Please click here to see Part One of this two part series on seated exercise.

Health and Fitness Information for Mature Adults

February 14, 2008              

Table of Contents

  • Special Valentine's Day Discounts (Industry news)
  • Please Take a Seat (Introduction to special issue)
  • Chair-Seated Exercises for the Lower Body (An expert's advice)
  • Leg Warm-Up (Get off to a good start)
  • The Hip Walk (Attention wheelchair users)
  • Quadriceps Strengthener (Preventing contractures)
  • Lower Back Stretch (Have a ball!)
  • Foot Rolls (Stay on the ball)
  • Leg Cool-Down (Wind up sittin' pretty)

Special Valentine's Day Discounts

To help celebrate Valentine's Day
and American Heart Month, SFA is offering hearty discounts on all of our internationally respected educational programs. But you'd better hurry because this online-only event starts today and ends Monday, February 18. Here's some more good news that might warm the hearts of SFA Members. These temporary savings are in addition to your already discounted SFA Member prices!

Please click here to visit the SFA Member's special on-line order center.

Please Take a Seat

New readers who missed our last issue of Experience! can access it by clicking on "Chair-Seated Exercises for the Upper Body." Today we're focusing on seated work that engages the lower body. Our guest author is SFA National Advisory Board member Mary Ann Wilson, R.N., host of public television's popular "Sit and Be Fit" workout series. While her article is aimed at health-fitness professionals, it also provides sound advice for lay-readers and effective exercises that can be pursued on one's own at home. It is reprinted by permission of the Senior Fitness Bulletin.

Chair-Seated Exercises for the Lower Body

In the first installment of this two-part discussion,
we talked about "balancing out" the entire body by stretching tight muscles and strengthening weak ones. Then we noted that concentrating on specific parts of the body can also be useful. We addressed the how-to's of several upper body exercises for maintaining mobility and improving range of motion. Now it's time to move on to exercises for the lower body. For variety, during some of these activities I use a simple exercise accessory: a 10 to 12-inch inflatable ball. 

As always, please remember to correct your class's posture before beginning.

Leg Warm-Up

  1. Sit tall with the ribcage up and the shoulders back, down, and relaxed. With right foot, press toes onto the floor, then press heel to floor.
  2. Extend right leg straight out, then bend knee, placing foot back on floor. Perform steps #1 and #2 three times. (Cue words: "Press toes, heel, extend, and bend.")
  3. Repeat exercise using left leg.
  4. Now lift right leg, holding under the knee with both hands, and circle foot to warm up the ankle joint and increase ankle range of motion. Reverse circle.
  5. Repeat using using left leg.

The Hip Walk

This is one of the best exercises for anyone who uses a wheelchair. It keeps the pelvis mobile and tones the muscles needed for transferring. By shifting your weight from side to side, you will also use the trunk muscles which, in turn, stimulates the internal organs.

  1. With your hips, "walk" forward to the front of the seat and then back. Repeat 4 times.
  2. Then rock from side to side 4 times.
  3. Now rock forward and back 4 times, shifting your weight from back of hips forward to legs at front edge of chair.

Along with the hip walk, the following exercise variation can be used as a first step to engage the muscles needed to stand up from a chair and to reinforce proper posture as you get up. After performing steps #1 and #2 directly above, but before rocking forward and back, move far forward to the front edge of the chair. Then proceed as follows:

Put one foot forward on floor and one foot slightly back. Place hands on arms of chair. (If there are no arms on chair, place hands by your sides on the seat of chair.)

Rock forward and back 3 times. On the third rock forward, try a "seat lift": gently tighten abdominals, keep the back straight with chest and chin lifted, and lift buttocks slightly off seat of chair -- just high enough to clear the chair. Then sit back down.

Repeat the "seat lift" activity 3 times. The fourth time, if possible, lift yourself to a full standing position.

Now sit back down, put the other foot forward, and repeat.

Quadriceps Strengthener

This exercise is essential for preventing contractures.

  1. Sitting up tall, fully extend your right leg with your right heel resting on the floor. Tighten knee cap and release.
  2. Do this 5 times, then repeat exercise using the left leg.

Lower Back Stretch

For this exercise sequence, use a 10 to 12-inch inflatable ball.

  1. Sitting up tall in chair, hold ball on lap between hands. Lean forward, keeping back straight, rolling the ball down legs, just past knees. Feel the stretch in the lower back. Roll ball back up to starting position.
  2. Repeat 3 times.
  3. Now roll ball to the right side of knees, exaggerating movement of left arm so that you can feel this stretch in the left side of back. Return, then roll to the left side, exaggerating movement of right arm to feel stretch on right side.
  4. Repeat 3 times.

Foot Rolls

For this exercise sequence, use a 10 to 12-inch inflatable ball.

  1. Sitting up tall, place ball on floor under right foot. Make a circle with the foot. Feel the movement in the hip.
  2. Reverse circle.
  3. Now move the ball forward and back. This will use the quadriceps muscles.
  4. Move ball from side to side, experiencing internal and external rotation of the hip.
  5. Repeat entire exercise sequence using the left foot.
  6. Now with the ball resting between the feet, press toes in slightly and move the ball up and down by lifting and lowering the toes. This works the tibialis muscles.

Leg Cool-Down
  1. Cross left leg over right and look over right shoulder. As comfortably as you can, gently pull the left knee closer to body (holding under the knee with both hands). This gently stretches the hip and lower back. Return left leg to its position crossed over the right.
  2. Now squeeze buttocks and release, 3 times.
  3. Lift arms out to sides at shoulder level. Keeping left leg crossed over right, lift the hips, alternating sides. Tighten abdominals and maintain good posture as you shift weight from side to side.
  4. Repeat with right leg crossed over left.

These exercises should improve flexibility and strength in the lower body. Remember, one's level of mobility depends on a strong lower body. By combining the exercises above with the upper body routine given previously, your chair-seated participants will enjoy a complete full-body workout!

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