Following a regular exercise routine becomes more challenging as we age. We may not have the flexibility and strength we once had. We may fall more easily and be more prone to injury. Chair exercises for seniors can help you stay active and reap the benefits of exercise with less pain, stiffness, and risk of injury.

What Are Chair Exercises?

Chair exercises are exercises you can do while sitting or holding onto a chair. Chair exercises for seniors can help you improve your overall health while providing support and safety.

woman teaching elders of chair exercise

How Do Chair Exercises Benefit Seniors?

It’s never too late to start an exercise program. There’s significant evidence that physical activity and exercise in older adults provide many benefits, regardless of your current health or fitness level.

The benefits of chair exercises for seniors include:

  • Improved strength, flexibility, and balance
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Decreased joint pain and stiffness
  • Reduced risk of chronic disease
  • Increased life expectancy
  • Increased ability to perform daily living activities (such as cooking and cleaning)
  • Improved blood circulation
  • Enhanced mood and ability to concentrate
  • Stress relief

Different Chair Exercises for Seniors

How to Get Started with a Chair Exercise Program

Before you start an exercise program, be sure to:

  • Check with your doctor
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing you're comfortable in and shoes that support your feet
  • Use a stable chair (no wheels!) with a straight back and a comfortable cushion, like a kitchen chair
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise
  • Stretch before and after exercising to prevent stiffness and injury

Warm-Up Chair Exercises

Senior exercise

Warm-Up Chair Exercises

It’s important to begin any type of exercise by warming up your muscles. Warming up reduces the risk of injury. Here are a couple of warm-up chair exercises for seniors:

Neck Stretches

  • Sit up straight and slowly tilt your head toward your right shoulder until you feel a stretch
  • Hold this position and slowly extend your left arm down and to the side
  • Release and then repeat on the other side
  • Perform two to five repetitions per side

Shoulder Circles

  • While seated, touch your shoulders with your fingertips
  • Move your shoulders in a forward circle 15 times
  • Reverse and circle backward for 15 repetitions

Forward Bends

  • Spread your legs and place your feet flat on the floor
  • Slowly lean forward toward your thighs
  • Relax your neck and lower your hands toward your feet
  • When you feel a stretch, hold the position for 30 seconds
  • Slowly return to the starting position
  • Repeat three times

Chair Exercises for Arms

These chair exercises for seniors strengthen your upper body muscles to give you greater balance, which greatly reduces your risk of falling. Strengthening your muscles also makes tasks of daily life–like lifting and carrying grocery bags–much easier.

Thumbs Up

  • Sit on the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor
  • Hold your arms in front of you, with your thumbs pointed up and your elbows slightly bent
  • Move your elbows back toward your body until your upper arms are in line with your body
  • Extend your arms again and repeat eight to 10 times

Shoulder Rolls

  • Sit tall with your feet flat on the ground
  • Shrug your shoulders up toward your ears, and slowly rotate your shoulders in a circle—back, down, forward, and back to the top
  • When you reach the top, reverse the movement–roll your shoulders forward, down, back, and to the top again
  • Perform 10 repetitions in each direction, for a total of 20 reps

Chair Exercises for Legs

Here are some chair exercises for seniors that work your quads, glutes, and calves. These exercises will help you more easily climb up and down stairs and generally improve your mobility.

Toe Taps

  • Sit up straight with your feet flat on the ground
  • Bend your toes up toward the ceiling and back down to the floor
  • To increase the difficulty of this exercise, sit on the edge of your seat with your legs straight, and keep your heels on the ground as you bend your toes upward and then back down
  • Perform eight to 10 repetitions

 

Knee Lifts

  • Sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor
  • Lift your right knee toward your chest
  • Lower your foot back to the floor
  • Repeat with your left leg
  • Perform 10 repetitions per leg
  • To increase the difficulty of this exercise, pause for a five-count at the top of the movement

Chair Exercises for Your Core Muscles

These chair exercises for seniors will help you strengthen your muscular foundation, improve your posture, and protect you from accidental falls.

Belly Twists

  • Sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor
  • Hold your arms at a 90-degree angle with your elbows at your sides and your forearms extended in front of you
  • Rotate your upper torso to the left. Keep your lower body still and imagine you’re sucking your belly button in toward your spine
  • Return to the middle and twist to the right
  • Perform 10 repetitions on each side

 

Ab Squeezes

  • Sit up straight and hold on to the edges of your seat
  • Lift your feet off the floor slowly
  • Draw your knees up toward your chest
  • Squeeze your abs at the top
  • Slowly lower your feet back to the floor
  • Don’t strain—it’s fine if you can only raise your feet a few inches off the floor

Chair Aerobics

Aerobic exercise is vital to your cardiovascular health. Here are some aerobic chair exercises for seniors:

Sitting Skater

  • Sit on the edge of your chair
  • Bend your right knee and place your toe on the floor
  • Extend your left leg straight out to the side with pointed toes
  • Extend your arms straight in front of you and bend forward
  • Touch the insole of your right foot with your left arm while raising your right arm behind your body and twisting at your waist
  • Return your arms in front of you and straighten your back
  • Repeat the movement 10 times
  • Switch your legs and reverse the movement for another 10 reps
  • For added difficulty, you can alternate left and right, quickly switching your leg position between reps

 

Tap Dance

  • Sit with your knees bent and your toes lightly touching the floor
  • Extend one leg and gently tap your heel to the floor
  • With your leg still extended, point your toes and tap them on the floor
  • Flex your foot and tap your heel again
  • Return to the starting position
  • Repeat with the opposite leg
  • Do this for three to five minutes and try to go a little longer each time

Chair Exercises with a Ball

There are chair exercises for seniors that use a ball to add some variety to your workout. We recommend a plastic air-filled ball (the kind you can find in drugstores or department stores), as it provides more resistance than a foam ball. Here are two examples:

Hand Squeezes

  • Sit up straight, holding the ball with both hands a few inches in front of your body
  • Squeeze the ball gently with your fingers
  • Press the ball slowly with both hands
  • Hold for four seconds
  • Release slowly
  • Repeat eight times, then rest
  • Repeat for eight more reps

 

Inner Thigh Squeezes

  • Sit straight toward the edge of the chair with knees bent
  • Place the ball between your knees
  • Press your knees together and squeeze the ball for one or two seconds
  • Slowly release, keeping a slight tension on the ball to keep it between your knees
  • Repeat for eight to 10 reps, then rest
  • Switch directions and repeat for eight to 10 reps

Post-Workout Stretches

elder chair exercise

It’s just as important to stretch your muscles after you exercise as it is before you start your workout. Stretching increases your flexibility, prevents stiffness in your joints, and helps prevent injury.

Here are some stretches you can do in a chair after you finish exercising. You can also repeat the warm-up exercises at the end of your workout.

Hamstring Stretch

  • Sit up straight with your left foot on the floor
  • Hold the back of your right knee and slowly pull it toward your chest until you feel a stretch
  • Hold for 30 seconds
  • Repeat with your left leg
  • Perform three reps per side

Ankle Circles

  • Sit up straight and rest your ankle on the opposite knee
  • Rotate your ankle in circles
  • Repeat for 10 rotations clockwise and 10 rotations counterclockwise
  • Point your toes for an additional stretch

 

Neck Stretch

  • Sit with your knees together and your back straight
  • Extend one arm straight toward the ceiling
  • Stretch your body upward; look toward your hand to get a stretch in your neck and shoulders
  • Hold the position for five to 10 seconds
  • Switch to the other side
  • Repeat three times per side

Conclusion

Chair exercises for seniors allow you to safely improve your strength, mobility, and cardiovascular health. Chair exercises have many documented benefits. They’re just as effective, yet gentler on the joints and less likely to cause pain or injury than traditional exercise routines–so find a chair and give your health a boost!

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