How to Do Seniors' Chair Exercises

By Kim Nunley

Even if limited mobility forces you to work out with a chair, you can still experience the benefits of exercise. With the assistance of a chair, you can do strength, balance and flexibility exercises and improve your ability to perform everyday activities like carrying a bag of groceries and getting in and out of a chair. Exercise helps to increase your circulation, lubricate your joints, strengthen your postural and mobilization muscles and stabilize your spine.

Basics of a Chair Workout

Do your chair workout two or three days per week and do two sets of 10 to 15 reps of each exercise. When using weights, begin with 1- to 2-pound dumbbells and gradually increase the weight as your strength builds and you notice that exercises become easier. According to the National Institute of Health, the weight you use should be easy to lift 10 to 15 times. When you're exercising in a chair, sit up as tall as possible, contracting your abs to help you maintain good posture. Also, avoid holding your breath when you perform exercises as it can increase your blood pressure. Start each workout with five minutes of seated marching and arm circles to warm up your muscles. Visit your doctor to be cleared for exercise before you begin.

Upper-Body Exercises

Build strength in your back, chest, arms and shoulders by using dumbbells and doing arm curls, side arm raises, elbow extensions, overhead presses and seated rows. To perform arm curls, sit with dumbbells held down by your sides with your palms facing forward. Bend your elbows to lift the weights to the front of your shoulders and then lower the weights back down. To do elbow extensions, sit and hold the dumbbells over your head with your arms straight. Bend your elbows to slowly drop your forearms and the weights behind your head, while keeping your upper arms up. Then, straighten your arms back up to lift the weights up. To do overhead presses, sit and start with the weights at your shoulders and then push them overhead by straightening your arms. Bend your elbows and lower your upper arms to lower the weights back to your shoulders. For seated rows, sit and bend forward at the waist and let the dumbbells hang toward the floor with your arms straight. Pull the weights up to the sides of your torso by bending your arms and driving your elbows up toward the ceiling; then, straighten your arms to return the weights to the floor.

Lower-Body Exercises

Strengthen your hips and legs with standing back-leg raises, standing knee curls, toe raises and chair stands. For standing back-leg raises, stand and hold the back of the chair for support. Keep your knees straight as you lift one leg up and behind you as far as you can without leaning forward. Lower your foot and repeat. Do the exercise on both legs. For standing knee curls, stand holding the back of the chair and bend one knee to lift that heel to your buttocks and then straighten your knee to lower your foot and repeat. Do the exercise on both legs. For toe raises, stand and hold to the back of the chair as you lift up your heels and rise onto your toes and then lower your heels. For chair stands, begin seated in the chair with your arms crossed over your chest. Stand up out of the chair, without using your arms, and then lower your hips back into the chair to return to the seated position.

Balance and Flexibility Exercises

Improve your balance and flexibility with the sit-and-reach stretch, overhead-reach-with-torso-bend stretch and standing single-leg balance exercise. For the sit-and-reach stretch, sit with your legs extended and heels resting on the floor. Bend forward at the waist, reaching your fingers toward your toes. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. To do the overhead-reach-with-torso-bend stretch, sit tall with your hands together and arms extended overhead. Lean to one side to feel a stretching in the side of your torso and then repeat on the other side. To do the standing singe-leg balance exercise, stand and hold the back of the chair with one hand. Lift one foot off the ground and work to stay on balance for 30 seconds. Work both legs. Take your hand slightly off the chair for a bigger challenge.

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