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Best Chair Exercises for Seniors

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Best Chair Exercises For Seniors
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Best Chair Exercises For Seniors

April 15, 2021

Seniors looking to maintain or integrate an exercise routine into their lifestyle don’t need to move further than their chair to achieve a great workout. Seated exercises for seniors offer a spectrum of benefits, including providing a safe exercise environment with a smaller risk of falling or injury. Chair exercises for seniors can be used by everyone — no matter physical skill level — including those who are in a wheelchair. 

a group of seniors doing chair exercises together

Are There Exercises Seniors Should Avoid? 

While not common, it is possible for seniors to over-exercise. Seniors should avoid exercises that make them feel dizzy, lightheaded or nauseous. According to the National Institutes of Health, seniors should aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity weekly along with strength conditioning, balance and flexibility exercises. The following list of chair exercises for seniors can help achieve those goals. 

What is The Best Exercise For Seniors?

There are countless benefits of chair exercises for seniors. They can be done with any stable chair available, and the exercises can be practiced anywhere. The exercises are also accessible and safe.

What Exercises Can I Do Sitting in a Chair?

There are many chair exercises and stretches that aim to build strength and alleviate muscle tension. Below, we’ve rounded up 15 effective exercises that focus on core, arms, legs and flexibility.

Seated Exercises for Seniors

Exercises in a chair for seniors are a great way to safely move muscles and build strength, which is key to aging healthfully. Regardless of skill level or physical competency, sitting exercises for seniors allow anyone to easily add physical activity into their daily routine. The benefits of exercise are vast, including building strong muscles, supporting bone health, preventing strokes and boosting heart health.

Core Focused Chair Exercises

Essential to everything we do each day, a strong core is key to maintaining good posture and strong muscles, easing muscle tension and avoiding slips and falls. A strong core also helps avoid exercise injuries.

Seated Knee-to-Chest

An effective exercise that targets the core, seated knee-to-chests also develop joint range of motion and spinal flexibility. Throughout the exercise, keep your back straight, your core tight and stick your chest out.

  • Sit comfortably at the edge of the chair.
  • Place both hands at the sides of the chair and grip the seat for stability.
  • Place both feet far out in front of your body and point toes toward the ceiling.
  • Slowly, raise both legs closer to your body while bending the knees. Get to as close to your chest with both knees as possible.
  • Slowly, return to the starting position using the same motion. 

Leg Kicks

Leg kicks target the core and aim to improve posture, stability and balance. It is very similar to how swimmers kick their legs in water. Throughout the exercise, remember to keep your back straight and your core tight.

  • Sit comfortably at the edge of the chair.
  • Place both hands at the sides of the chair and grip the seat for stability.
  • Place both feet far out in front of your body and point your toes forward. Both feet should be diagonal to the hips. When shifting both feet in front, slowly lean your upper body backward to stabilize.
  • Lift one leg up to the highest point possible, or parallel to your hips, without moving the center of your body.
  • Slowly lower your leg back to the starting position before switching to the other leg.

Extended Leg Raises

Similar to leg kicks, the extended leg raise exercise offers a longer range of motion. For correct posture, keep the back straight, the core tight and the chest out.

  • Sit comfortably at the edge of the chair.
  • Place both hands at the sides of the chair and grip the seat for stability. 
  • Place both feet far out in front of your body and point your toes to the ceiling. Both feet should be diagonal to your hips.
  • Lift one leg up to the highest point possible, or at the hips, without moving the center of your body. The other leg will stay at the starting position.
  • Slowly lower your leg back to the starting position before repeating with the other leg.

Stomach Twists

When it comes to chair exercises for elderly, stomach twists are a great way to work the entire core. Use a medicine ball or other object to provide full tension in the abdomen. Remember to keep your core right and stick your chest out.

  • Sit comfortably in the chair toward the edge of the seat. Both hands should be in front of your body gripping the sides of the medicine ball, with elbows bent.
  • Lift the ball a couple inches off your lap then rotate your upper body to the right, keeping the ball in front of your body.
  • Rotate to the middle of your body then rotate to the left, finish by rotating back to the middle.

Arm Focused Chair Exercises

Keeping our arms strong and active through daily activity is essential to building overall strength and avoiding injury.

Seated Shoulder Press

The classic seated shoulder press helps the arms extend overhead by activating a range of arm muscles. Make sure to keep your core tight throughout the exercise.

  • Choose a pair of low weight dumbbells or slide a resistance band under the seat, or sit on it, keeping it at an equal length on either side of the body.
  • Sit comfortably in the chair with your hips as far back as possible. Ensure that your back is firm to the backrest of the chair.
  • Start with both elbows spread to the sides of the body and align them under your shoulders. Stick your chest out.
  • Face your body straight, palms forward, gripping the dumbbells.
  • Extend your arms up, reaching above your head until they’re fully extended, or get to a range that feels most comfortable. Don’t touch your hands together and keep both arms parallel to each other.
  • Once your arm’s extension limit has been reached, slowly bring your hands down to the starting position, keeping your elbows spread. Don’t tuck your elbows toward the middle of your body, extend them out till the top of the back feels a pinching sensation at the shoulder blades.

Seated Bicep Curls

The bicep muscle allows us to bring objects closer to our body. Bicep curls while seated work to activate and build that helpful muscle. For this exercise, remember to keep your core tight and stick your chest out.

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells or a resistance band.
  • If using a resistance band, slide it under the seat, or sit on it, until it’s at an equal length on either side of the body.
  • Sit comfortably in the chair with your hips as far back as possible. Ensure that your back is firm to the backrest of the chair.
  • Keep both arms to the sides of your body, let them hang naturally with both palms facing forward, keeping your elbows tucked at the sides of your body.
  • Proceed to move both forearms in a curling motion from the sides of your body to the front of your shoulders.
  • While keeping tension, slowly lower both forearms back to the starting position.

Isolated Tricep Extension

The tricep works opposite of the bicep and together they create a well-rounded give and take. Activating the tricep muscle also tightens underarm skin. For this exercise, remember to keep your core tight and stick your chest out.

  1. Grab a dumbbell.
  2. Sit comfortably in the chair with your hips as far back as possible. Ensure that your back is firm to the backrest of the chair.
  3. Keep both elbows high, in front of your body and one hand lowered behind the head creating a “V” shape. Use the other hand to brace your arm just under the elbow. Keep the helping hand in this position (without applying too much pressure). The hand with a dumbbell should have its palm facing toward your head.
  4. Raise the one arm with a dumbbell over your head until it is fully extended.
  5. Slowly lower your forearm back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for both arms.

Leg Focused Chair Exercises

For those who have full access to their legs, building leg strength is vital to easing daily movements, such as climbing the stairs, walking and bending down. A chair workout for seniors can build leg strength and endurance, while avoiding joint pain or injury aggravation.

Chair Squat

Chair squats, or sit to stand: sit upright in the middle of a chair, rely on leg strength to get up from a seated position. This exercise uses the hips, not the knees, to thrust your body to a standing position. Remember to keep your core tight and stick your chest out.

  • Sit comfortably in the chair toward the edge of the seat.
  • Ensure your toes are pointed forward or slightly outward to both sides; keep both hands in front of your body in a comfortable position for balance.
  • Slowly, sit up from the chair until fully standing. Check the knee placement when moving from sitting to standing so they aren’t bending inward. They should be projecting outward from the middle of the body.
  • Sit back down, while checking for that knee placement, to starting position.

Knee Extension

A simple exercise, knee extensions activate the quadricep muscle. Remember to keep your core tight and stick your chest out throughout the exercise.

  • Sit comfortably in the chair with your hips as far back as possible. Ensure that your back is firm to the backrest of the chair.
  • Place both hands at the sides of the chair and grip the seat for stability.
  • Keep both legs at a 90-degree angle with the chair.
  • Extend one leg in front of your body up in the air until full extension is made. Keep the other leg in its original position for stability.
  • Slowly draw the one leg back to starting position.
  • Repeat for both legs to count as one set.

Seated Calf Raises

Ideal for combating tense muscles or joints, seated calf raises build and stretch muscles in your calf. Keep your core tight and stick your chest out while practicing this exercise.

  • Sit comfortably in the chair with your hips as far back as possible. Ensure that your back is firm to the backrest of the chair.
  • Place both hands at the sides of the chair and grip the seat for stability. Keep both legs at a 90-degree angle with the chair. Both feet should be flat on the floor.
  • Slowly, extend the heels of your feet upward, pushing the toes on the ground and lifting the heels in the air.
  • Place both feet back to the starting position.
  • Repeat this movement for 20 or more reps to create a burning sensation in the calves. 

Flexibility Focused Chair Exercises

Stretching is key to a flexible and relaxed mind and body. To avoid soreness and release muscle tension, stretching is a great exercise to complete after seated chair exercises for the elderly. These stretching exercises can be done anytime, before or after a workout.

Neck Turns

Unfortunately, neck pain can be a popular injury. From sleep positions and poor posture to movement tweaks, a stiff neck provides discomfort. Neck turns aim to improve discomfort by stretching those muscles.

  • Sit comfortably in the chair with your hips as far back as possible. Ensure that your back is firm to the backrest of the chair. Secure your core by keeping your back upright and the spine straight. Keep both feet flat on the floor.
  • Keeping in this position, rotate your head to either the left or right until feeling a gentle stretch. Keep in this position for 20-30 seconds.
  • After the time passes, rotate to the opposite direction.
  • Repeat in both directions 3-5 times or as comfortable.

Seated Side Stretch

An effective stretch for each side of the body, seated side stretches are great exercises for the end of a workout. This stretch will help avoid tight, sore muscles.

  • Sit comfortably at the edge of the chair. Secure your core by keeping the back upright and the spine straight. Keep both feet flat on the floor. Keep the hips and lower body in this stable position.
  • With your right hand, grip the right side of the seat for stability.
  • Extend your left hand above your head making a similar shape to that of a spoon or a lengthened “C”.
  • Simultaneously, slowly shift your upper torso to the right side while keeping your abdomen tight.
  • Hold your position for 10-20 seconds, then switch sides.

Overhead Side Stretch

Another useful stretch for the beginning or end of a chair workout, the overhead side stretch aims to avoid injury and muscle discomfort. Make sure you breathe throughout the exercise.

  • Sit comfortably at the edge of the chair. Secure your core by keeping your back upright and the spine straight. Keep both feet flat on the floor. Keep your hips and lower body in this stable position.
  • Place both hands on your hips.
  • Slowly, raise both hands from your hips over your head, interlocking both hands at the top.
  • Gently arch your back inward, pushing your stomach out – causing a stretching in the abdomen.
  • Hold this position for 10-20 seconds, then release to the starting position.

Consult A Doctor Before Beginning Any Exercise Program

Before beginning a new workout program, seniors should consult a medical professional to ensure it’s safe and beneficial for their unique health journey. Be sure to share with a doctor if you’ve recently undergone surgery, have endured recent injuries or have trouble maintaining correct posture during any exercises. Consider bringing a handout of the exercises from your senior workout program so the doctor can see exactly what you want to incorporate into your routine.

Learn More About Senior Safe Exercise Programs at Elmcroft

At Elmcroft, we’re passionate about helping residents remain healthy, active and fulfilling lifestyles. That’s why we created the vitality club, a program that aims to meet six components of a healthy and happy retirement life: physical, social, cognitive/intellectual, emotional, spiritual and leisure. Through carefully designed programs and access to daily life enrichment activities, the vitality club enhances the daily living environment in all of our communities.

This article is provided for informational purposes only. Please speak with a doctor before beginning an exercise regimen.

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