. That’s 1 rep.
  • Do 10 to 15 reps total.

Exercise #3: Low-Impact Jacks

How to do it:

  • Stand with your feet together and arms straight out in front of you, palms touching.
  • With control, step one foot out to the side, and open your arms wide.
  • Still with control, step your foot back to center and close your arms to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.
  • Continue for 30 seconds, or as long as you comfortably can.

Love these exercises and want more? Try a SilverSneakers LIVE Gentle Stretch (Express) Class!

Subscribe to our newsletter
It's quick and easy. You could be one of the 13 million people who are eligible.
Already a member? Click to discover our 15,000+ participating locations.

Follow Us

Exercise #4: Forward Rocks

How to do it:

  • Stand tall with your shoulders back, core engaged and your feet hip-width apart.
  • Bend your arms at a 90° angle or place your hands on a sturdy chair, if you need.
  • From here, step forward with your left leg, landing on your heel and pressing through to the ball of your foot.
  • As you “rock” forward on your left foot, you’ll raise your right heel off the floor.
  • See if you can feel a slight stretch in your right hip. If not, then take a slightly larger step forward.
  • Pause here, and then rock your left foot back to your starting point and repeat on the other side.
  • Continue alternating for 30 seconds, or as long as you comfortably can.

Exercise #5: Cactus Arms Open and Closed

How to do it:

  • Stand tall with your arms out to your sides, palms facing forward, and elbows bent 90° like a cactus.
  • Inhale, and bring your arms together, tucking your chin to your chest and rounding your back.
  • Exhale, and open your arms and chest. That’s one rep.
  • Do 5 to 10 reps.

See our additional sources:
Physical activity guidelines for Americans: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Study on sitting and heart disease risk: Journal of the American Heart Association
Benefits of sitting less even if you exercise: Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases
Exercise and its impact on bone density: BioMed Research International
Exercise and its impact on blood pressure: Menopause

Take Your Favorite SilverSneakers Classes Online! 

SilverSneakers members can access online fitness classes and wellness workshops through SilverSneakers LIVE. See the latest schedule and RSVP for classes here.

Not a member? If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, it may include SilverSneakers—at no additional cost. Check your eligibility instantly here.

Not eligible for SilverSneakers? You can still get 200+ free SilverSneakers On-Demand videos and stay in touch with us by creating your online account.

Find out if you're eligible for SilverSneakers, the fitness benefit that's  included with many Medicare Advantage plans. CHECK YOUR ELIGIBILITY