How to Exercise After Sitting All Day: 6 Moves to Try If Your Day Involves a Ton of Sitting


It’s no surprise that sitting in a chair all day is rough on our bodies. While making time to exercise after sitting all day may not totally negate the effects of sitting for hours on end, it can certainly help. Some research suggests that 60 to 75 minutes of moderately intense physical activity a day can counter various effects of sitting—which can include things like increased risk of high blood pressure and blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels, and even a higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

Note: It hasn’t been proven that these elevated risks are 100% caused by sitting in particular, but there’s a strong enough association between sitting for long periods of time and negative health outcomes that experts suggest reducing your sedentary time as best as you can. Plus, we know there are some great health effects of exercise and just being active, no matter what that looks like.

At the end of the day (sometimes literally) any movement you can sneak in is better than none.

What sitting all day does to your body

Sitting for long periods of time, especially with poor posture, makes your hip flexors tight, which causes the glutes (butt muscles) to lengthen to compensate. Over time, this compromises the ability of the gluteal muscles to activate properly, leading to a condition called gluteal amnesia, also known as dead butt syndrome. When your glutes can’t do their job, other muscles in your body have to work harder, which ultimately can overwork them, leading to poor body alignment and aches. 

Tight hip flexors also make it harder for your pelvis to rotate properly, and inhibited mobility in this area can cause compression and pain in the lower back, physical therapist Dan Giordano, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., and co-founder of Bespoke Treatments Physical Therapy in New York City, tells SELF.

How to combat the effects of a sedentary lifestyle

If you spend most of your time sitting, there is some good news. While it is true that sitting for most of the day isn’t ideal, there are some ways you can help undo the effects, Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S., founder of TS Fitness in New York City, tells SELF. For starters, Tamir recommends standing up for at least 30 to 40 minutes a day. “A standing desk is also a good option as it will help you become more aware of your posture and engage your core muscles,” he says.

In addition, doing some exercise after sitting all day can also make a huge difference, especially ones that focus on strengthening the posterior (back) part of your body—like your back, glutes, and hamstrings—while stretching the anterior (front) muscles such as your hip flexors, pelvis, and chest. This helps counteract the tightness that ensues when you’re in a seated position, plus strengthens the muscles that we need for good posture.

We asked Tamir to put together a great workout you can do when you’re off the clock to help undo some of the negative effects of sitting all day. “These exercises are designed to strengthen the core, work the posterior muscles of the body, engage the legs, and help with proper pelvic and spinal alignment,” he says. “Together, these moves help to offset the imbalances associated with long periods of sitting.”

If you’re itching to work some extra movement after a day full of sitting, try the below routine.

The Workout

What you need: One medium-to-heavy weight, like a kettlebell or dumbbell; an exercise mat


  • Dead bug
  • Single-leg bridge
  • Deadlift
  • Bent-over row
  • Goblet squat
  • Plank


  • Do 12-15 reps of the first five moves, and hold the plank for 30 seconds. Rest for 20 seconds in between each move, or more if you feel you need it. Complete three total rounds of this circuit.

Demoing the moves below are Cookie Janee (GIF 1 and 6), a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; Grace Pulliam (GIF 2), aerial and Vinyasa yoga teacher; Sarah Taylor (GIF 3), personal trainer and founder of plus-size virtual fitness program Fitness by Sarah Taylor; Nathalie Huerta (GIF 4), coach at The Queer Gym in Oakland, California; and Rachel Denis (GIF 5), a powerlifter who competes with USA Powerlifting and holds multiple New York State powerlifting records.



Leave a comment