General advice on improving your health often begins and ends with exercise. However, such advice does not always consider the limitations people experience when trying to accommodate more fitness activities. Such advice is often well-meaning but not very practical for older adults or those dealing with mobility issues.
For many seniors and individuals with decreased mobility, chair exercises are a solution to this problem. With this guide to chair exercises, we provide practical insight into how you can continue exercising and improving your health with convenient fitness solutions, whatever your situation may be.
Chair exercises are activities you can perform while sitting in a wheelchair, desk chair, couch or any ordinary chair. You don’t need a specialized chair to perform chair exercises. As such, these fitness activities provide an excellent opportunity for individuals with restricted mobility to stay fit and healthy. Chair exercises can include anything from a total body workout to chair aerobics or stretching exercises.
Anyone can benefit from chair exercises. However, they are ideal if you deal with limited mobility, have concerns about falls or are recovering from an injury. With that in mind, some individuals who stand to benefit from chair exercises include:
If you identify with any of the above groups, you may benefit from chair exercises. You can add these activities to more mobile fitness routines or plan your training around chair exercises exclusively.
Chair exercises offer numerous benefits to older adults and others with restricted mobility. These advantages range from increased strength to reduced risk of injury. Here are some examples of chair exercise benefits.
If you deal with limited mobility, maintaining flexibility in your joints and muscles is an ongoing imperative. Like an oiled machine, our joints and muscles depend on concentrated movement to stay loose and lubricated. However, that can create a dilemma for individuals with restricted mobility — how do you maintain flexibility if you have limited movement?
For many people, seated exercises strike a workable balance between staying mobile and not straining their bodies. Furthermore, your range of motion tends to increase the more you exercise. In this way, chair exercises build up your flexibility and mobility in manageable ways suited to your fitness level.
Whether you deal with vertigo, have brittle bones from osteoporosis or have general falling concerns, chair exercises offer solid support. As long as you use a sturdy chair and perform the moves correctly, chair exercise substantially reduces your falling risk.
Many chair exercises focus on improving your balance, gait and posture. As many individuals’ main reason for exercising while sitting is reducing falling risks, balance and gait — your walking patterns — are often areas of concern. With chair exercises focusing on balance, gait and posture, you can improve upon those areas while supporting any vulnerabilities you feel with them.
With increased flexibility and mobility also comes reduced joint pain and stiffness. Joint pain and stiffness are huge reasons for avoiding exercise, and understandably so. Although you sometimes have to experience the pain to improve the pain, you can also take steps to minimize your discomfort as you exercise. Chair stretching and other low-impact activities are excellent ways of doing so.
Regular exercise is one of the best things for your circulation. Even simple activities like wrist or ankle rolls can improve circulation. As such, you do not need to run marathons to care for your heart. You can do so in any position — sitting, standing, running or walking.
Various strength exercises occur from a seated position, like lifting weights or doing a seated shoulder press. As such, you can easily build muscle strength with multiple types of chair exercises!
Exercise fuels your concentration levels, memory health and overall thinking skills, and chair exercise is no different. If you have ever had a post-workout high and proceeded to read a book like a computer or produced record productivity levels at work, you have experienced this fuel firsthand. Even if you just feel refreshed and ready for the day after exercising, you’ve experienced the tangible benefits of exercise on your focus and thought-processing ability.
The positive impact of exercise on mood and anxiety has been thoroughly researched and well-documented. However, since exercising can cause pain and discomfort for individuals with mobility issues, many get discouraged and avoid physical activity. This inactivity can negatively impact your mental well-being. For this reason, chair exercises offer an effective solution to exercising and caring for your mental health.
By performing breathing practices or seated cardio exercises, you can improve your respiratory health. This benefit is especially important for individuals with conditions like asthma or COPD who may experience flare-ups with routine exercise.
Although chair exercises may seem limited in what they can accommodate, it may surprise you to learn the range of activities you can perform while sitting on a chair! Whether you are looking for strength exercises for seniors or leg exercises for individuals with limited mobility, you can find activities suited to any need.
Here are 20 essential chair exercises to incorporate into your fitness routine, including strength, leg, core and stretching exercises. Unless otherwise indicated, the proper form for seated exercise is to:
A seated shoulder press builds shoulder strength and flexibility as it takes your shoulders through their full range of motion. The steps for this exercise are:
A chest press strengthens your chest, shoulder and tricep muscles all at once. The steps to perform a seated chest press include:
Lateral raises work your shoulder and tricep muscles. For seated lateral raises, follow these steps:
Of all our arm muscles, we use our biceps the most, and bicep curls keep them toned and muscular. Perform them with these steps:
To prevent a rounded back, band pull-apart exercises keep your chest open and back strong. Here’s how to perform them:
Leg extensions strengthen your quads, or thigh muscles. Here’s how to perform them:
For a challenge, you can also add ankle weights if leg extensions are too easy for you.
Inner thigh squeezes tone the adductor muscles from your groin to mid-thighs. To perform this exercise, you will need an exercise ball. Here are the steps:
Outer thigh toe taps work on your hamstrings, which connect your hip with your knee. They also require a resistance band. The steps to complete outer thigh toe taps include:
Sit-and-stands have a direct practical application — strengthening the muscles you use when standing from a seated position. You can perform them with your body weight alone or while carrying an object for added weight. Here’s how you do them:
If you are unable to stand fully with this exercise, shift your weight forward and lift your glutes an inch or two, holding for a couple seconds, before sitting back down.
Calf raises improve your lower legs’ durability and strength. Follow these steps:
Tummy twists engage the core while improving spinal mobility. Here’s how to perform them:
Hip marches improve hip flexibility and mobility. The steps to perform them include:
A seated knee-to-chest mimics the actions of a classic sit-up in many ways. Here are the steps:
Leg kicks improve general core strength. The steps include:
A modified plank will get you out of your chair while still utilizing the chair. It develops core strength and stability throughout the front half of your body. Here’s how to do one:
This stretch helps ease tight muscles in your lower back, neck and chest. It involves the following steps:
A seated side stretch activates your oblique muscles. Follow these steps to perform this stretch:
Keeping your hips flexible is important for people of any age, occupation or health status. Here are the steps for performing a seated hip stretch:
We all experience tight neck muscles now and again. Loosen those muscles by following these neck stretch steps:
This stretch helps maintain upper back flexibility. Here’s how to do it:
With 5 Bridges Health & Fitness, you will receive high-quality guidance on the best exercise tactics for your age and condition. Like the 5 bridges that link Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, across the Susquehanna river, we have identified five bridges to a healthy lifestyle:
Our personal trainers will work with you on a one-on-one basis to develop a program that upholds each of those bridges so you can live your healthiest life. To develop each individualized program, we provide a fitness consultation using a 3D body scanner, guidelines from consultation health journals and Functional Movement Screening (FMS). The results from this consultation will help our personal trainers provide you with optimized fitness routines.
We also offer various group fitness classes focusing on yoga, Zumba®, cardio and senior exercises.
5 Bridges Health & Fitness exists to help you find meaningful, lasting wellness. Since putting down our roots in 2010, we have been proud to call Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, our home. Learn more about 5 Bridges Health & Fitness and our personalized fitness routines! We have trainers for every fitness level who are dedicated to helping you achieve your wellness goals.