15 Chair Exercises For Seniors To Improve Mobility And Strength

Written by Charushila Biswas , MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist

Chair exercises are low-impact seated workouts to help older adults improve mobility, stability, balance, and coordination (1).  Dr. Blessen Abraham, Chiropractor, says, “With age, joints become stiff and reduce the range of motion. This prompts seniors to sit as their bodies can’t handle standing for long periods, which leads to an added problem – leg pain.” Thankfully, chair exercises are safe and help improve range of motion and reduce pain gradually.

Dr. Brittany Ferri, MS, Ph.D., echoes the same thought. She says, “Chair exercises are great for people with balance issues that make standing exercising unsafe. It’s also simple for people in wheelchairs or those with trouble walking.” These exercises help seniors gradually progress to standing exercises with better ease and reduced risk of falls. It is also good for physical and mental well-being (2).

This article will take you through the 15 best full-body chair exercises for seniors, how to do them, and precautions to take. Scroll down!

Chair Exercises For Seniors Guidelines

Before starting the chair exercises, here’s what you need to do:

  • Take your doctor’s permission before doing these exercises.
  • Do them under the supervision of a physical therapist.
  • Ask a family member or a friend for assistance.
  • Sit on a chair, not on the sofa.
  • If you are doing these exercises on the bed, support your back with a pillow.
  • Always do a 10-minute warm-up. If you have arthritis, use a hot bag to warm up your knee and the surrounding area.
  • Focus on form instead of sets and reps.
  • Think positive.

Following these guidelines will prevent injuries and help you reap the maximum benefits of exercising mentioned below.

Benefits Of Chair Exercises For Seniors

  • Help maintain and develop strength (3)
  • Improve upper and lower extremity function (3)
  • Improve functional fitness (2)
  • Boost immunity (2)
  • Improve hormone balance (2)
  • Reduce stress and increases happiness (2)

Chair exercises will help you progress to standing exercises, improve gait strength, and boost your confidence to do other physical activities. This will ultimately improve your quality of life. The following section lists 15 chair exercises with pictures and steps to improve overall body strength, flexibility, and muscle function. Scroll down.

15 Best Chair Exercises For Seniors (With Pictures)

Take 10 minutes to warm up your muscles. Sit on the chair, support your back with a pillow if needed. Roll your shoulders, wrists, neck, arms, and ankles clockwise and anticlockwise. Lift your feet off the floor and extend your legs (one at a time). If you have arthritis, warm up the joints with a hot bag. Do a few arm circles, and you are ready to do the chair exercises. Let’s begin!

  • Arms And Upper Back

1. Raised Arm Extension

Difficulty Level: Easy
Target: Biceps, Shoulders, and Lats

How To Do

  • Sit on a chair. Keep your feet hip-width apart, and shoulders rolled back. Straighten your back and support it with a pillow (if required).
  • Extend your right arm straight up towards the ceiling and point your index finger. Look up.
  • Bring your right arm down.
  • Repeat the same with your left arm to complete one rep.
  • Do this 20 times, twice a day.

2. Seated Ts

Difficulty Level:  Medium
Target: Shoulders and Upper back

How To Do

  • Sit on the chair and keep your feet wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend forward, keep your back straight, and your hands extended.
  • Raise your hands with your little finger sticking out.
  • Stop when your arms are at the shoulder level. Bring them down.
  • Do this 10 times, twice a day.

Note: You can sit at the edge of the chair and do this exercise if you are comfortable.

3. Seated Bicep Curls With Weights

Difficulty Level: Medium
Target: Biceps

How To Do

  • Hold small water bottles or 1-pound dumbbells in each hand.
  • Sit on the chair. Keep your back straight, look forward, and let your hands be by your side.
  • Flex your elbows and bring your forearms up.
  • Pause for a moment and lower your forearms to complete one rep.
  • Do this 10 times, twice a day.

4. Seated Lateral Raises

Difficulty Level: Easy
Target: Lats, Chest, Shoulders, and Biceps

How To Do

  • Hold small water bottles or 1-pound dumbbells in each hand.
  • Sit on the chair, keep your back straight, look forward, and let your hands be by your side.
  • Raise your arms laterally till the shoulder level.
  • Lower your arms slowly back to the starting position.
  • Do 2 sets of 10 reps twice a day.
  •  Legs

5. Toe And Heel Raises

Difficulty Level: Easy
Target: Calves, Ankle extensors, and Flexors

How To Do

  • Sit on a chair with the back straight, and feet flat on the floor. Look forward.
  • Lift your toes with the heels still touching the floor.
  • Pause for a moment and lower your toes.
  • Lift your heels while the toes touch the floor.
  • Pause for a moment and lower your heels.
  • Do this 15 times, twice a day.

6. Seated Marching

Difficulty Level:  Medium
Target: Hamstrings, Quads, and Glutes

How To Do

  • Sit on a chair. Keep your back straight, shoulders rolled back, feet flat on the floor, and look forward.
  • You may hold the seat of your chair to do this exercise.
  • Lift your right foot, keep your knee flexed, and move the knee up towards the ceiling.
  • Lower the right foot to its previous position.
  • Repeat the same with your left foot to complete one rep.
  • Do 2 sets of 10 reps twice a day.

7. Seated Leg Extension

Difficulty Level: Easy
Target: Quads and Hamstrings

How To Do

  • Sit on a chair with your back straight, shoulders rolled back, and feet flat on the floor. Look forward.
  • Hold the seat of your chair by your sides to do this exercise.
  • Slowly, and in a controlled motion, raise your leg and extend it.
  • Bring it back to the starting position slowly.
  • Do this 10 times for each leg.
  • Do 2 sets twice a day.

8. High Knee And Reach

Difficulty Level: Advanced
Target: Quads, Hamstrings, Biceps, Shoulders, and Lats

How To Do

  • Sit on a chair with your back straight. Look forward, curl your palms into fists, and keep your hands at your chest level.
  • Raise your right hand straight towards the ceiling.
  • Simultaneously, lift your left foot, keep your knee flexed, and bring it as high as possible.
  • Bring your hand and leg back to the starting position.
  • Repeat with the left hand and right leg to complete one rep.
  • Do 2 sets of 10 reps twice a day.
  • Core

9. Seated Twists

Difficulty Level: Medium
Target: Obliques

How To Do

  • Sit on a chair, clasp your hands together in front of you, and keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Fix your gaze on the clasped hands and twist your upper body to the right and left.
  • Stop if you feel dizzy. Take two deep breaths and do two more.
  • Do this 10 times, twice a day.

10. Elbow To Knee

Difficulty Level: Advanced
Target: Obliques, Abs, and Glutes

How To Do

  • Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor, and shoulders rolled back.
  • Place your hands at the back of your head.
  • Lift your right foot, and flex your knee.
  • Crunch down and try to touch your right knee with the left elbow.
  • Pause for a moment and go back to the starting position.
  • Lift your left foot and try to touch the left knee with the right elbow.
  • Do 2 sets of 10 reps twice a day.

11. Seated Side Bend

Difficulty Level: Medium
Target: Obliques and Abs

How To Do

  • Sit on a chair, spread your hands out to the sides at shoulder height, and look ahead.
  • Bend your body to the right, keeping your feet firmly on the floor, and without flexing your elbows. Try to touch the floor.
  • Come back up.
  • Bend your body to the left. Try to touch the floor.
  • Do 2 sets of 10 reps twice a day.

12. Touch The Floor

Difficulty Level: Medium
Target: Upper and Lower Abs

How To Do

  • Sit on a chair. Keep your feet flat on the floor, and shoulders rolled back, and look forward.
  • Hinge from your waist and bend forward. Keep your back straight.
  • Try to touch the floor.
  • You may move your legs apart to allow this movement.
  • Come back up and breathe.
  • Do 2 sets of 10 reps twice a day.
  • Stretches

13. Seated Neck Stretch

Difficulty Level: Easy
Target: Neck muscles and Upper traps

How To Do

  • Sit on the chair comfortably with shoulders rolled back and look forward.
  • Look to your right. Count to three.
  • Look to your left. Count to three.
  • Look forward and lower your head to stretch your upper traps.
  • Do this 5 times, two to three times a day.

14. Steated Leg Stretch

Difficulty Level: Medium
Target: Calves, Hamstrings, Glutes, and Lower back

How To Do

  • Sit on the chair and extend your legs with your heels on the ground.
  • Place your hands behind your head, keep your elbows out, and shoulders rolled back. Look forward. This is the starting position.
  • Hinge from your waist, keep your back straight, and lower your upper body as far as you can. Feel the stretch behind your legs.
  • Count to 5 and come back to the starting position.
  • Do this 5 times, twice a day.

15. Seater Upper Body Stretch

Difficulty Level: Medium
Target: Triceps, Biceps, Shoulders, and Upper back

How To Do

  • Sit on a chair.
  • Place another chair in front of you.
  • Lean forward and place both your hands on the back of the chair, with the palms facing each other. This is the starting position.
  • Hinge from your waist and lower your body forward. Stop when your face is parallel to the floor.
  • Count to 10.
  • Get back to the starting position.
  • Do this 5 times, twice a day.

These are the 15 chair exercises you can do to improve range of motion, balance, and coordination gradually. But can they also help you shed belly fat? Let’s find out in the next section.

Is It Possible To Lose Belly Fat With Chair Exercises?

No. It is impossible to lose belly fat completely with chair exercises. Dr. Brittany Ferri, Ph.D., says, “Many of those exercises do work the core, which is where the abs are. This can help a bit with belly fat, but chair exercises will not give someone a majorly fit core unless they are also eating right and burning calories another way.”

It is advisable to focus on improving your range of motion, balance, muscle strength, and coordination before you move on to standing aerobic exercises, which will help you shed belly fat.

Also, do not overdo the chair exercises. Scroll down to find out how often you should do them for the best results.

How Often To Do These Exercises And Stretches

Dr. Chad Walding, DPT, advises, “It’s important to practice chair exercises daily, even if it’s just 10-15 minutes.” Start with the lowest number of exercises and sets and reps, and gradually increase their numbers as you build your muscle strength. But what if you have stiff joints that limit your mobility? Scroll down to find out.

What To Do If I Have Limited Mobility?

Dr. Brittany Ferri, Ph.D., advises, “Start gently and listen to your body. Don’t push past any signs of pain or discomfort. Try doing this with a friend to add a social aspect. If you are unsure of specific guidelines, ask your physical therapist or follow videos online that guide you through entire sequences of exercises or specific movements.”

Board Certified in Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Dr. Stephanie Carter Kelley, PT, Ph.D., OCS, says, “Start with the highest chair seat in the house or put a thick book on the seat of the chair.  But over time, when the movement gets easier, move to a lower seat or remove the book.” Ask your physical therapist to assist while you exercise.

While it is beneficial to do chair exercises, lubricate your joints, and improve your physical and mental well-being, you have to be cautious. Scroll down for a list of precautions to take while doing these exercises to prevent injuries and falling.

What Precautions To Take?

  • Use a sturdy chair.
  • Place a rug or carpet on the floor.
  • Take a warm water bath before exercising.
  • Take your physical therapist’s help.
  • Use light weights if you wish to increase resistance.
  • Do group exercises.
  • Do as many sets and reps as you can comfortably.
  • Stop immediately if you experience sharp pain.
  • Get adequate rest.

Takeaway

Chair exercises are best for seniors with limited mobility and balance. Doing these regularly will help improve physical strength, mental well-being, and the confidence to do daily tasks without assistance. Talk to your doctor and get an appointment with a licensed physical therapist to get started with chair exercises today. In a few months, you will regain your strength and improve your quality of life!

References:

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Developing the principles of chair based exercise for older people: a modified Delphi study
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC4039312/
  2. Combined Chair-Based Exercises Improve Functional Fitness, Mental Well-Being, Salivary Steroid Balance, and Anti-microbial Activity in Pre-frail Older Women
    https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.564490/full
  3. The Effect of Chair-Based Exercise on Physical Function in Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC7920319/

Recommended Articles

Was this article helpful?
The following two tabs change content below.