Getting Started with Seated Exercise

April 13, 2022

Have a seat. Today, we’ll be talking about how you can exercise to maintain your fitness and stability as you age – all without leaving your chair.

Usually when we think about “exercise,” we think about big dynamic movements or feats of athleticism. However, for those using wheelchairs and walkers, such a level of exertion just isn’t safe. What’s more, intense exercise can become more difficult and strain your joints and muscles as you age – leading to pain and an increased potential for injury. Fortunately, seated exercise is an excellent way for older adults to stay fit and build strength without placing undue stress on the body.

Low-impact activity, including yoga, tai-chi, and seated exercise, can keep your joints limber and build strength in your body’s stabilizing muscles. After a few weeks of regular chair exercise, you can expect to feel your daily routine getting easier due to benefits like decreased joint pain and stiffness, enhanced muscle strength and balance, and improved circulation and blood pressure.

Seated exercise is extremely safe, but we’d still recommend talking to your doctor before starting any exercise regimen. They may also be able to direct you community centers, PACE centers, or local gyms that offer seated exercise classes. Generally speaking, signing up for a class is a great way to make a habit of exercise, socialize with your peers, and have an instructor teach you proper form. But, if you want exercise at home, all you need is a sturdy chair. You’ll want something like a kitchen chair – one without wheels and that’s not so plush you sink into in when you sit.

Below are links to videos that show how to do some of our favorite seated exercises. Beginners should start with a small number of reps using body weight only. As strength improves, increase the number of reps and add weight or resistance bands. For maximum effectiveness, do these exercises 2-3 non-consecutive days a week, taking at least 1 day to rest in between workouts.

  • Warmups – Use these motions to prepare your muscles for exercise and reduce the risk of strain.
  • Seated Shoulder Retractions – This movement engages your shoulders and trapezius muscles, which are essential for upper-body posture and carrying objects.
  • Toe Taps – This exercise can help you build your ankle strength for walking.
  • Knee Lifts – This exercise helps strengthen your upper thighs and hips to improve your ability to walk, balance, bend, and get up from a seated position.
  • Tummy Twists – Tummy twists are a great movement for conditioning the muscles in your trunk for improved posture control.
  • Captain’s Chair – This is another great exercise for working your core to improve your posture and stamina for standing. Be careful to not raise your legs past a comfortable position. If you are only able to raise your feet a few inches off the floor to start, that’s fine.

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