FYI: If you’re looking for a new mobility scooter that’s easy on the budget, read our guide to mobility scooters.
There are plenty of exercises you can do while sitting in your chair. If you have mobility loss or spend most of your time in a seated position, chair exercises can help you get your daily dose of exercise.
Studies show that many older adults are spending more time at home, focusing on sedentary activities such as watching TV or using a smartphone for extended periods of time. Fortunately, there are ways to curb the lack of physical activity, such as by doing seated exercises. I’ll discuss some of the most common seated exercises that older adults can incorporate.
FYI: If you’re looking for a new mobility scooter that’s easy on the budget, read our guide to mobility scooters.
There are many benefits of doing chair exercises. Some of the benefits include increased flexibility and balance, along with better overall core strength. In some cases, seated chair exercises can also help reduce the risk of falls. Instead of sitting in your chair, you can use plenty of arm and leg movements to increase circulation and get your blood flowing and heart rate up.
Pro Tip: Accidental falls are the leading cause of injury or death among older adults ages 65 and up. Luckily, some medical alert systems with fall detection can help users get help in these emergencies.
Our favorite chair exercises for older adults provide low-impact exercise for people with limited mobility. Here are some techniques to try.
Seated arm exercises are simple exercises that you can do with your arms while in a comfortable seated position. I’ll go over in detail the types of arm exercises you can do to strengthen your core and arm muscles.
To begin this seated arm exercise, find a comfortable chair and a set of lightweight dumbbells. You can choose weighted wristbands that are usually under a pound or a set of dumbbells that are two to four pounds, depending on your level of comfort. Make sure that you’re standing straight, without a curved spine. From there, lift your dumbbells and keep your hands to the side with your palms comfortably out, elbows in, and feet planted on the ground. Good posture is important for this exercise because you don’t want to put any unnecessary strain on your body or cause injury.
Next, gently curl or lift both dumbbells at the same time inward, or toward your body, for a few seconds and then back down. As you build more core strength and flexibility, you can increase the weight. Dumbbell curls are a great chair exercise because they help build core strength, improve focus, and keep your arms moving during sedentary activities. One of the pitfalls of this exercise is that some people tend to rotate their shoulders or lift their feet off the ground. It’s important to tuck your stomach in, keep your shoulders and back straight, and focus on moving your arms for a good workout.
The overhead press exercise is a great strength exercise that older adults can do while seated in a chair. It helps build strength and improve flexibility and coordination while exercising the shoulders and relieving stiff muscles. For the overhead press, you will need two lightweight dumbbells.
To start this exercise, make sure your feet are properly planted on the ground, with your shoulders and back against the chair. Hold your dumbbells with your palms facing forward and begin slowly raising your arms straight up and then down. Repeat this at least 10 times. Make sure you’re raising your dumbbells all the way over your shoulders, and don’t forget to inhale and exhale. It’s important not to arch your back or slouch during this exercise to avoid injury or strain.
This is a great five-minute exercise that older adults can do using their chair as an exercise tool. To begin this exercise, make sure you have a sturdy chair or place it against the wall for more support. Stand toward the chair and put your body weight with your arms slightly bent, toward the chair seat, in a diagonal position. Your feet should be pointed back toward the ground.
Once this is established, you can slowly bend your elbows and push your bodyweight toward the chair. Once your chin almost reaches the chair seat, bring your body back to its original position and repeat the pushups again with at least eight to 12 reps, or however many you feel comfortable doing. This is an advanced chair exercise, but it’s a great modified version of regular floor pushups, which may cause more strain to the knees and joints.
For tricep extensions, you will need just one dumbbell. These exercises are great for working out your arms and tightening up your triceps — all while sitting in a chair. To begin this exercise, sit straight in your chair with your hips all the way back. Make sure your chest is out straight and your core is tightened for extra support as you do these exercises. Grab one dumbbell and put it in your left hand with your palm facing your head. From there, gently raise your left elbow and put it over your shoulders, keeping your right hand underneath the left elbow for support.
When doing this exercise, make sure you’re safely raising the dumbbell in the back of your head, not in front. Once you’re done working out the left tricep, it’s time to do the same thing with the other arm. In total, you should try to work out both arms and triceps for at least seven to 10 minutes. To make it easier, you can count to three seconds when you’re slowly lifting your elbow over your shoulder.
Seated core exercises help engage and strengthen your abdominal muscles. Here are some of the best techniques.
Leg raises are a great way to build stamina and flexibility. For older adults who can’t go for walks or jogs outdoors, leg raises from your chair can be a great option. To begin this exercise, make sure you’re sitting in good posture with your back straight, your abs tightened, and your chest raised. For extra balance and support, you can keep your hands on the sides of your chair while focusing on feet movement.
Make sure both feet are elevated and diagonal from your hips. Then slowly lift one leg as far outward as possible while the other leg stays rested. Do this six to eight times, or however long you feel comfortable, and repeat with the opposite leg. You don’t need any particular exercise equipment for this exercise other than a chair, but you can add resistance bands or ankle weights for more resistance.
To practice leg kicks while seated, sit at the edge of your chair in a comfortable position. Try to maintain good posture, and keep your back straight and your core tightened throughout. Then put your hands out on the side of the chair to help keep your balance. From here, you’ll want to keep your feet in a diagonal position with your toes pointed forward. Start your leg kicks by lifting one leg and then the other in faster increments without touching the ground. A great way to visualize this exercise is to think you’re splashing your legs in water and bringing them back up to the surface. You can do eight to 12 reps of this exercise, but you can certainly modify it to your liking.
If you’ve ever seen someone do a flat plank on the ground, you can certainly modify this plank to make it easier on the joints and body. If you have wrist problems from arthritis, a modified plank might be a good seated option. This exercise is great for working out the glutes, building core strength, and enhancing posture. To do this exercise, use a chair and put your hands against the edge of the chair with your shoulder comfortably over your wrist.
When your shoulders are in the correct form, you can move toward a planking motion by gently moving your body in a diagonal position and keeping your toes arched and pointed toward the ground. As you move your chest toward the chair, hold that position for at least 20 to 30 seconds, and then repeat. You can do this twice or increase your reps depending on the level of comfort. You can also modify this plank even more by using a wall instead of a chair.
A tummy twist is a great seated exercise for older adults who want to work out their abdominal muscles and tighten their cores. To begin this exercise, you will need a small exercise ball. Make sure you’re sitting straight, with your chest out front and your core tightened. Use both hands to hold the ball, keeping your elbows slightly bent for comfort and flexibility.
Next, begin by lifting the exercise ball and slowly rotating it from the center position, to the left, and then right (or vice versa). Continue doing full rotations at least 10 times, and continue the exercise if you feel you can. This exercise is great for the gut and for aiding digestion, as well as improving circulation.
FYI: A healthy gut is a result of proper exercise, nutrition, and diet. To get healthy meals delivered to your door, check out our rundown of the best meal delivery for seniors.
Seated leg exercises help workout your legs, glutes, and lower body to optimize strength, flexibility, and coordination. What’s more, you can tone your legs and have an optimal workout from the convenience of your seat.
To perform this exercise, try to sit as far back in your chair as possible with your legs resting on the ground. Inhale and exhale with your shoulders relaxed and chest out. Then straighten out your right foot and gently bring it back down to the floor by counting to four. Repeat on the same right foot, using your quad strength to gently lift the knee and count to four.
If you’d like, you can add a few ankle weights for a more advanced workout. However, this is optional, and it’s important to listen to how your body feels. You can do the knee extensions on both the left and right legs for a total of at least 16 reps (or eight on each side). Doing this exercise will give your quads and legs quite the workout even when you’re seated.
If you have a lot of hip, joint, or knee pain, this seated exercise might help alleviate some of the tension while improving circulation. Find a comfortable, fluffy medium-sized pillow. You can fold it in half and place it between your knees for comfort and support. Squeeze the pillow tightly for five or 10 seconds, and then gently move your knees away from one another.
Repeat this exercise as many times as you’d like. Alternatively, you can use a rolled up towel in place of a pillow if you prefer. When you’re doing this exercise, don’t forget to inhale when tightly holding the pillow and then exhaling during the release.
For this particular exercise, you can choose to add resistance bands for support above the knees. Or you can choose not to use resistance bands and use the support from your chair seat. First, sit with your back straight against the chair in good posture. Bring both of your legs together and then slowly move them apart in opposite directions to build resistance.
You should feel a burn, and the resistance bands can help you achieve an even more advanced workout. This exercise is great for working out the hips, including the inner and outer thighs. It also aids in restoring balance and flexibility among seniors with limited mobility. You can repeat this exercise 10 times or whatever number of reps you’re comfortable doing.
For this exercise, you’ll exercise both your ankles and your lower body. To begin, make sure you’re comfortably seated with your back straight, core tightened, and arms placed on your side. Then straighten out your knees and legs, and move your feet up and down while comfortably seated in a chair. Continue focusing on moving both your ankles in an upward and downward motion, and maintain that position for three to five seconds.
The goal of this exercise is to maintain straight knees and continuously move your ankles. Try to do this exercise at least eight to 10 times per day or as much as you are able. When done regularly, this exercise can greatly improve circulation among older adults and help stretch the back of your knees and quads.
This is a fun aerobic chair exercise that you can do on a daily basis. To begin, make sure you’re sitting comfortably on a chair without arching your back too much. Keep your arms relaxed on the side and start doing a march by moving your left and right legs in a fast-paced motion. Try to focus on building resistance and bringing your legs as high as you can to get a proper abdominal workout. If you can, move your arms as though you are marching on the ground. The goal is to do at least 15 to 20 full marches from your chair.
There are several types of seated stretching exercises that you can do to stretch your legs, hips, and neck.
If you suffer from joint pain or a stiff neck, it may be time to release that pain with simple exercises from your chair. To begin the neck turn exercise, sit comfortably in your chair with your legs equal distance apart. Keep your feet planted on the ground, and take a deep breath. Tilt and rotate your head to the left side as far as you can. Hold this pose for at least 20 seconds. Bring your head gently back to the center, and then rotate your head to the right side, holding that pose for another 20 seconds.
Repeat this exercise at least three to five times, or as much as you’d like. This is a great exercise for older seniors who spend a lot of time reading or checking their smartphones and thus have tech neck or a stiff neck due to lack of mobility or motion. This exercise can help loosen the muscles and relieve tension in the neck.
Seated backbends are a great chair exercise for seniors who experience pain or stiffness in the lower back or other parts of the body. To practice this exercise, start by sitting toward the edge of the chair in a comfortable position with your back straight and core engaged. Take a deep breath, place your hands on your waist, and then gently bend your body backward using your upper-body strength.
Once you feel a deep stretch, keep this pose for 10 to 20 seconds, but don’t overextend if you feel any pain. You can repeat this pose three to five times, or as needed. For older adults with back problems, this exercise can help release tension in the body while seated.
For this exercise, begin by sitting on the halfway point of your chair, toward the edge. Make sure your feet are comfortably planted on the ground for support. Then slowly raise your arms until they are fully extended overhead. Keep your arms there for at least 10 to 20 seconds with your core engaged. Then release the pose and bring your arms back to your legs. Repeat this exercise and try doing it three to five more times, or as needed. Overhead stretches are great for building arm strength, restoring circulation in the body, and maintaining balance.
To perform seated side stretches, find a comfortable seat at the edge of a chair. Make sure you maintain your balance by keeping both feet planted on the ground. Using your right hand, place your palm on the seat while you gently raise the left arm and curve it into a “C” shape. Hold that pose for 10 to 20 seconds before switching to the other side. This time, put your left hand facing down on the chair for support while raising your right arm and curving it to feel a deep stretch in your shoulders and arms. This workout is great for working out your torso. Make sure you are sitting comfortably with your core engaged.
For seated hip stretches, sit comfortably in your chair with your back against the chair rest and your spine in the proper position. Cross one leg over your other leg, which is comfortably rested on the ground for support. Bending your body, gently bring yourself forward and feel a deep hip stretch. Hold this pose for 10 to 20 seconds and then shift to the other leg while bringing the exercised leg to a rested position. Seated hip stretches are great for older adults with hip problems or those who are sedentary or in seated positions for a long time.
Getting exercise doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to get out of your seat. Fortunately, there are many simple exercises that can be practiced on a daily or regular basis from the comfort of your own chair or wheelchair. Seated exercises such as neck turns, leg raises, and dumbbell curls can help enhance flexibility and circulation in the body and alleviate stiff muscles and tension in the body.
Incorporating simple seated exercises can be a great health investment if you’re a senior with limited mobility, neuropathy, or other medical conditions that might make it hard to stand up and do traditional exercises. Whether it’s doing 10 reps for five minutes or 30 minutes of daily seated exercises, a little goes a long way.
Sitting in a chair for long periods of time can have a negative impact on your health. To increase movement, you can do several seated exercises to help you lose belly fat and work out your abdominal and leg muscles.
Some of the best chair exercises for older adults include leg raises, tummy twists, and seated stretching exercises to work out the hips.
Exercising two or four times a week, or 30 minutes a day, can help older adults improve their overall health.
You can still exercise while watching TV or sitting in a chair for extended periods of time using simple seated exercises such as neck turns and seated side stretches.
Yes. When practiced regularly, chair exercises can help improve circulation, strength, and balance among seniors.
Chair exercises are seated exercises that are practiced in a wheelchair or chair. They increase blood flow and circulation, and are a great alternative exercise for older adults with limited mobility.