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12 Seated Chair Exercises for Seniors

Healthy Living | July 9, 2024

Multiple people doing chair exercises for seniors.

Regular exercise is important at any age, but staying active can become more difficult as you age. Fortunately, seated exercises can make it a lot easier to improve your energy, lower the risk of chronic disease, and enjoy several other health benefits.

With seated exercises, you don’t need fancy workout equipment or a gym membership. Most of these exercises only require something you have in your home – a chair. There are a variety of chair exercises that can help you build strength, improve mobility, and build stamina. Keep reading to learn about a dozen different lower and upper body chair exercises that you can do in the comfort of your own home.

6 Lower Body Chair Workouts for Seniors

Calf/heel raises

How they help: Seated calf raises help strengthen calf muscles and improve both stability and mobility for your ankles. Another benefit of this exercise is that it can also improve blood circulation for your lower legs.

How to do them:

  1. Sit down with your feet on the floor. Your knees should be at a 90-degree angle and roughly hip-width apart.
  2. Slowly raise your heels off the ground as you can while your toes stay planted on the floor. You should feel your calf muscles contract during this movement, but make sure you stop raising your heels if you feel any discomfort.
  3. Lower your heels to the ground and repeat for 10 repetitions.

Toe raises

How they help: Toe raises help strengthen your shin muscles and Achilles tendon. This exercise helps improve balance and reduces the chances of ankle and tendon injuries.

How to do them:

  1. Sit down with your feet on the floor. Keep your knees at a 90-degree angle and roughly hip-width apart.
  2. 2. Slowly raise your toes off the ground while keeping your heels planted on the floor. You should feel your shin muscles contract during this movement but stop raising your toes if you feel any discomfort.
  3. Lower your toes to the ground and repeat for 10 repetitions.

Seated leg extensions

How they help: Leg extensions are an excellent way to strengthen your thighs to help stabilize your knees and make it easier to walk, climb stairs, and perform other everyday movements. 

How to do them:

  1. Sit down toward the front of your chair and place your feet on the floor roughly hip-width apart.
  2. Keep your back straight and slowly lift your left leg until it’s parallel with the floor. If you can’t get to that point, lift as high as you comfortably can.
  3. Hold your leg for a second and slowly lower it back to a resting position.
  4. Repeat the leg extension for 10 repetitions and then switch to your other leg for an additional 10 repetitions.

Thigh squeezes

How they help: Thigh squeezes, also known as adductor squeezes, are great for strengthening upper leg muscles and improving hip flexibility. These squeezes can also help reduce tension and circulation in your upper legs.

How to do them

  1. Grab a pillow and sit down with your knees at a 90-degree angle and roughly hip-width apart.
  2. Sit toward the front of the chair and place the pillow between your knees.
  3. Squeeze your knees together and hold for five seconds.
  4. Repeat squeezes for 10 repetitions.

Ankle alphabet

How they help: The ankle alphabet is a good seated exercise for anyone dealing with ankle issues or who wants to improve foot mobility. This movement stretches the muscles in your foot, strengthening your ankle and improving balance and reducing the chances of foot pain.

How to do them:

  1. Sit down with your feet on the floor and legs roughly hip-width apart.
  2. Rest your palms on your thighs and lift your left leg out in front of you.
  3. Act as if your big toe is a pencil and use your toe to write out letters in front of you. Start with the letter “A” and go through the whole alphabet, using your toe and not your whole leg.
  4. Once you finish with the alphabet, lower your left foot and repeat the process with your right foot.

Marches

How they help: Chair marches are great for strengthening your hamstrings and quadriceps, which can help with both mobility and balance.

How to do them:

  1. Sit down toward the front of your chair and keep your knees at a 90-degree angle and roughly hip-width apart.
  2. Keep your back straight and tighten your abdominal muscles.
  3. While keeping your knee bent, lift your left leg as high as you can.
  4. Lower your left leg and lift your right leg as high as you can.
  5. Lower your right leg and repeat steps three and four until you complete 10 full repetitions. 

Upper Body Chair Workouts for Seniors

Arm raises

How they help: Seated arm raises are a great exercise for your upper back and shoulders. This workout is great for improving your mobility and arm strength. You can also use weight if you want an added challenge.

How to do them:

  1. Sit down with your feet on the floor and legs roughly hip-width apart.
  2. Keep your back straight and your head still.
  3. Start with your hands at your side with your thumbs pointing upward. Slowly lift your arms up to shoulder height and hold for a second (Your arms should stick out at roughly a 45-degree angle and not directly in front of you or straight out to the side). 
  4. Slowly lower your arms back to a resting position and repeat for 10 repetitions.

Side bend stretches

How they help: Side bends are a great exercise for your back and torso. These stretches are good for improving flexibility and relieving tension that can result in back and joint pain.

How to do them:

  1. Sit down with your feet on the floor. Keep your knees at a 90-degree angle and roughly hip-width apart.
  2. While keeping your feet planted, raise your left arm straight up and bend over as far to the right as you comfortably can.
  3. Return to sitting up straight and repeat this stretch five times.
  4. Repeat the process five more times, except now with your right arm up and bending over to the left.

Forward bends

How they help: Seated forward bends are an exercise that supports several parts of your body, including your back, spine, and thighs. These stretches can help with flexibility, joint pain, and lower back tension.

How to do them:

  1. Sit down toward the front of your chair with your feet on the floor and legs roughly hip-width apart. Place your hands on the top of your thighs.
  2. Sit up as straight as you can and slowly bend forward from your hips.
  3. As you bend forward, slide your hands down your leg and keep bending forward until your hands reach the floor and you hit a point where you’re no longer comfortable.
  4. Once you reach your furthest point, hold that stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
  5. Straighten out slowly until you return to your original position and repeat the stretch up to five times.

Pelvic tilt

How they help: Seated pelvic tilts are a good exercise for posture and lower back pain. Regular pelvic tilts help strengthen your abdominal muscles, which allows your core to take some of the burden off your back and help you stand and sit up straighter than before.

How to do them:

  1. Sit down with your back touching the chair. Keep your feet planted on the floor and have your legs roughly hip-width apart.
  2. Keep your upper body still and gently push your lower back into the back of the chair.
  3. Hold this pose for a few seconds and release.
  4. Repeat for a total of 10 repetitions.

Bicep curls

How they help: Light weight training while staying seated is a nice way to work up your upper body strength. Bicep curls can make it easier to lift heavy items and improve both grip strength and elbow stability.

How to do them:

  1. Sit down with your feet on the floor and legs roughly hip-width apart.
  2. Hold the dumbbell in one hand with the back of your hand facing the ground.
  3. Slowly bend your arm at the elbow and lift the dumbbell up as far as you can.
  4. Hold that lift for a second and slowly lower it back down.
  5. Repeat the bicep curl for a total of 10 repetitions and repeat for another 10 repetitions with your other arm.

Shoulder blade squeeze

How they help: Shoulder blade squeezes are great for working out your upper back and shoulders. Doing these squeezes on a regular basis can help improve your posture, increase flexibility, and reduce the risk of muscle strains. 

How to do them:

  1. Sit down with your feet on the floor and legs roughly hip-width apart.
  2. With your arms hanging down at your sides, bend your arms at the elbows so that your forearms are parallel to the ground.
  3. Slowly pull your elbows back and gently squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  4. Hold this squeeze for a second and slowly return to your original position.
  5. Repeat this process for a total of 10 repetitions.

Take a Seat to Support Your Health

Working out doesn’t have to feel like an impossible task. Chair exercises can help you safely work out without overexerting yourself. Even better, incorporating some of these exercises into your routine can help you feel lighter, more energetic, and ready to enjoy your senior years. If you’re looking for other exercises to work into your routine, check out these posts:

Trying to find the right place to live your ideal lifestyle? National Church Residences is the nation’s largest non-profit provider of senior housing in the country with more than 300 housing communities in 25 states. Find a community that’s close to you or give us a call at 844-465-6063 to talk to one of our friendly staff members today.

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