How to Exercise From Your Couch

Learn why even if you’re not pre-disposed to exercise you can still stay fit without straying far from your sofa.

By Camille Noe Pagán

Arthritis pain or a simple lack of  motivation keeping you from a serious workout? Couch potato exercises may be the way to go. In fact, if you find it hard to keep moving, you may have your genes to blame. A study from Peninsula Medical School in the United Kingdom found that an “activity gene,” rather than environmental factors, had the largest influence on physical activity levels.

So does that mean you’re doomed to be a sedentary? Not at all, says Robyn M. Stuhr, executive vice president of the American Council on Exercise. “You may never be one to enjoy spending an hour a day on the treadmill. But no matter what your preferences or your genetic make-up you can fit a little exercise in on a regular basis.” Doing so will provide relief from persistent pain and other arthritis symptoms, including stiffness, muslce weakness and reduced joint range of motion.

Three-Step Couch Potato Workout 

In fact, Stuhr has a plan that removes your last excuse: a workout that doesn’t even require you to move far from your sofa. Do all three steps of these couch potato exercises for a 30-minute workout:

1. Stretch.
  • Lie on your back on the sofa, and slowly bring one knee up to your chest, pulling it in with your arms as far as feels comfortable. Hold for 10 seconds, then slowly release. (You should be able to keep your head turned comfortably toward the television as you do this.) 
  • Repeat with the other leg, alternating two times. 
  • Next, stand up, hold your arms out to the sides and slowly move them in small circles. Repeat eight times; then reverse the direction of the circles and gradually increase the size of the circles 

You’ll get: About six minutes of a workout with this series, if you repeat this sequence at the beginning and end of the show you’re watching.

2. Strengthen. 
  • Stand and slowly raise one foot a few inches in front of you, then trace the letters of the alphabet with that foot (hold the sofa arm if you need support).
  • Repeat with the other foot. 
  • Next, lie flat on the couch or floor. Tense your thigh muscles and abdominals, and lift one leg about 6 inches off the ground, then lower. Repeat four to six times, then, switch legs.

You’ll get: Five to seven minutes of exercise, if repeated at the beginning and end of a show.

3. Sweat.
  • March around the room during commercial breaks, lifting your knees as high as you can (but no more than 90 degrees as you step. After about a minute-and-a-half, stop and march in place, stepping side to side occasionally.

You’ll get: Sixteen minutes of exercise, if repeated every commercial break during an hour-long show.

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