People of every age can benefit from exercise. As our bodies get older, we often shrug it off, thinking we’re no longer capable or it’s not necessary. But the truth is that seniors can greatly benefit from exercising, possibly even more so than other ages.
Using chair exercises for seniors allows the senior to modify activities and still get in a quality workout. Workouts can improve their bodies in so many ways, helping to keep them limber, active, and strong no matter their age.
In this guide, we will walk you through the advantages of simple chair exercises for seniors. We will also share with you several different exercise options, from low impact to balance to whole body chair exercises for seniors.
Read more below!
For some seniors, it might be harder to do a lot of standing exercises. It’s not that they are weak or fragile but rather that their bodies have changed over time. Their bodies could have a weaker bone structure, and their health might affect their ability to do a lot of standing or heavy exercises.
The beauty of a chair exercise is that you can experience a full array of different techniques and moves for just about any need. For example, wheelchair exercises for seniors allow the individual who is primarily Trusted SourceEvidence-Based Strategies for Preserving Mobility for Elderly and Aging Manual Wheelchair Users - PMC This review paper addresses important issues for preserving function and mobility for elderly and aging individuals who use an MWC by presenting the currently available evidence and recommendations. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov to be still active. These exercises are designed to improve mobility but also to protect their overall health too.
These are some of the known benefits of using seated exercises for seniors:
This is just a quick list, but there is a multitude of benefits that can be experienced here. And these exercises can also be used for young people who are wheelchair users or have mobility challenges as well.
Everybody’s bodies are different, and this is true for seniors too. So the question is, how much does an older adult Trusted SourceExercise: How much do I need every day? - Mayo Clinic For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends these exercise guidelines. www.mayoclinic.org ? Remember that there are different types of exercise out there. For example, walking is a great form of exercise, but that might not be a feasible option here.
Ideally, when doing simple chair exercises for seniors, the goal should be about 15-30 minutes a day. You can squeeze quite a bit into those 15 minutes. And if you’re sitting in a chair, you can even watch your favorite show or movie while you’re doing some of these exercises.
If a senior doesn’t feel able to exercise every single day, they should try every other day. Adding a simple tool to exercise with, like these best pedal exercisers for seniors, could be a great way to get in motion and mobility for hands and feet without using weights.
Before we get started looking into the physical exercises that can be used, let’s go over some basic needs and equipment that could come in handy. We shared the pedal machines already, but there are other things you might benefit from.
Take a look at these.
When doing chair exercises, it makes sense that you will need a quality chair. If you’re using a wheelchair, one of these best lightweight wheelchairs might be a great choice. If you are just using a chair, there are some details you are going to want to look for.
The most important element of this chair is stability. You want to know that it’s not going to fall over or be wobbly while you are doing these senior chair exercises. If you have a reliable kitchen chair, this might be a great choice.
Ultimately, you want a chair with a straight back. It should be comfortable but also supportive and stable at the same time. Using your recliner or some chair with tons of cushioning won’t provide you the support that you really need for effective exercises.
You should make up some sort of plan and schedule for your exercise routine. In a few moments, we will share several exercises – plan to rotate a variety of them from day to day. For example, one day, you might focus on core chair exercises for seniors. This day will center on your core and exercises that strengthen it.
Another day, you might turn to the upper body or arm chair exercises for seniors. In some cases, you might even be able to combine your core with your arm exercises. Figure out what will work best for you and rotate or work in different parts of the body with your exercises.
You don’t have to come up with some elaborate workout plan but have a basic idea of what you will work on one day and then rotate various moves.
There are a few pieces of equipment that might be beneficial to your exercise process. You can refer back to those pedal exercisers, but there are other options too. A pair of light dumbbells might be a great investment. Many reviewers recommend these simple 5 lb. dumbbells from the Amazon Basics Store because they have a nice grip and come in several colors.
Some seniors choose to use wrist or ankle weights that can just be slipped or strapped on. You might also use exercise bands for some resistance rather than weights. One other solution is a weighted medicine ball like this one from F2C. It comes in several different colors and weight options.
Any of these pieces of equipment will be useful for challenging yourself and making the most of your chair exercises.
Finally, before you start any type of chair exercise for seniors, it’s best to consult with your doctor. There may be limitations or recommendations to follow for your health and safety. The doctor is ultimately the authority on how much or how little you should be doing.
For example, if you have a known hip injury, you might need to be careful about the chair leg exercises for seniors that you use. Your doctor will be familiar with any injuries, surgeries, or health problems that might determine what type of exercise is best for you.
Every workout should always be started with a Trusted SourceWarm Up, Cool Down | American Heart Association “Warming up and cooling down are good for your exercise performance — you’ll do better, faster, stronger — and for your heart since the increased work on the heart ‘steps up’ with exercise,” said Richard Stein, M.D., professor of cardiology in the Department of Medicine at New York University and co-director of Cardiology Consult Services. www.heart.org . That goes for chair exercises too. The reason for this is that warming up will slowly wake up your muscles, giving them the chance to get warm and loose before you start making them work.
Warm up the area of your body you plan to work but also get the blood moving throughout the body too. Here are some really great warm-up options you can use.
Just try these few things for about 30 seconds at a time. Rotate through them two or three times before you start your exercises.
First up, let’s focus on arm chair exercises for seniors. You can work your shoulders as well as your arms, and there are several really great moves to use. Some of these easily fall into aerobic chair exercises, particularly if you use some weights or a resistance band to challenge yourself in the workout.
Check out these arm-related exercises.
First are your Trusted SourceShoulder Muscles: Anatomy, Function & Common Conditions Your shoulder muscles form the outer shape of the shoulder and underarm. They aid in movement and help protect and maintain the shoulder joint. my.clevelandclinic.org As far as anatomy is concerned, your shoulders are a huge part of raising your arms and anything that requires motion above your head. This muscle group is considered complex and very large, so you don’t want to neglect it.
Your shoulders will play a part in reaching but also support you when you need to put pressure on your arms for standing up or transferring as well. In each of these, be sure to sit with your hips as far back in the chair as possible. Try to keep your back straight and your core engaged.
Take a look at these shoulder exercises.
The seated shoulder press is an easy place to start. You just need some light weights, whatever you are comfortable managing. You can do two or three reps of these, and it will only take about 4 minutes. If you’re doing a 10-minute chair exercise for seniors, you will have plenty of time left to build in other exercises.
Follow these steps for the seated shoulder press:
You would be surprised how much you raise your arms to hold items out to others or even shake a hand. Here is a simple front shoulder raise. Use dumbbells or even a medicine ball for this one.
Your chest is one of the primary sources of arm and upper body strength. These upper body chair exercises for seniors are primarily focused on your chest but will also engage your core as well. Again, be sure to move your hips as far back in the chair as possible, tighten the core and keep your back straight.
The seated chest press uses your arms to move in a way that strengthens your pectoral muscles and also works some of your shoulder muscles. A resistance band would be great for this one, but you can also use dumbbells or a medicine ball.
Follow these steps:
Modified push-ups are another great exercise. We don’t expect you to try to get on the floor, but you can modify them to standing and using a chair as your surface. You could also try this pushing against a wall at an angle.
Before you try this one, ensure you are stable on your feet and can endure the position. Also, ensure your chair is stable and won’t move or slide. Here are the steps:
Your biceps are perhaps one of the essential arm muscles to work. You use them for lifting and the majority of your arm movements. You can work your biceps through low-impact chair exercises for seniors or even develop them through yoga and Pilates movements too.
Bicep curls are simple and fall into the easy category. Just like with other seated exercises, engage your core and sit as far back in the chair as possible. Keep your back straight.
Triceps are often overlooked, but working them might help to tighten up and restore your underarm area, particularly if you have loose or hanging skin there.
The isolated triceps extension just works one arm at a time. It’s good to pair with your shoulders as you will need a range of motion to accomplish the exercise properly. Because of that, this is a medium-level exercise.
Follow these steps.
Almost everything you do is linked to your core. This is why Trusted SourceThe real-world benefits of strengthening your core - Harvard Health Think of your core muscles as the sturdy central link in a chain connecting your upper and lower body. Thus, weak or inflexible core muscles can impair how well your arms and legs function. A strong core also enhances balance and stability. www.health.harvard.edu is vital to your exercise routine. You can use chair balance exercises for seniors to benefit your core, but many of these moves will really be working multiple muscles and benefit stability and balance in the process.
In many of these core exercises, you will sit towards the front of the chair but not in a position that will make you fall out. You can recline slightly back, using the chair back for support. However, keep your back straight and always engage that core!
This first option will work your core but will also work your legs too. The seated knee to chest bends your knees towards you. You can do both together or one leg at a time.
If you do one leg at a time, you will do the exact same movements. Just be sure to work both legs the same number of times.
This will be a similar move, but it’s slightly more challenging as you will keep your legs extended and then raise them. With these chair leg exercises for seniors, you can do both legs together or do one leg at a time.
Do you remember learning to kick your legs in the water during swimming lessons or maybe when you were a kid? This exercise somewhat mimics that movement. This is a more advanced move so work your way up to it. If you struggle with the extended leg raises we just covered, build your strength before moving to this one.
Modified planks are another advanced movement as they require maneuverability and balance. With traditional planks, you would be on the floor like a pushup, but this modified version uses a chair instead. It’s a great choice of chair-ab exercises for seniors if you are able to do it.
Tummy twists are perfect for that medicine ball we mentioned earlier. You can hold it in a steady position in front of your body. You can do this without weight or also use dumbbells, but the medicine ball is simple and effective here.
Your legs are used regularly for stability, balance, walking, and other forms of movement. Even when you use a wheelchair, you should do leg exercises to keep circulation moving as it should, unless you are unable to do so.
These chair leg exercises for seniors will help strengthen your legs and also will be easier on your joints and bones as you work on them from the chair. If you are unable to stand, stick to the exercises below that you can do fully seated.
The sit-to-stand exercise will require you to come to a standing position and hold it if you are able. Keep your chair behind you if you feel weak and need just to sit. Follow these steps:
Modified squats are slightly more challenging, and you will need to be cautious to protect your knees. Correct quatting will help prevent Trusted SourceHow to Squat Correctly | Arthritis Foundation Learn how to avoid adding pain to sore knees caused by arthritis by following simple steps for proper squatting and building strength. www.arthritis.org . Here, you will be using a chair to help you squat.
Knee extensions are done from a sitting position. These will be simple to accomplish and are great for low-impact chair exercises for seniors.
Heel slides are another seated exercise. For this one, you will sit towards the front of your chair rather than the back. It is recommended that you avoid this exercise if you have severe knee pain, as it could cause further pain or pressure on your knees.
Calf raises from a seated position will work your calf muscles in the same way a squat might. It’s great for your lower legs. These moves are common in chair Pilates exercises for seniors as they are low-impact, stretching movements that also work the muscles and joints in this area.
We recommend both legs at once, but you can do your legs separately. Just be sure to do the same number of reps. You could also add some challenges by holding your legs in the raised position for several seconds at a time.
Working out from a chair doesn’t always get the heart pumping, but you can do aerobic chair exercises for seniors to stimulate blood flow and maybe even work up a sweat. Some of those things like jumping jacks and Trusted SourceThe Importance of Aerobic Activity Aerobic exercise is an important aspect of living a healthy lifestyle. Running, biking, swimming, and even walking can provide people with a host of health benefits that can last their entire lives. sites.psu.edu can be modified to do from your chair.
Check these out!
Seated jumping jacks are pretty simple and will use your whole body too. These make great chair exercises for seniors with dementia to keep them active and in motion. Seated towards the front of the chair, you’re just going to extend your arms and raise them and lower them as if you were doing jumping jacks.
If you’re feeling braced, you can extend your legs to the side and then bring them back in. However, just the act of extending your arms and then returning them in quick motions will do a lot for you here.
Do about 20 seated jumping jacks, breathe a moment, and then do a couple more sets if you can.
This move is more challenging, but give it a try and see if it works for you. You can also modify the movements if necessary.
You’re going to sit at the edge of the chair and make movements to resemble skating. Push one leg out to the side and straighten it while keeping the other leg bent in front of you. Straighten your arms in front of you and bend. Start by reaching one arm to your bent foot and raising the other arm up behind your body as you twist your core.
Come back to your starting position and repeat the move 10 times. Switch legs and do the other side, twisting the opposite way. Try to do two or three sets.
Chair running is the perfect way to run without actually running. It’s also not terribly hard to do. Sit comfortably and extend your legs in front of you. Recline back just slightly but keep your back straight. Now pull one leg toward you, bending the knee as if you were jogging.
Then bring the leg down and switch legs. Try to move quickly in succession. Move your arms or use your arms to grip the chair and keep you balanced.
One full set is 8 repetitions with each leg. Repeat one or two times if possible.
Seated peddling is a great option! If you liked the idea of a pedaling exercise machine, go ahead and snag one of those that we shared earlier. You could also just make the pedaling motion if you prefer. This is considered easy, especially with a pedal machine.
If you have a pedal exerciser, place it in a comfortable position in front of you. Pedal for a minimum of 15 minutes, moving your arms some as well.
If you are doing this manually, move your legs in a slow pedaling position for 20 reps. Rest and repeat if you can.
Who doesn’t love good tap dance? This exercise just taps your toe to the ground while in an extended leg position. Keep your back straight and core engaged. Tap the floor several times with one leg and then repeat exactly on the other.
Try different moves and patterns to change it up.
Try to incorporate stretching into your exercises at least 2-3 times each week. You can do yoga chair exercises for seniors for a great stretch or work in some of these simple exercises.
The neck turn is simple but effective. Sit in your chair, and keep your back and neck straight. Slowly turn your neck far to the right and then far to the left. Hold on each side for about 20 seconds. Repeat this a few times.
Stretch your back, shoulders, and chest with this one. Sit towards the middle of your chair, with your back and neck straight. Place your hands on your hips and arch your back, pushing the chest and stomach out. Lean slightly as you bend.
Stretch as far as you are able and hold for about 10 seconds. Repeat up to 5 times.
The seated overhead stretch is similar but will also stretch your arms upward. Sit towards the middle of your chair, with your back straight. Raise your hands, stretching them while arching your back slightly. Bind your hands together at the top and pull upward, looking up as well.
Hold for 10 seconds and return. Repeat a few times.
This will stretch your sides and your arms. Sit towards the edge of the chair and keep your back straight and core tightened. Start with your right arm and lift it high above you. Curve your body slightly to the side as you stretch. Repeat this on the other side.
Each time, hold several seconds. Repeat 3-5 times.
Your hips play a huge role in your mobility and need to be included in these chair exercises for seniors. This move may be more challenging if you have limited mobility, but it’s a great stretch for your hip flexors.
Sit in your chair however you’re comfortable but keep your feet flat on the floor. Cross one leg by setting the ankle on top of the other leg. Your leg should be in a triangle if possible. Keep your back straight and bend forward slightly if you can to get a good stretch.
Switch legs and repeat. Try to hold for about 10 seconds on each leg and then repeat at least three times.
Many of these exercises are designed to be effective for mobile seniors but also for seniors who might use a wheelchair. Since these are all seated exercises for seniors, you can do them in any type of chair, even a wheelchair.
Do your best to complete the moves as much as you can. Even if you can’t get a full range of motion, you can likely still complete each move in some way.
Some seniors who use wheelchairs struggle with pressure points from the positions they are stuck in. You can often help relieve these by using one of the best wheelchair cushions for pressure sores. You may find that a cushion like this relieves some painful pressure, allowing for more movement to do at least some exercises.
Finally, let’s cover a few simple exercises that can contribute to flexibility. Aerobics, arms, cores, and legs are all important. But your flexibility is also important to contribute to your range of motion and movement.
If you have any type of back pain, this stretching could be beneficial for relief. Sit straight in the chair, as far back as you can, with your feet resting flat on the floor. Lean forward slowly, keeping your back straight and your neck relaxed as you lower towards your feet as much as possible.
Hold the stretch for at least 10 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.
This may be more challenging if your knees have a limited range of motion, but it’s a great stretch. Sit up straight, with feet planted on the floor. Lift one knee up toward your chest, holding the back of the knee with your hands to help pull it.
Bring as close as possible and hold several seconds. Release and do the other leg. Repeat 3 times.
If you can rest your ankle on your knee, do that. If not, lift your ankle slightly off the floor and hold it. Simply rotate your ankle in small circles. Do clockwise and counterclockwise. Try 10 circles each way. Switch legs and do the same. Repeat 2 more times.
Use proper posture, sitting with your back straight. For this exercise, put your knees together and plant your feet on the floor. Stretch upward, extending your hand toward the ceiling and looking upward at the same time. Reach without lifting your body up and hold 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Do this 3 times on each side.
Your safety is important. This is why we recommend checking with your doctor. Never push your body in such a way that you will endure an injury. Know your limits. You should be pushing slightly and may feel slight discomfort, but don’t make it painful, either.
These are some safety tips to keep in mind when doing chair exercises for seniors:
The ability to exercise with modifications for your age or your body makes it much easier for every person to get in some type of workout. You don’t have to hurt yourself to stretch, improve mobility, and keep yourself active in whatever ways you can.
These chair exercises for seniors allow you just to do what you can and still challenge your body in the process. Always keep safety in mind and learn to know your limits so you don’t injure yourself or aggravate an existing injury.
The benefits of exercise are astronomical and will help you age gracefully. Find exercises that challenge you but also produce results, even if you are just spending 15 minutes a day doing a few things. It’s well worth the effort.