7 Ways to Get Active During Your Commute

Stop Sitting Still!

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Commutes can be killer. Not only do you have to deal with the frustration of traffic and general chaos, but you have to deal with them at the worst times of the day - when you're still tired in the morning, and when you're worn out after a long day of work.

Plus, there's the sitting.

If your job requires you to sit behind a desk all day, the last thing your brain or body need is to spend more time sitting.

Sitting is actually an independent risk factor for early mortality, especially from chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes, so staying active is particularly important if your butt has to be stuck in a chair all the time.

But if a commute is a requirement for getting paid, then what's a person to do? I turned to the experts to get a few ideas. Check out these creative exercises you can do before or after work, all while during your commute. They may not count as cardio or serious strength training, but they will keep the blood flowing and help you de-stress in a stressful environment.

1. Steering Wheel, or Pilates Wheel?

Sarah Nelson, a fitness instructor in Austin, TX, suggests using your car's steering wheel in place of a Pilates ring when stopped at a red light. Try seated exercises, such as pelvic lifts, biceps curls, or spine twists.

2. Executive Chair Stretch

Soji James, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), points out that long periods of sitting is like, "tacking down tissue" which can hinder your movement capability.

"When trapped on a long flight or stuck in traffic, this seated stretch works wonders for your hips and lower back."

James' instructions are as follows:

  1. Begin by placing your right ankle on top of your left knee.
  2. Keeping your chest tall, wrap your arms around the bent knee and cradle your leg to your chest.
  1. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
  2. Repeat for 2-3 times per side.

If you're driving, it's best to reserve this move for stop lights or the pick-up lane at your kids' school.

3. Neck Stretch

Alisa Wyatt, founder of Pilatesology, offers up another great, stress-relieving stretch when you're stuck in traffic or at a red light. "Tilt your head so that your right ear is toward your right shoulder, then relax both shoulders while breathing 'into' the left side of your neck. Do this while stretching the left side of your neck. Hold for 10 seconds, then relax."

At your next opportunity, perform the same movement to the opposite side.

4. Carpooling Quad Exercise

While this exercise can be performed while driving a car, it's a little easier to do when you're not behind the wheel. Add it to your list when you're carpooling or taking the bus. Wyatt offers the following instructions:

  1. Sit slightly forward from the seat back and lift one leg at a time approximately three inches off the ground.
  2. Tighten those leg muscles and hold for five to 10 seconds.
  1. Relax and repeat a couple times, alternating legs.

5. Butt Buster

Another exercise from Wyatt, this one can be performed practically anywhere. Simpmly sit up straight in your seat with your feet flat. Tighten your glutes and hold them tight for five to 10 seconds before releasing. Repeat 10 times during each phase of your commute.

While you’re driving or riding, sit yourself straight up in your seat and keep both feet flat on the floor while you’re facing forward. Tighten your abdominal muscles and slowly twist your upper body slightly to the left and then slowly to your right. Make sure to keep facing forward and to twist as slowly as you can."

6. Seated Tendon Stretch

When you're carpooling or taking the train or bus, try this move from Gregory Youdain of Real Pilates:

  1. Sit at the edge of your seat, heels together and toes apart in a small "V" position.
  2. Imagine you're about to stand up. Squeeze your tush and lift your abdominals in and up.
  3. Lift your heels for three counts, then resist them back down in one count.
  4. Repeat five times and reverse the counts.

7. Seated Short Box Series

Youdain also suggests the short box series to improve posture and work the abs:

1. Round back:

  • Sit at the edge of your seat and wrap your arms across your abdominals, as if you were giving yourself a hug.
  • Squeeze your tush and lift your abdominals in and up.
  • Curl your spine in a C-shape, pulling your abdominals away from the hug of your arms and round backwards behind your sitting bones. Repeat five times.

2. Flat back

  • Sit at the edge of your seat with a straight spine and place your arms across your chest.
  • Lift your spine up as much as you can by lifting the abdominals in and up.
  • Maintaining a flat back, hing your spine back as far as you can.
  • Repeat four times.

3. Side-to-side:

  • Set up the same as for the flat back.
  • Lengthen your back by pulling your abdominals in and up.
  • Lean slightly forward, keeping your collarbones in front of your sitting bones and arc your spine up and over to the right. Maintain equal weight in both hips and focus on the stretch in the side of your body.
  • Repeat three times, alternating between sides.

4. Twist:

  • Set up the same as for the flat back.
  • Lengthen your spine up as much as you can and twist your spine to the right as much as you can. Imagine you're wringing out your abdominals as if you were wringing out a dish towel.
  • Repeat three times to each side, alternating between sides.

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