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  • Andrea Cziprusz

Staying Active with Chair Exercise

Exercise plays a critical role in enhancing the well-being of older adults. From bolstering cardiovascular health to preserving muscle strength and cognitive function, regular physical activity is a vital component of healthy aging. Seated exercise provides the same proven benefits as standing exercise. Whether you have limited mobility, balance impairments, or just prefer a seated workout, chair based exercise offers a convenient and effective way to maintain your fitness.

The following exercise benefits are particularly important for older adults:

  • Enhanced Circulation: helps ward off cardiovascular issues and reduces lower leg edema.

  • Elevated Heart Rate: boosts cardiovascular health and endurance.

  • Increased Muscle Strength: helps counteract age-related muscle loss and improves mobility.

  • Enhanced Flexibility and Range of Motion: reduces joint stiffness and pain.

  • Improved Functional Mobility: helps maintain independence with activities of daily living.

  • Improved Mental Health: helps reduce stress, keep memory sharp, and slow cognitive decline.

Ready to get started? Begin with a few repetitions of each exercise and gradually increase as you become more comfortable and confident. If something is painful, back off a bit and try to adjust your form. If it continues to be painful, stop. There is no need to push through pain. Always prioritize safety and listen to your body! You know you best. Exercise can be modified based on your fitness level and goals.

Pull up a sturdy chair and let’s explore some simple exercises you can do right from your home.


1. Marching: Sitting in a sturdy chair, scoot forward slightly so your back is not resting against the chair. Sitting up tall, gently tighten abdominal muscles and begin marching by lifting one knee up as high as you comfortably can and then the other. Continue to alternate as if you are marching in place. Use hands to stabilize as needed.

Repeat 10-20 times for 1-2 sets.

Benefits: Improves circulation, warms-up muscles, targets core/hip strength.

2. Leg Extensions: Still sitting tall with feet on the floor, straighten one leg out in front of you squeezing the front of your thigh tight. Hold for 3 seconds then lower back down.

Repeat 10-20 times for 1-2 sets on each leg, holding 3 seconds.

Benefits: Improves quadriceps strength, which helps with ADL’s like rising from a chair and walking.

3. Heel/Toe Raises: Seated with feet on the floor, lift your heels up as high as you can. Raise and lower 10-20 times. Then do the opposite, keep your heels planted as you raise your toes up and down. Raise and lower 10-20 times.

Repeat 10-20 times for 1-2 sets for heel raises and toe raises.

Benefits: Improves circulation. Increases ankle strength, which is important for walking and balance reactions.

4. Side Bends: Sitting up tall with good posture, slide your right hand down the side of your right leg, gently leaning to the right side. For additional stretch, you may bring your left arm up and over your head. Stretch should be felt on the left side of the torso. Hold for a gentle stretch, then return to center. Repeat on the opposite side.

Hold 5-10 seconds, Repeat 10 times on each side.

Benefits: Stretches and strengthens the intercostal muscles between the ribs, which improves flexibility and your ability to breathe more deeply.

*If you have osteoporosis, please check with your doctor prior to performing.

5. Torso Twists: Sitting up tall, hold the side of the chair with both hands as you gently rotate your upper body toward the same side. Start small and gradually increase stretch, as comfortable.

Hold 5-10 seconds, Repeat 10 times on each side.

Benefits: Promotes flexibility in spine and engages core muscles.

*If you have osteoporosis, please check with your doctor prior to performing.

6. Jumping Jacks: Seated upright with good posture and abdominal muscles engaged, “jump” legs out to the side and reach your arms out wide. Return to the starting position and then repeat. If it is too much to do both arms and legs at the same time, you may choose to do them individually.

Repeat 10-20 times for 1-2 sets.

Benefits: Increases cardiovascular demands, challenges core stability, targets both upper and lower body muscles.

7. Arm Circles: Raise arms out to the side at a “T” then rotate arms in large circles.

Complete one set clockwise and one set counterclockwise until fatigued.

Benefits: Shoulder mobility, strength, and stability.

8. Scap Sets: Sitting up with good posture, gently squeeze your shoulder blades together, down and back, opening up your chest.

Hold for 3 seconds, repeat 10-20 times for 2 sets.

Benefits: Posture, upper back flexibility, shoulder stability.

9. Sit to Stand: Practice standing up and sitting back down. Scoot to the edge of your chair. Position your feet hip distance apart and lean forward to stand. If you need to, you may use your hands to assist.

Complete 5-10 times for 1-2 sets.

Benefits: Functional lower body strength and added cardiovascular challenge.

10. Breathing and Relaxation: To finish your chair workout, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. As you exhale, let your body and your mind relax. You did it!

Seated exercise provides an accessible workout for individuals of all ages and abilities. Whether you are just getting started or looking for a new routine, these 10 exercises will provide a well-rounded full body workout that you can do from anywhere. Integrating movement into your daily routine is the key to aging well. Let’s get moving!

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