Forget burpees — this low-impact chair workout for weight loss takes just 10 minutes

a photo of a woman doing a chair workout
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whether you’re looking for a chair workout for weight loss due to mobility issues or want to get your heart rate up from the comfort of your desk between meetings, we’ve found exactly what you need. This 10-minute workout, created by Donovan Green Fitness, who has a number of different chair workouts on his YouTube channel,  and it targets the upper and lower body as well as the core. 

If you’re looking to lose weight, you’ll need to focus on being in a calorie deficit — in other words, burning more calories than you consume. This chair workout gets your heart rate up while working the shoulders, legs, and core. When paired with the correct diet and cardio, this could help you tone up and lose weight. 

Seated workouts are low-impact workouts that can be done from a chair, targeting different muscle groups without any pressure on your joints. Unlike workouts that involve lying on your back on an exercise mat, seated workouts are accessible to those who can’t get down on the floor, have limited space, or simply want a workout that they can do sat from their office chair. All you’ll need for this workout is a sturdy chair — in other words, one without wheels.

What is the workout?

The 10-minute workout consists of a range of different upper and lower body exercises. Each exercise is performed for 30 seconds, with no break in between exercises to keep your heart rate elevated. If you need to, you can always press pause and take a breather midway through the workout. And Donovan offers modifications throughout.

Here are some of the exercises involved in the workout:

Seated jumping jacks: For this exercise, start by sitting on the edge of your chair — your back should not be leaning against the backrest. Engage your core, thinking about sucking your belly button into your spine; step both legs out away from your body, moving from your core. At the same time, raise both arms above your head, as if you are doing a jumping jack. Keep moving your legs in and out, squeezing your core, for the entire 30 seconds. 

Seated leg taps: For this exercise, as above, start on the edge of your seat with your core engaged and your feet pressed into the floor. Engage your core and tap one leg out a few feet in front of you, then reverse the movement to return to your starting position. Repeat on the opposite leg. Keep your core engaged throughout and lean your torso back slightly to up the intensity. 

Seated jabs: For this exercise, start sitting on the edge of your chair with your core engaged and your torso upright. Bring both arms up in front of your face, extend one arm out in a cross-motion, following through with your shoulder. Then repeat on the other side, twisting your torso as you move your arms. 

I tried the chair workout for weight loss — here’s what happened 

I felt this one in my shoulders

I wasn’t expecting this workout to burn into my shoulders as quickly as it did. Forget push-ups and planks, my shoulders were working quickly as I pumped my arms up and down for the first few exercises. 

For an exercise that doesn’t require any of the best adjustable dumbbells or resistance bands, this one worked my arms hard using just my body weight. Of course, if you do want to really up the ante, you can always grab a light set of dumbbells, or strap a pair of the best ankle weights around your wrists. 

The seated shadow boxing exercises at the end of the workout were also an excellent way to target the upper body. Boxing, even without a bag or an opponent, targets the biceps, triceps, shoulders, lower back, and abs. Targeting these muscles while seated can help improve your posture, flexibility, and muscle strength. 

It went quickly

Like Donovan’s seated ab workout I tried last week, this workout flew by — 30 seconds on each exercise was long enough to get my heart rate up, but not long enough to ever get boring. At no point did I check how long I had to go in the workout, and I found the variety and fast pace of the workout kept me engaged. Trainer Donovan Green is extremely motivating and kept me working hard throughout. 

This one might not have torched calories or gotten me overly sweaty, but I definitely felt like I’d raised my heart rate, and could feel I’d worked my upper body.  

My abs worked hard

Far from being an easy alternative, keeping my torso slightly leaned back and my abs engaged throughout this workout really helped my core to work hard. The low-impact workout doesn’t put any stress on the joints or spine, so it's perfect for anyone recovering from an injury. 

As a reminder, if building visible abs is your goal, you’ll need to focus on your overall body fat percentage, not endless ab workouts — here’s how to calculate your body fat percentage, and why it matters. If you’re returning to exercise following an injury, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor or a personal trainer before trying a new ab routine.  

More from Tom's Guide

Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.