Exercises Using a Chair for Older Adults

For an older adult who has been inactive or is recovering from an injury it is often suggested to begin a routine of exercises using a chair. There are endless variations that can be done with these basics.  Adding in some special equipment such as a weighted ball, stretch bands and small hand weights can be done as you gain strength.  

Always consult a doctor before starting to workout if you have any injuries, illnesses or medical conditions. No exercise should cause pain. For added safety, have a family member be with you in your first sessions. 

Choose a chair with a hard seat that allows you to keep your knees bent at 90 degrees when seated. Sit tall and use you abdominals to stay that way throughout the workout. Start out doing as many repetitions as you can and work up to 12-16. When ready increase to two or more sets of 12-16 repetitions. Do this 2-3 times a week, taking a day of rest in between. 

Seated Exercises

Seated Marching. Alternate lifting each knee as if marching. Use your arms as if you were standing 

Boxing. Make fists and box the air out in front of you for a minute. This is a great warm up.

Shoulder Shrug. Pull your shoulders up toward your ears, and lower back down. Repeat.

Leg Extension. Grasp the seat of the chair with your hands. Straighten your right knee, lifting your leg out in front of you. Lower to the floor. Repeat with the other leg. 

Heel & Toe Raises. With your feet flat on the floor, rise up on to your toes and then lower your heels. Repeat. Next, keep you heels on the floor and raise up your toes. Lower and repeat 

Lateral Arm Raises. Sit tall in the chair. Place you arms down at your sides, palms facing in. Raise them up as high as you can and lower back to your sides. Repeat.

Arm Circles. Extend your arms out to the sides. Slowly rotate your arms forward five times and backwards five times. Lower your arms back to your sides.

Arm Curls.  Place your arms down at your sides, palms facing front. Make a fist and curl your fist up toward your shoulders. Lower and repeat.

Shoulder Press. Take you arms out to side, bending your elbows, fists up. Raise your fists up past your ears, straightening your arms as much as you can, hands high over your head. Lower down until your elbows are even with your shoulders. From this position repeat the exercise. 

Spine Twist. Sit straight in the chair. Clasp your hands together in front of you. Slowly twist gently at your waist to the right, looking to the right. Only go as far as you can. Return to center. Repeat to the left.

Standing Exercises

The following exercises are done standing behind or next to the chair. Make sure your chair is sturdy and will not be easily tipped. Make sure you have enough space around you.

Heel & Toe Raises. Stand behind the chair and firmly grasp the back of the chair. With your feet flat on the floor, rise up on to your toes and then lower your heels. Repeat. Next, keep you heels on the floor and raise up your toes. Lower and repeat.

Mini-Squat. Stand behind the chair and firmly grasp the back of the chair. Slowing bend your knees and go only as low as feels comfortable. Keep your back straight and look straight ahead, not down. Return to standing and repeat. 

Lateral Leg Swing. Stand to the right of the chair with you left hand on the back of the chair. Place your right hand on your hip. With your back straight and looking straight ahead, raise your right leg out to the side without bending the knee or bending at the waist and keeping the toes pointed forward. Lift only as high as comfortable for your hip joint. Repeat the exercise. Move the other side of the chair and repeat with the other leg.

These are just a few exercises to get you started. Classes that feature exercises like these are one of the many benefits of living in a senior community, but don’t let that stop you! Our local PBS Channel 36 has a great exercise program, Sit and Be Fit in the morning at 8:30 am.