Focus on Fitness: Fitness you can practice from your deck chair

By Gloria Schwartz

Summer is in full swing. While some people take advantage of the weather and do more outdoor sports and physical activities, others like nothing more than lazing on a deck chair by the pool, on the shore, in their backyard or on their balcony. A vigorous workout entails moving in ways that increase your heart rate and get you sweating. However, there are times when you may not be in the mood or feel motivated to get off your butt. If you only want to get up from your deck chair to top up your cold beverage, I can suggest a number of low-to-no intensity practices you can engage in to improve your well-being. You don’t even need special equipment, workout clothes or running shoes. So no excuses!

If you’re sitting or laying around for an extended period of time, your lower back can benefit from the Sphynx stretch. It’s safest to stretch with warmed-up muscles, which you probably have if you’re outdoors in the summer heat. Lie face down on your deck chair, lift your upper body supported by your elbows and gaze slightly upwards. You should feel comfortable in this position. You can hold that pose for a few seconds or a few minutes.

There are many other gentle stretches you can do from the comfort of your deck chair. Lying on your back, raise one leg and hold it with your hands. Without forcing it, see how high you can raise your leg while keeping it straight. The more flexible your hamstrings, the higher you’ll be able to hold your leg. Next, bend your knee and cross the ankle over your other thigh. Press both legs towards your body and you’ll get a nice hip stretch. Repeat both stretches on the other leg.

If you’ve delivered a baby vaginally, have prostate issues or are past middle age, you may experience occasional bladder leaks due to weak pelvic floor muscles. The Kegel exercise, which you can do anywhere without anyone noticing, can strengthen these muscles. It’s best to do Kegels on an empty bladder. Squeeze the same muscles you’d squeeze if you were urinating and wanted to stop the flow mid-stream. Squeeze and hold for a few seconds then relax and repeat several more times.

You can also strengthen your upper body without equipment while reclining on your deck chair.
For example, you can work your abdominal muscles and if you have a couple of water bottles you can work your biceps, triceps, pecs and shoulders. Visit to watch my demo, “Gloria demonstrates Deck Chair Exercises.”

Visualization or mental imagery is a sports psychology technique that professional athletes sometimes employ. You don’t have to be an athlete to use this technique. Close your eyes, relax and form a picture in your mind of yourself doing something physically active. The power of visualization is that it helps you to mentally rehearse a behaviour. You can increase self-confidence with this technique.

Deep, diaphragmatic breathing can improve blood flow and decrease blood pressure and anxiety. You can breathe deeply while reclining or sitting up. With one hand on your chest and one on your stomach, inhale through your nose for five seconds, allow the oxygen to fill your belly (your chest should not rise) and exhale through your mouth with pursed lips for five seconds. Repeat for one to five minutes.

While you’re feeling very relaxed, take a few moments of gratitude. Try closing your eyes and thinking of things you’re grateful for today. We all endure hardships in life; but it’s important to reflect on the little things that make life worthwhile, which give us joy and that make life meaningful. This mental exercise is a good reminder that even in dark times, there are beautiful moments. As I write this article while reclining on a chair on my dock, I hear birds screeching somewhere in the woods and I see ripples gently making their way across the lake. I feel grateful for this gift of being able to write and relax while surrounded by nature.

Another thing you can do from your deck chair is start a plan. Summer will be over before you know it. What will you do when the lazy days of summer are over? Think of what you’d like to work on for your health and fitness come autumn. Make a mental note and don’t forget to follow up.