At-Work Workouts Featuring Exercise With a Chair

Active Sitting at the Office

Laura Williams

In the early 2000s, stability balls became a popular workplace alternative for the office chair. They were touted as a tool for active sitting—a way to help those with office jobs squeeze more activity into their day while simultaneously providing a tool for optional at-work workouts. And while some people still use stability balls at the office, their popularity has fallen by the wayside. The problem is, it's not that comfortable to sit on a stability ball for long periods of time. They're also sometimes impractical and can even lead to unintentional injury— the ball can simply roll away as you're sitting down.

Today's attempts at workplace activity lean more toward standing desks, treadmill desks and "walking meetings." Living a life filled with long periods of sitting is a known risk factor for obesity, heart disease and diabetes, so finding ways to encourage all day activity is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

The problem with standing desks and treadmill desks is that they take getting used to (you have to gradually work your way up to standing for long periods of time), they're not always comfortable, and they're not always well-tolerated. Not to mention, they can cost thousands of dollars, putting them outside the reach of many companies and individuals.

One possible alternative to stability balls and standing desks are active sitting chairs, such as the Swopper,  Buoy, and the Wobble Stool. These chairs feature an element of instability, such as springs or rockers, that require greater core engagement as you balance on the chair, while still providing a sturdy base that allows you to comfortably sit down as you work. 

Each version of active sitting chair is a little different, with its own pros and cons—some versions offer more stability and padding, making them more appropriate for all-day use, while others encourage greater activity, but tend to be less comfortable over all.

Across the board, however, most of these chairs come without backs, which makes them especially suitable for at-work workouts that use chairs as a stability tool or bench. You see, the backless design enables you to perform exercises 360-degrees around the office chair without worrying about the chair's back or arms.

Check out these at-work exercises featuring the Swopper—in addition to working as an effective, stable bench, the Swopper's unstable spring and the padded, convex seat design make it a comfortable and effective balance-training tool. You can try these same exercises with almost any office chair, although they're easiest to perform with a backless chair, and most effective with an active sitting chair that encourages additional core engagement. 

Office Chair Single-Leg Lunge

Laura Williams

Stand a few feet in front of the Swopper or office chair with your back to it, and place the top of one foot on the chair's seat. Bend your front knee and lower your torso straight down until your front knees is at a 90-degree angle. Press through your front heel and return to standing. Make sure your front knee tracks in line with your toes, but that your knee remains behind your toes throughout the exercise. Perform 10 to 15 repetitions on one side before switching legs. Complete three sets.

Office Chair Pushup

Laura Williams

Start in a pushup position, your arms fully extended, and your palms on the seat of the Swopper or office chair so they're directly under your shoulders. Step your feet out until your body forms a straight line from heels to head. Widen your feet to create a stronger base of support. When you're ready, bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the chair's seat, keeping your core tight. When your elbows form a 90-degree angle, press yourself back to start. Perform 10 to 15 repetitions. Complete two sets.

Office Chair Dip

Laura Williams

Sit on the front edge of your office chair or Swopper, your feet planted on the ground, hip-distance apart. Grasp the front of the seat, just to either side of your hips. Press your hips up off the chair as you press down through your palms. Scoot your hips forward slightly, so they're in front of the Swopper. Bend your elbows, keeping them close to your body, and lower your glutes toward the floor. Stop when your elbows bend to 90-degrees and press yourself back to start. Perform eight to 12 repetitions. Complete two sets.

Office Chair Plank

Laura Williams

In an extended arm position, your palms directly under your shoulders, hold your body in a straight line from head to toe. Aim to hold the position for at least 30 seconds. For an added challenge, bring one knee up and out to the same-side elbow, crunching slightly to one side, return your foot to the ground, and repeat on the opposite side. Continue alternating sides for 30 to 60 seconds. Complete three timed sets.

Swopper Back Extension

Laura Williams

The back extension exercise is one that's especially appropriate for the Swopper due to the chair's padded seat and backless design—it would be more difficult to perform this movement on a standard office chair or an active sitting chair that doesn't offer padding.

To perform a back extension, lean across the Swopper, your belly resting on the seat. Step your feet wide behind you, creating a strong base of support, the balls of your feet engaged with the floor. Tighten your core and lift your torso up until you form a straight line from heel to head—if you can comfortably lift your torso past 180-degrees, so your back is slightly hyperextended, that's fine, just make sure you're using your core and back to perform the motion, rather than using any sort of swinging momentum. Hold the position for two seconds and reverse the movement. Aim to perform 15 to 20 repetitions. Complete three sets.

At-Work Workout Ideas

There are lots of ways to combine these exercises into a single workout or a series of workouts performed throughout the day. Consider the following suggestions:

  • One exercise per hour. Set a timer to go off on your phone once every hour, and tackle a single exercise, completing the sets and reps suggested above.
  • Two short circuits per day. Take a 15 minute break mid-morning, and a second 15-minute break mid-afternoon. Perform two rounds of all five exercises back-to-back without rest. In this scenario, you won't perform the sets described above (for instance, where it suggests you complete two sets of dips); rather, you'll perform a single set of repetitions for each exercise before proceeding to the next exercise. If you complete two total rounds of all of the exercises in under 15 minutes, take a lap around your office to get a little extra activity in.
  • Longer lunchtime workout. Perform all exercises as described above (sets and repetitions) back-to-back. In between each set, add 30 seconds of jumping jacks or marching in place. Rest one minute between each exercise. After completing all sets and repetitions, hit your office stairs and climb up and down continuously for 10 minutes.


View Article Sources
  • Biswas A, Oh P, Faulkner G, Bajaj R, Silver M, Mitchell M, Alter D. "Sedentary Time and Its Association With Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality and Hospitalization in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis." Annals of Internal Medicine. Jan 2015.