The best exercises to do if you sit down all-day

Exercises to do if you sit down all day
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You’ve probably already heard that sitting is the new smoking, but if your job requires you to sit behind a screen all day, what can you do to help alleviate the effects on your body? 

Experts reckon that sitting more than three to four hours a day can increase a person's risk of serious diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and obesity, as well as cause posture problems and lead to muscle tightness. It can also lead to things like dead butt syndrome, where your glutes forget their role and stop supporting your back and pelvis. 

So where’s the good news? As well as investing in a one of the best standing desks, or heading out for a walk on your lunch break, there is more you can do to help alleviate the effects of all that sitting. To help, we’ve rounded up some of the best exercises to add to your post-work routine. (Alternatively, if you want to stay sat down, we've found the best sitting exercises to do from your desk here). And if you're specifically suffering from a bad back, you should also check out the 7 best exercises if you have lower back pain. Also if you're feeling bloated after a workout then here’s why, according to a gut expert.

The best exercises to do if you sit down all-day 

As well as simply standing more during the day, exercises that focus on strengthening the posterior (or back) part of your body should be key in your workout routine. Your back, your glutes, and your hamstrings are all at risk of weakening or tightening if you spend too much time sitting down. You should also look at exercises that will stretch the anterior muscles along the front of your body — we’re talking about your hip flexors and your pelvis — as this can help counteract the tightness and help with your posture.

Here are the exercises to try: 

Best exercises if you sit down all day: Dead bugs

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1. Dead bugs 

A dead bug works on stabilizing your core muscles, as well as your spine and back muscles - all important for good posture. Perform 20 of these, 10 reps on each side. 

How to do a dead bug:

Watch a video of how to do a dead bug correctly here. 

Best exercises if you sit down all day: Plank

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2. Plank 

Although you might dread the plank section of your workout, they are a good way of working your core as well as your upper and lower body. A strong core has been shown to reduce lower back pain, which is often associated with prolonged sitting. Start by attempting to hold a plank position for 30 seconds, and gradually increase this to longer intervals as you get stronger. 

How to do a plank: 

Watch a video of how to do a plank correctly here. 

Best exercises if you sit down all day: Glute bridge

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3. Glute bridge 

The glutes are the biggest muscle in the body, and spending a prolonged period of time just sitting on them means they’re not being activated or worked at all. This, in turn, can make your hip flexor muscles tighter, causing compression in the lower back, which can lead to back pain. 

To fire up your glutes, try practicing glute bridges. Aim to do 10-15 repetitions. If this feels too easy, or you really want to challenge yourself, try doing single-leg glute bridges instead.

How to do a glute bridge: 

Watch a video of how to do a glute bridge correctly here. 

Best exercises if you sit down all day: Kettlebell squat

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4. Kettlebell squat 

Another exercise that targets most of the muscles in your posterior, a kettlebell squat activates your hamstrings, glutes, calves, and lower back muscles, as well as your quads and your core. If you don’t have a kettlebell or a pair of dumbbells, try using something heavy, like a backpack filled with books, or milk cartons filled with water. Aim for 12 to 15 repetitions.

How to do a kettlebell squat: 

Watch a video of how to do a kettlebell squat correctly here. 

Best exercises if you sit down all day: Lunge with twist

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5. Lunge with a twist 

A great one for anyone who sits down for a living, the lunge part of this exercise stretches the hip flexors, glutes, and adductors, while the rotation works on the thoracic spine. Aim to do 10-20 repetitions, with 5-10 on each side. 

How to do a lunge with a twist: 

Watch a video on how to do a lunge with a twist correctly here. 

Best exercises if you sit down all day: Mountain climber

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6. Mountain climbers

Mountain climbers target the shoulders, hamstrings, triceps, quads, and core — all areas of the body that are important for good posture. Aim to do 20 to 30 reps, with 10 to 15 on each side. 

How to do a mountain climber: 

Watch a video on how to do a mountain climber correctly here. 

Kettlebell deadlift

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

7. Kettlebell deadlifts 

Deadlifts are another great way of targeting the muscles down the back of your body, as well as working on the core and hips. Again, if you don’t have a kettlebell for this exercise, try using some dumbbells, or anything you can find that’s easy to hold. If you’re traveling or don’t have anything to hand, bodyweight deadlifts are still are a great way to work on your posture. Aim to do 12 to 15 reps. 

How to do a kettlebell deadlift: 

Watch a video on how to do a kettlebell deadlift correctly here.

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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.