what are chair based exercises

9 Chair Exercises for the Elderly

Physical activity deteriorates with age hence, the need for older adults to engage is simple exercises.
According to Journals of Gerontology in Medical Sciences, elders who don’t exercise are three times more likely to lose mobility than those who partake in physical activities.
They are also prone to chronic diseases like stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. It does not mean that they should engage in the rigorous physical activity performed in a gym setting but simple tasks like walking, walking the dog, doing errands and housework.
Experts also recommend special exercises that don’t require increased movement but engage different muscle groups in the body. The text below elaborates on what are chair based exercises and how they help strengthen the body.
Most of these exercises have to be done on a chair so types such as electric recliner chairs may not be suitable.

What are Chair Based Exercises?

Chair exercises for elderly come in handy as they don’t need to move from one place to another; with a chair and a few pieces of exercise equipment, they can perform exercises that lubricate the joints, provide flexibility, strengthen and stabilise the muscles.
As a result, elderly people report fewer falls and develop strong muscles to help them perform day-to-day activities.

9 Chair Based Exercises

  1. Single leg calf-exercise
  2. Seated tummy twist
  3. Sitting and standing
  4. Seated row
  5. Seated him marches
  6. Sunshine arm circles
  7. The hand squeeze
  8. Inner thigh squeeze
  9. Heel slides

You can read more about these below.

Here are some exercises you can do at home to help improve your health and wellbeing.

How Effective are Chair Exercises?

Chair exercises for seniors seem pretty straightforward, which prompts the question- how effective are chair exercises?
First, they provide the beneficial effects of promoting and maintaining the independence and mobility in older adults. They are also some of the best home exercises that you can do.
However, remember that you aren’t restricted to just doing them in the home.  You can also do some of these in the garden and some you can even do on a garden recliner chair!
Research trials performed to determine the effectiveness of chair exercises for elderly in community and institutionalised settings show that:

• They help stabilise the lower spine by using a fixed base for exercise. This is particularly useful for seniors who have lordosis of the spine.
• Enhance movement by creating points for support and leverage
• Reduces load-bearing and balance difficulties in older adults suffering from arthritic pain and poor mobility
• Enhance the confidence of seniors who can’t perform free-standing exercises
• Act as a form of rehabilitation for people who have osteoarthritis by providing a range of motion activities without weight bearing
• The exercises are great for older women who have advanced cancer to reduce fatigue and improve their physical well-being

They can also be useful exercises for people with dementia as they wont risk becoming unsteady on their feet.


Chair based exercises suitable for older adults.

1 – Single-Leg Calf Exercise

This form of exercise helps increase mobility of the lower part of the leg and increase strength. The exercise is performed on both legs alternately. Here’s how to do it:

• Sit on a chair, or armchair, with your back straight and feet spread on a flat surface and spread at a hip-distance
• Begin with your right foot and lift the heel from the floor as high as you can so that only your toes support your leg. The lift should cause a strain on the calf so that you are sure you are doing it right. Lower the heel and repeat the process on the left leg.
• Perform three sets of 10 reps on each leg
• Then add two sets of 10 reps by lifting both heels at the same time

Here is a video that will help explain how these exercises work.


2 – Seated Tummy Twist

Chair exercises for seniors not only improve mobility but also strengthen core muscles. The seated tummy twist is one such exercise. This can also be done on a comfy chair such as fireside chairs.

Here’s how to do it:

• Hold a ball close to your body using both hands with the elbows bent
• Rotate the upper body to the right while keeping the rest of the body still
• Rotate to the middle and rotate to the left
• Be sure to perform two twists per set and maintain a good posture throughout the exercise.

Watch this video to see how you can so seated exercises.


3 – Sitting and Standing

The exercise seems simple yet most elderly people struggle to get up from low chairs or couches.

It is an excellent exercise for improving one’s functional balance, leg strength and control. These steps should guide you:

• Sit on a sturdy chair with your back straight and feet spread at hip width on a flat surface
• Engage your core with little assistance from your hands and plunge the upper body forward from the hips
• Press your weight using your feet and push your body to stand while extending the knees and hips. If you can’t press the body all the way to stand, shift the weight forward and lift the glutes two inches from the chair. Hold for one or two seconds before lowering your back
• Reverse the movement by pressing the hips backwards and bending the knees to lower the body to a seated position

chair based exercises,


4 – Seated Row

The exercise works on the upper back muscles and the chest. Here’s how to do it:

• Sit on the edge of a chair to create a greater range of motion
• Hold the front part of the chair using your elbows and thumbs pointing up
• Draw your elbows backwards and squeeze your shoulder blades together
• Repeat the procedure 8-10 times
• You can also perform this exercise using one arm at a time by pulling the shoulder blade towards the spine

This video will share some tips on how to do these exercises.


5 – Seated Hip Marches

This form of exercise is great for seniors looking to improve mobility and flexibility using the hips or those who need modified chair based exercises for cardiovascular muscles.

• Sit on a chair with your back straight, feet flat and hip-width apart
• Hold the edges of the chair using both hands and engage the abdominal muscles
• Lift the right leg and ensure the knee is bent as though performing a high-knee march
• Lower the right foot and perform the same exercise on the left foot
• Perform 20 reps on each foot two to three times while taking breaks in between. You can intensify this exercise for better cardiovascular effects

Here is a video that shows you how to do hip marches.


6 – Sunshine Arm Circles

The exercise helps strengthen the shoulder muscles so you can lift objects with minimal assistance. You can perform this exercise with or without a ball.

• Sit on a chair with an upright posture and hold the ball using both hands with your arms extended above the head
• Rotate your arms in a circular motion in a slow, controlled way
• Alternate the circular direction for 8 reps and take a break
• Then, perform another set of 8 reps
• Once you familiarise yourself with this motion, increase the weight of the ball

If you are not using a ball you can use your imagination. However if you are finding it difficult to place your arms overhead, extend them in front and move your arms as if drawing a circle on a wall.

Watch this video to see how arm circles are done.


7 – The Hand Squeeze

The exercise helps strengthen and contract arm and chest muscles.

• Sit on a chair upright and hold the ball using both hands a few inches away from your chest
• Squeeze the ball as if trying to push air out of the ball. Release and repeat the process 10-12 times
• You can increase the intensity of this exercise by pushing the ball in front while squeezing the ball and pulling it back to the chest


8 – Inner Thigh Squeeze

The inner thigh muscles work together with hip flexor and pectineus muscles to help extend, rotate and bend the legs.

The muscles are also responsible for providing stability of the lower body. Here’s how to do it:

• Sit on the edge of the chair and maintain an upright posture
• Bend your knees and place the ball between them
• Squeeze the ball using your knees for 1-2 seconds
• Repeat process in two sets of 8-10 reps


9 – Heel Slides

The exercise is a form of modified hamstring curl that has been designed to strengthen large muscles from the back of the thigh towards the knees and the glutes.

Since core engagement is essential when performing this exercise, it also strengthens the abdominal muscles. You can perform heel slides using a small towel or paper plate to make it easy to slide the heel on the floor. Here’s how to perform the exercise:

• Sit upright on a chair with your knees bent and feet flat hip-width apart
• Extend the right leg, so that the heel remains in contact with the ground and the toes point upwards
• Use your muscle groups to drag the heel back to the chair so it remains in contact with the surface
• Perform the exercise of the other left leg. Do two to three sets of 10-12 reps

chair exercises for seniors,


Exercises for the Elderly

10 Home Exercises for the Elderly

12 Exercises for people with dementia