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Essential Chair Exercises for Seniors To Build Strength and Mobility

We don’t need to tell you how important exercise is for our health and wellbeing, but as we get older, it can become more challenging to keep moving.

However, this is exactly why we should try to exercise – to alleviate tension, stiff muscles, build strength, improve circulation and mobility, and boost our mental health too. It can be as simple as performing some seated exercises from the comfort of your chair or bed.

If you have to sit down for long periods or have ten minutes whilst you are watching Gardeners’ World on the TV, try these essential chair exercises for seniors to improve your strength and mobility in no time.

Gentle chest stretch

We’re passionate about helping people sit with the correct posture, so this first sitting exercise is close to our hearts. It’s a great chest stretch and opener to relieve any aches or tension in your upper body.

Step 1: Start by sitting upright with a straight back, roll your shoulders backward and forwards in circular motions to relieve any tension and find a relaxed position.

Step 2: Extend your arms out to the side in a ‘T’ shape and gently push your chest forward until you feel a stretch across the front of your upper body.

Step 3: Hold the stretch for approximately 15 seconds, then relax. Repeat this five times.

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Hip marching

Hip marching is a great chair exercise to do if you are preparing your legs to stand up after sitting down for a while. It targets your hips and thighs and can help to improve flexibility too.

Step 1: Start in an upright seated position with your feet on the floor, your back straight and away from the rear of the chair.

Step 2: Lift one leg off the floor with your knee bent at a 90-degree angle (or as much as you can bend it), then place it carefully back on the floor.

Step 3: Repeat this on the other leg and alternate as if you are marching. Aim for five to eight lifts per leg.

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Torso twists

Seated torso twists engage your core muscles, aid spine mobility and can improve blood circulation. With this chair exercise, it’s important to ground down through your pelvis to get the full benefit of the stretch.

Step 1: Sit upright in your chair and don’t lean back. Look straight ahead.

Step 2: Place both of your hands crossed across your chest, bent, with your elbows pointing out to the sides.

Step 3: Exhale and slowly twist your torso to one side as far as you can go, remembering to keep your core engaged, arms crossed and back straight at all times.

Step 4: Inhale and gently return to the centre, then repeat on the opposite side. Aim for six twists on each side.

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Single leg calf raises

Your calf muscles at the back of your lower legs stabilize your ankles, aid balance and propel you forwards with every step, so it’s fair to say they are pretty important. This simple chair exercise for elderly people targets these key muscles to keep them strong.

Step 1: Sit in a proper upright seated position, with your legs in an ‘L’ shape, feet on the floor and your core engaged. You may want to rest your arms on an armrest (if you have one) for extra support.

Step 2: Start by lifting one heel off the ground but keep your toes firmly on the ground. Lift it as high as you can, engaging the calf muscle. Then, lower it down to the floor slowly until your whole foot is flat. This is one repetition.

Step 3: Repeat this action on the opposite leg. Aim for eight to ten calf raises per leg.

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For people who struggle to get in and out of chairs and sofas, this seated exercise is ideal. It can help seniors to retain or gain the ability to sit and stand independently, simultaneously working on strength, balance and control.

Step 1: Sit upright in a chair, with your back straight, feet on the floor about hip-width apart and your legs in an ‘L’ shape.

Step 2: Engage your core and your legs as you tilt forwards from your hips.

Step 3: Push your weight into your feet and begin to raise yourself until you are in a standing position with your legs straight. Try not to use your arms or hands to help you if you can.

Step 4: Then, do this in reverse, slowly bending your knees, pushing your bottom back and lowering yourself down into the chair until you are sat in the same position as you started in. Repeat this six times.

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Neck rotations 

We hold a lot of tension in our necks, so incorporating this easy chair stretch into your exercise routine can lengthen and relax the muscles in the upper body. It is also good for spine mobility and can reduce stiffness and pain.

Step 1: Sit tall in a chair or your bed, relax your shoulders and look straight in front of you.

Step 2: Carefully turn your head to one side, keeping your shoulders level. Hold for a few seconds before switching to the opposite side and holding the stretch again. Repeat this four times.

Step 3: Then, looking forwards, tilt your head back so your chin is pointing to the sky, hold for a few seconds before dropping your head down so your chin is almost touching your chest for a nice stretch along the front and back of your neck. Repeat this four times.

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Shoulder press

This next seated exercise strengthens the shoulders and encourages mobility. It can be performed with bodyweight or light weights – if you don’t have any weights, try using canned goods or water bottles instead.

Step 1: Sit tall in your chair with your core engaged and both feet firmly on the floor.

Step 2: If you are using weights, hold one in each hand and lift your arms out to the side, bent, so they form a cactus position with your hands facing away from you.

Step 3: Then, lift both arms above your head at the same time until they are straight, before slowly lowering them back to where you started. Repeat this chair exercise ten times.

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Heel slides

Another excellent seated exercise is heel slides. These switch on both your glutes (or your bottom) and hamstrings; two important muscles for lower leg strength and movement.

Step 1: Begin by sitting in a relaxed, upright position with your feet flat on the floor in an ‘L’ shape.

Step 2: From this position, flex one foot so your toes are pointing up towards the sky, with your heel on the ground.

Step 3: Slide this flexed foot out away from you so it is fully extended, remembering to keep your heel on the floor at all times.

Step 4: Reverse the movement so you bring that same leg back towards you into the same position you started from, ensuring that your heel remains on the floor and your toes remain flexed. Repeat this eight times on each leg.

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It’s important to make sure that if you are spending lots of time sitting down, that your chair encourages good posture and provides you with the support you need. Our 7-Point Seating Assessment™, designed and taught by Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings Dip COT HCPC, ensures that you’ll find the right chair for you. It looks at everything from seat depth and width to lumbar support and head alignment.

We hope our essential chair exercises for seniors have inspired you to incorporate some movement and mobility into your routine and reap the rewards. If you’d like to find a comfortable chair, sofa or bed from which to perform your exercises (or just have a good old relax) take a look at our collections online.

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