A common misconception about physical activity is that it requires time and financial investment. While it certainly can require these things, it is also possible to exercise effectively without spending a fortune on fancy exercise equipment or dedicating 60 minutes per day to working out.
What are the benefits of chair exercises?
The main benefit of chair exercises is that they are accessible for almost everyone. In addition, they are safe to perform, versatile, and don't require the level of investment that most home gym machines involve.
Will Smith, Managing Director at Fitness Plus, told Health Times: “Exercise at all ages is important, but especially when you get older generation. What happens as you get older is you can get much frailer, start to eat less and move less. This creates a world of problems for your immune system, bones, joints and muscles!
"As you eat less you consume less protein, which means your muscles don’t repair as easily as they did, tying this in with moving less you become much more sedentary so your muscles don’t need to work as often, or as hard, and your joints can start to seize up.
"Doing some simple chair-based exercises can help maintain your muscular strength and promote bone and joint movement. Link this in with increased protein intake and the ageing process will slow down considerably. It is vital to maintain strength and movement across all age ranges!”
Chair exercises are perfect for older adults but are also suitable for new gym-goers or people who have limited mobility. If, for example, you have a poor range of motion in your ankles, then a box squat is a better exercise for you than a regular bodyweight squat.
Making exercises more accessible means that more people can start to see the benefits of exercise. Improved cardiovascular fitness, stronger muscles, increased mental wellness, and greater coordination.
Chair-based exercises are a great starting point. Once you have mastered them, you can often start attempting more complicated and challenging exercises. For example, you can perform chair squats until you can perform bodyweight squats, then progress further to barbell squats.
They will give you confidence, boost your mood, and help your mental well-being.
Before you start
Before embarking on your chair workout, you will need some equipment. The most obvious of which is a chair. A sturdy chair with a flat seat is essential. No wheels! Ideally, you want a chair that you can sit on with your feet flat on the floor and your thighs parallel to the ground.
A pair of light dumbbells is also essential. You can find a pair cheap on eBay or Facebook marketplace. Alternatively, if you want to spend a little more, they are widely available online. One exercise on this list requires a light resistance band. You can find these online; just make sure you get a very light one. If you can't find one, the exercise can be performed without it.
Always get medical advice before starting an exercise program as a senior. Not only will it help you to avoid making a mistake, but your doctor may be able to give you specific advice on what to work on.
A warm-up is unnecessary for this type of workout as the exercises are low in intensity. Perform a few sets of chair squats, and you should be plenty warmed up for the more challenging activities.
Top 10 chair exercises for seniors
Here are ten of the best chair exercises for seniors or anyone new to exercise or has mobility issues that make regular exercises difficult.
Exercise #1: Chair squats
Chair squats are a superb lower body exercise for seniors. They work a large number of muscle groups as well as your lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps. They are also great for anyone with stability issues because they significantly reduce your risk of falling.
All you need to do is stand in front of a chair with good posture (chest out, shoulder blades pulled back) and feet shoulder-width apart.
Then slowly sit down onto the chair, keeping your chest out and your heels flat on the floor. When you touch the seat, pause, and then drive back upwards. Once this gets easy, you can increase the challenge by holding a dumbbell in each hand or using a chair with a lower seat (to increase the range of motion).
Exercise #2: Chair push-ups
Push-ups are the ultimate upper body exercise, but they can be challenging for beginners to perform. Chair push-ups are a great introduction to chest exercises. Place both of your hands on the chair with feet close together and back straight. This is your starting position.
Keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle from your sides, and then lower your chest down to the seat. Pause, and then drive back upwards to complete the push-up.
Exercise #3: Step-ups
This exercise works best with a small seat, or preferably a bench. You want a surface that allows you to comfortably place one foot on it while your remaining foot is flat on the floor. If your back foot is slightly raised, the chair is too high.
Step-ups are excellent exercises that work the legs. They are more difficult than you might imagine and should be avoided if you suffer from very high blood pressure. Get into a standing position with one foot resting on the chair or bench and the other on the floor.
Without holding onto your knee, climb up so that both feet are on the chair. Pause, then remove the foot that was initially on the floor and climb back down. Keep your front foot on the chair at all times. Once you have performed 10 reps, swap over to the opposite leg and repeat.
Exercise #4: Seated bicep curls
It doesn't matter how old you are or whether you are a man or a woman. Everyone needs some bicep curls in their life! Not only do toned arms look great, but strong biceps are surprisingly helpful in life. Carrying items, pulling things, and posing in photos are all easier when you have decent biceps.
This is one of the few chair exercises that are great for everyone, from the 93-year-old holding a couple of cans of beans to the pro bodybuilder midway through their arm workout.
Just sit on the chair, try not to lean forward, and curl the dumbbells up to your collar bone. Next, squeeze your biceps, then very slowly lower your arms back down until they are fully extended.
Exercise #5: Resistance band knee extensions
Also known as leg raises, resistance band knee extensions are a fantastic low-impact quadricep exercise. Sit on the chair, with a light resistance band looped around the front right leg of the chair. Place your foot inside the loop so that it is around your ankle.
Keep your right knee straight and your left leg still. Then slowly straighten your right leg out before you until your calf is parallel with the floor. Perform ten reps and then swap over to your left leg.
Exercise #6: Seated shoulder press
This is the most straightforward exercise on this list, other than the chair squat. First, get into a seated position on your chair, holding a light dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height.
Push your chest out, and then push the dumbbells straight up in the air. As they pass your head, you can arc them in so that when your arms are fully extended, the dumbbells are touching directly above your head. Pause, and then lower them slowly back down to the starting position.
Exercise #7: Seated tricep press
An excellent exercise for anyone who struggles with the push-ups described above, weak triceps are a common reason why push-ups are too difficult. Sit back on the chair, holding a dumbbell in both hands behind your head.
Ensure that your elbows are pointing straight up in the air. Keeping your elbows stable, press the dumbbell up until your arms are fully extended, and the dumbbell is directly above your head. Pause, and then lower back down to the original position.
Exercise #8: Seated lateral raises
This is an excellent exercise for anyone, not just seniors. Grab a pair of very light dumbbells and sit on the edge of the chair. Lean forward, but maintain a straight back by pushing your chest out and pulling your shoulders back.
Place your dumbbells near the floor with your arms straight down by your sides. Take a deep breath and then raise the dumbbells sideways like a bird spreading its wings. Pause when the dumbbells are parallel to the floor, and return to your sides.
Exercise #9: Tricep dips
For this exercise, you will need a sturdy chair that is not going to tip over when you place your body weight on the edge. Place both hands on the edge of the chair and scoot off the chair so that the edge is in line with your upper back. Both feet should be flat on the floor with your knees bent.
You should be holding your body off the floor with your hands on the chair. Next, you want to slowly lower your glutes down until they are almost touching the floor, and then use the backs of your arms to push yourself back up again.
Exercise #10: Romanian deadlifts
This is a great hamstring exercise for seniors. Stand behind the chair with your hands holding on to the back of the chair for support. There should be a decent length between your feet and the chair.
All you are going to do is keep both legs as straight as possible, then lean forwards and extend one leg out behind you until you feel a stretch on the back of your leg. Then, return it to the starting position and then repeat with the other leg.
This is one of the best standing exercises for seniors and is a perfect addition to any strength training program. If you want, you can turn it into a hamstring stretching exercise by slowing the movement down and performing one 30-second rep for each leg.
Turn your exercise routine into an aerobic workout
The exercises so far are designed to build strength in your muscles. They are intended to be performed in 3 sets of 10 reps per exercise, with 30-40 seconds rest between sets. But you can turn this into an aerobic workout by performing the activities faster, with shorter rests. This will provide many health benefits and help you to strengthen your heart.