Blog Mental Health Yoga Chair Yoga 10 Chair Exercises for Seniors to Maintain Balance, Strength, and Independence

10 Chair Exercises for Seniors to Maintain Balance, Strength, and Independence

Seniors often experience balance and strength issues as they age, which limits their mobility and independence. That being said, regular physical activity is essential for older adults to maintain good health and prevent falls (4).  

Chair exercises are a great option for seniors who may have difficulty standing or engaging in more traditional forms of exercise. They provide an opportunity to improve balance, strength, and flexibility while sitting in a stable and supported position (3).

Standing exercises while holding onto a chair for balance can also be beneficial, but it’s important to start with seated exercises and then progress to standing as strength and balance improve.

Do Chair Exercises Work for Seniors?

Chair exercises work for seniors as they’re low-impact, easy to modify for different abilities, and can be done at home or in a group setting. They also offer a safe and stable option for seniors with mobility issues or chronic conditions.

If you’re doubting the benefits of chair exercises, here are some reasons why they can be effective for seniors in the following ways:

1. Improving Balance

Balance is a crucial aspect of physical health for seniors. It can decrease with age and lead to falls and injuries. Chair exercises that focus on core strength, posture, and coordination can help improve balance and reduce the risk of falling (3).

2. Building Strength

As we age, our muscles tend to weaken, making everyday tasks more challenging. Chair exercises that incorporate resistance bands or light weights can help build strength in the arms, legs, and core muscles (3). This can improve overall mobility and make daily activities easier.

In our Pilates Chair Exercise, we cover some great exercises for seniors to improve their strength and balance.

3. Increasing Flexibility

Chair exercises that involve stretching can help improve flexibility and range of motion in joints, which is essential for maintaining independence and preventing injury (3). It’s important to start with gentle stretches and gradually increase the intensity to avoid straining muscles.

4. Promoting Cardiovascular Health

Chair exercises can also provide a cardiovascular workout, which is important for maintaining heart health and preventing conditions such as heart disease and stroke. Exercises that involve raising the heart rate, such as arm circles or leg lifts, can improve circulation and strengthen the heart muscle (3).

See also
Chair Yoga For Seniors: 10 Poses To Improve Strength, Flexibility, And Balance

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5. Boosting Mood and Mental Health

Regular physical activity has been proven to improve mood and mental health in seniors. Chair exercises can help release endorphins, the “feel-good” hormones, which can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression (1). They also provide an opportunity for social interaction and a sense of accomplishment.

6. Reducing Pain and Stiffness

Seniors may experience joint pain and stiffness, particularly in the hips, knees, and back. Chair exercises can help alleviate these symptoms by strengthening muscles that support these joints, improving flexibility, and increasing blood flow to affected areas (1).

In a previous blog post, Chair Exercises for Lower Back Pain, we discussed how certain chair exercises can specifically target and alleviate back pain.

7. Providing a Low-Impact Option

Chair exercises are low-impact, which means they’re gentle on the joints and don’t put excess strain on the body. This makes them a suitable option for seniors with conditions such as arthritis or osteoporosis who may find high-impact activities too challenging or painful.

8. Improving Overall Quality of Life

By improving balance, strength, flexibility, cardiovascular health, and mental well-being, chair exercises can ultimately lead to a better quality of life for seniors. They can make daily tasks easier, reduce the risk of falls and injuries, and improve overall physical and mental health (1).

chair exercises for seniors

What Is the Best Exercise While Sitting?

Seated marches are a great starting exercise as they involve lifting the legs one at a time while sitting in a chair. This can help improve leg strength and balance. Other effective seated exercises include arm raises, shoulder rolls, and torso twists.

For those who are looking for more challenging options, seated squats using the edge of a chair or resistance band exercises can provide a more intense workout.

See also
Chair Yoga Routines For Every Age And Ability: A Comprehensive Guide

Here are 10 chair exercises for seniors to try at home:

Seated Marches

Safety and Considerations

Before starting, make sure the chair is stable and doesn’t have wheels. Seniors with balance issues should perform this exercise under supervision.

Benefits

Seated marches help improve circulation, enhance leg strength, and increase cardiovascular health. When executed properly, they can also help improve balance.

Steps

  1. Sit up straight on the chair with your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Lift your right knee as high as comfortable, then place it back down.
  3. Lift your left knee to a similar height.
  4. Alternate legs at a steady pace, resembling a marching motion.
  5. Continue for 1–2 minutes, gradually increasing as strength and endurance improve.

Read more: 21 Day Chair Yoga: Reasons To Add This Challenge To Your Routine

Arm Raises

Safety and Considerations

Choose a comfortable weight for this exercise – even a pair of water bottles can work. Make sure to move within a comfortable range of motion to avoid shoulder strain.

Benefits

This exercise strengthens the shoulder and arm muscles, improving mobility and range of arm movements.

Steps

  1. Sit on the chair with your back straight, arms down at your sides, holding weights if applicable.
  2. Slowly lift both arms to the side or front (choose one per session) up to shoulder level, then lower back down.
  3. Repeat 10-15 times, performing 2-3 sets. Increase the number of repetitions as your strength increases.

Shoulder Rolls

Safety and Considerations

Perform this exercise slowly to avoid dizziness and to maximize its tension-releasing benefits.

Benefits

Shoulder rolls release tension in the shoulder and neck area, improving flexibility and relieving pain.

Steps

  1. Sit comfortably with your back straight.
  2. Lift your shoulders up toward your ears, then roll them back, down, and around in a circular motion.
  3. Perform 10 rolls backwards, then reverse the direction for 10 rolls forwards.
  4. Repeat for 2-3 sets.

Torso Twists

Safety and Considerations

Twist from the torso while keeping the back straight to avoid strain. Move within a comfortable range and don’t force the twist.

See also
7-Day Chair Yoga Challenge for Beginners

Benefits

Torso twists enhance core strength and flexibility, improving balance and helping with digestive health.

Steps

  1. Sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place your right hand on the back of the chair and your left hand on your right knee.
  3. Gently twist your torso to the right, looking over your right shoulder. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
  4. Return to the center and repeat on the other side.
  5. Perform 3-5 repetitions for each side.

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Seated Squats

Safety and Considerations

Make sure the chair is stable and placed against a wall for extra safety. This exercise is suitable for seniors with a moderate level of fitness and should be avoided by those with severe knee issues. Always maintain good posture to help prevent strain.

Benefits

Seated squats strengthen the thighs, buttocks, and leg muscles, improving mobility and stability, which can help reduce the risk of falls.

Steps

  1. Sit on the edge of the chair with your feet hip-width apart, planted firmly on the floor.
  2. Lean slightly forward and stand up, using your leg muscles rather than pushing off with your arms.
  3. Slowly lower yourself back to a seated position, controlling the descent.
  4. Repeat 8-10 times for 2 sets, increasing as strength improves.

chair exercises for seniors  

Bicep Curls with Light Weights

Safety and Considerations

Use light weights that don’t strain your muscles – water bottles can be a good starting point. If you experience any joint pain, consider reducing the weight or consult a healthcare provider.

Benefits

This exercise helps strengthen the arm muscles, improving functional abilities for daily tasks and enhancing muscle tone.

Steps

  1. Sit up straight on the chair with a weight in each hand, palms facing forwards.
  2. Curl the weights toward your shoulders, keeping your elbows stationary.
  3. Lower the weights slowly back to the starting position.
  4. Perform 10-12 curls for 2 sets, resting between sets.
See also
Chair Yoga Benefits: 8 Reasons Why You Should Do Seated Exercises

Tricep Dips on Chair Edge

Safety and Considerations

Make sure the chair is stable and secure before you start. This exercise is advised for seniors with a good level of upper body strength and should be performed with caution to avoid shoulder or wrist injuries.

Benefits

Tricep dips strengthen the upper arms and shoulders, helping to improve upper-body strength and function.

Steps

  1. Sit on the edge of the chair and place your hands next to your hips, fingers pointing toward the floor.
  2. Slide your buttocks off the chair with your legs extended in front of you (bent knees for a less intense workout).
  3. Slowly lower your body by bending your elbows until they’re at approximately a 90-degree angle.
  4. Push yourself back up to the starting position.
  5. Perform 6-8 dips for 2 sets, increasing as your strength allows.

Side Leg Lifts

Safety and Considerations

This exercise should be performed on a stable, non-wheeled chair. Seniors should focus on maintaining balance – holding onto the side of the chair is recommended for extra stability. This activity is suitable for all fitness levels but should be done with caution by those with hip issues.

Benefits

Side leg lifts strengthen the muscles on the sides of the hips and thighs, improving balance and stability, which are essential for preventing falls. They also help maintain the range of motion in the hip joints.

Steps

  1. Sit upright on the chair with feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
  2. Slowly lift one leg to the side, keeping your foot flexed and your leg straight.
  3. Hold the position for a few seconds, then slowly lower your leg back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat 10-15 times on each side, performing 2-3 sets in total.

Read more: Unlocking Relaxation: The Magic of Restorative Chair Yoga

Resistance Band Pull-Aparts

Safety and Considerations

Choose a resistance band with suitable tension. Start with lighter resistance to ensure the exercise is performed without straining your shoulders or back. Avoid this exercise if you have severe shoulder issues.

Benefits

Resistance band pull-aparts work the shoulders, upper back, and postural muscles, which helps improve posture and reduce shoulder and neck tension. The exercise helps enhance upper-body strength and stability.

See also
Chair Yoga Hip Openers: Simple Stretches For Reduced Pain & Increased Flexibility

Steps

  1. Sit upright in the chair, holding a resistance band with both hands in front of you at chest level, arms fully extended.
  2. Pull the band apart by moving your hands to the side, keeping your arms straight.
  3. Slowly return to the starting position, controlling the tension.
  4. Perform 12-15 repetitions for 2-3 sets, resting between sets.

Seated Yoga Poses

Safety and Considerations

Ensure the chair is stable and on a non-slip surface. Yoga poses should be modified to fit personal flexibility and comfort levels. Avoid any poses that cause pain or discomfort.

Benefits

Seated yoga poses can improve flexibility, reduce stress, and enhance mental well-being. They also contribute to better joint health, circulation, and posture when practiced regularly.

Steps

  1. Seated Mountain Pose: Sit upright with feet flat on the floor, hands on your thighs. Inhale and extend your spine, rolling the shoulders down and back.
  2. Seated Cat-Cow Stretch: Place your hands on your knees. Inhale, arch your back, and look up toward the ceiling for the Cow position. Exhale, round your spine, tucking your chin to your chest for the Cat position. Alternate between these two for 5-10 cycles.
  3. Seated Spinal Twist: Sit upright, place your right hand on the back of the chair and your left hand on your right knee. Gently twist your torso to the right, keeping your spine straight. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then switch sides.

In our Chair Yoga Hip Openers article, you can find more seated poses to improve hip mobility and flexibility.

chair exercises for seniors  

FAQs

  • Does the chair workout really work?

When it’s performed correctly, the chair workout can help improve strength, flexibility, and balance in seniors (3). It’s a low-impact exercise that utilizes the support of a chair to reduce strain on joints while targeting specific muscle groups.

A consistent 30-minute chair exercises for seniors, 3-5 days a week can lead to noticeable improvements in overall physical well-being.

  • What is the best form of exercise for seniors?

The best form of exercise for seniors is any activity that focuses on improving strength, flexibility, and balance. Activities such as walking, swimming, and yoga are great options as they are low-impact and can be modified to fit individual needs (2).

A 15-minute chair exercise for seniors is a great way to incorporate exercise into daily routines.

  • What is the best exercise program for seniors?

The best exercise program for seniors is both functional and enjoyable.  It should incorporate a variety of activities such as strength training, cardio, and flexibility exercises. Chair exercises for seniors with music can make the workout more enjoyable and help maintain motivation (2).

  • Can you lose weight doing chair yoga for seniors?

Yes, you can lose weight doing chair yoga for seniors. While it may not burn as many calories as more intense forms of exercise, it can still contribute to weight loss when combined with a healthy diet (5). 

Gradually increasing the intensity and duration of the exercises can also help burn more calories. However, it’s important for seniors to consult a doctor before starting any new exercise routine, especially for weight loss purposes.

  • How many calories do chair exercises burn for seniors?

A 30-minute session of light to moderate-intensity chair exercises can burn between 100-200 calories. This may not seem like a significant amount compared to other activities, but the benefits of regular exercise go beyond just burning calories.  Improved strength, flexibility, and balance can greatly improve overall well-being and quality of life for seniors. 

The Bottom Line

Regular exercise is crucial for maintaining overall health and well-being, particularly for seniors. The chair workout is a safe and convenient way to stay active and improve strength, flexibility, and balance. Seniors should consult a doctor before starting any new exercise routine and modify exercises to suit their personal needs and fitness levels.

DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Combined Chair-Based Exercises Improve Functional Fitness, Mental Well-Being, Salivary Steroid Balance, and Anti-microbial Activity in Pre-frail Older Women (2021,nih.gov)
  2. How Older Adults Can Get Started With Exercise (2020,nih.gov)
  3. The Effect of Chair-Based Exercise on Physical Function in Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (2021,nih.gov)
  4. The Importance of Physical Activity Exercise among Older People (2018,nih.gov)
  5. The impact of yoga on components of energy balance in adults with overweight or obesity: A systematic review (2020,nih.gov)