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When we get older, exercising may prove to be more challenging than it once was. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t stay active and improve our physical health. Doing chair exercises is a quick and easy way to target various areas of the body without over-exerting yourself.
Why are Chair-Based Exercises Suitable for Seniors?
Being physically active is essential for your overall health, but this isn’t something that everyone can manage. Chair-based exercises are ideal for older adults with limited mobility as they can be performed without putting unnecessary strain on the body. But there are lots of other reasons why you might decide that this is the right form of exercise for you.
Low Impact Form of Exercise
As a senior, you may experience various physical health problems such as decreased balance, joint pain, or limited mobility. These things can be exacerbated by doing high-impact workouts, but chair exercises are considered a low-impact form of exercise that doesn’t put a strain on your body.
They’re ideal for people who have balance problems as there is less chance of having a fall or sustaining an injury, and they’re far less strenuous than other types of workouts. You will find them much easier to perform, so you’ll likely be more motivated to work out more often. What’s more, you can target almost every area of the body, so you’ll still benefit from a full-body workout! This is important as it can help to strengthen muscles and prevent future physical problems.
Can be Performed from the Comfort of Your Own Home
It can be difficult for seniors to go to the gym or a public workout class for many reasons. A lot of people may feel embarrassed about working out in front of others, and for many, just getting there can be a struggle.
The great thing about chair exercises is that they can be done from the comfort of your own home. As long as you’ve got a suitable, stable chair, the sky’s the limit. What’s more, you won’t need to invest in a lot of expensive exercise equipment to see results. At the most, you would only need to purchase weights and resistance bands, but it’s perfectly possible to use household items such as a water bottle or tin cans as weights.
Many people find working out to be a little tedious, but when doing chair exercises, you have the benefit of being able to do other things at the same time to keep you entertained. This might include watching a movie or listening to your favorite music.
Go at your Own Pace
There’s no right or wrong way to do chair exercises, provided that they are performed safely, so they’re great for seniors who might be a little slower. There’s no rush to get to the finish line, and you’ll be able to complete the workout in your own time, which means far less pressure.
What are the Benefits of Chair Exercises for Seniors?
While you might not be able to take part in more strenuous activities, chair exercises are perfect for seniors, and there are a lot of benefits. Studies have shown that as many as 60% of people taking part in chair exercises saw an improvement in their physical health in as little as ten weeks!
Improves Range of Motion
As we get older, it’s no secret that our ability to move around as freely becomes limited. This can make daily activities that we once took for granted like dressing and bathing incredibly difficult. But by doing regular chair exercises, these tasks may be much easier.
This is because working out this way can improve your flexibility by building resilience in a way that doesn’t put the joints under stress. Just moving in itself is enough to avoid a sedentary existence and a few daily chair exercises could be the key unlocking this potential.
Strengthens Bones & Muscles
It’s not uncommon for seniors to develop conditions like osteoarthritis and osteoporosis as a result of reduced bone and muscle mass. In turn, this limits mobility and makes it more difficult to get around. However, research has shown that chair exercises might be a safe way for people who are frail to strengthen their bones and muscles, therefore, improving their mobility.
In addition to this, you will begin to notice that your posture improves as the bones and muscles increase in strength. This is essential for people who experience back pain as poor posture is one of the leading causes of this.
Helps with Muscle & Joint Stiffness
A lot of older adults struggle with arthritis which can be incredibly painful. Doing chair exercises can reduce inflammation in the joints and loosen the muscles. Both of these things will mean decreased levels of pain which will further contribute to heightened mobility.
As the bones and muscles begin to strengthen and develop, this will cause you to be more stable and steady on your feet. A lot of seniors have problems with balance but since chair exercises prevent bone loss and improve bone density, this is something that can be remedied.
Improving your balance is important for your day-to-day life as this will limit the risk of having a fall which is a very common problem among the over 65 community.
Can Improve Confidence and Self-Esteem
As a direct result of improved balance and strength, seniors may begin to feel more confident in their ability to safely navigate the world. Without the worry of falling, this provides a much better quality of life which goes a long way in improving the overall mood of the person.
Exercise is proven to cause a release of ‘feel good’ hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. As they are released by the brain, the mood is lifted and many consider this to be a natural high. For seniors whose mood is low as a result of things like loneliness, illness, and grief, this could be a viable way to boost it.
But much more than just making you feel good, regular exercise may help to improve cognitive function and lower the risk of the onset of conditions such as dementia. Moreover, for those in the early or middle stages of such conditions, regular exercise has been shown to slow down the progression of symptoms such as a lack of balance, an inability to concentrate, and memory issues. It is recommended for older adults to get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.
Helps with Circulation
Many seniors live a sedentary life which can create problems with circulation. You need to remain active to boost your circulation, so chair exercises are a viable way of doing this. When you work out, this naturally increases your heart rate, which in turn boosts your blood flow. Research shows that regular workout sessions, no matter how small, will help to increase blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as coronary artery disease.
Easy Chair Exercises to Do at Home
There is a huge variety of chair exercises that seniors can do from the comfort of their own homes. We have categorized these below, but before you start, it’s important to follow some simple safety rules:
- Make sure that the chair you are using does not have wheels and that it is stable and sturdy; it should not be easily tipped over.
- Begin working out slowly and gradually build up the intensity as you feel more comfortable. Never push yourself past your limit.
- Before starting an exercise program, speak to your doctor or physical therapist to ensure there are no limits on what you can safely do.
- If you begin to feel lightheaded when working out, stop immediately. This also applies if you feel pain or discomfort, experience chest pains, or become very short of breath. Note that it is natural for the breathing to be mildly increased when exercising.
Arm Seated Exercises
Working out the arms can improve muscle and bone strength as well as increase your ability to lift and grip things.
Arm raises are great for improving your shoulder strength and will improve your range of movement. They will also increase the strength of all the muscles in the upper arm.
- Sit upright in your chair and place the arms by the sides.
- Face your palms forwards and slowly raise your arms to the sides, breathing in as you do. Go no further than is comfortable.
- Bring the arms back down to your side while breathing out.
- Repeat up to five times.
Wrist rolls are an excellent warm-up exercise to get the blood flowing. They will not only boost circulation but will also loosen up any stiffness in the joints.
- Position yourself upright in the chair but not so that your back is touching the chair back.
- Start by flexing the fingers and opening and closing them to make a fist.
- Now roll the wrists in one direction and repeat this ten times.
- Next, roll the wrists in the other direction a further ten times.
Performing a set of arm circles each day can loosen up the shoulders and improve your flexibility. It may also help to improve your posture and therefore relieve back pain.
- With the arms raised and pointing out to the side, bring the shoulder blades together.
- Palms should be facing down as you make small circles with the arms towards the front.
- Repeat this 20 times before turning the palms up and circling the arms in the other direction the same number of times.
Bicep curls will help to strengthen the muscles which will also help in your ability to grip and lift things. It may also help to loosen the elbow joint.
- Sit upright in your chair with the lower back firmly against the backrest of the chair. Keep the feet on the floor and have the chin lifted.
- Take a suitably sized weight in either hand and start with the elbows tucked in and the arms by your side.
- As you exhale, slowly raise the lower arm and hold for a second.
- Lower the arm back to the starting position while inhaling.
Core Seated Exercises
Having a strong core is important in maintaining a good posture and excellent balance. There are lots of exercises you can do in a chair to improve your core strength.
For anyone who struggles with stiffness in the neck, this exercise will improve mobility and increase flexibility.
- Sitting in your chair with a straight back, keep your gaze in front of you.
- Turn the head to the left with the chin over your shoulder. Don’t go further than feels comfortable. Hold here for five seconds.
- Move your head back to the center.
- Repeat this process on the right side.
Neck stretches are a great way to loosen the muscles in the neck and stop them from feeling tight.
- Take one hand and sit on it.
- Now tilt the head to the opposite side to the hand you are sitting on.
- You should keep the head tilted slightly forward while doing this.
- Alternatively, you can use your hand to hold the shoulder down while tilting your head, whichever feels more comfortable for you.
- Now repeat on the opposite side.
- Each stretch should be held for five seconds and repeated up to three times.
Shoulder rolls are a great way to improve the mobility of the shoulder as well as the upper spine. It’ll also strengthen the shoulder and improve your lifting abilities.
- Sit in your chair with the shoulder relaxed.
- Start by hunching the shoulders to the front and then rolling them around to the back until you return to the starting position.
- Repeat the action five times.
- Now reverse the roll for another five repetitions.
Torso twists will develop your core strength, particularly the obliques. They are also good for improving the mobility of the spine.
- Keep the feet flat on the ground and sit upright.
- Cross the arms over the chest, placing one hand on either shoulder.
- Turn your upper body to the left while keeping the hips facing forwards.
- Hold for five seconds.
- Return to the front and repeat on the other side.
Performing chest stretches will help to improve your posture. As a direct result of this, you may notice that back pain is reduced.
- Sit up straight in your chair and avoid leaning against the backrest.
- Keep the shoulders back and down while raising the arms to the sides.
- Push the chest forwards gently so that you feel a stretch.
- Hold the position for five seconds and then release.
- Repeat this five times.
Leg Seated Exercises
A lot of older adults find it difficult to get around because of problems with their legs. Remaining active and taking regular exercise will ensure the best physical health for the lower limbs.
Knee lifts will contribute to a more stable core, but they will also improve the stability of the knee and hip joints. You may also notice that moving between standing and sitting becomes easier.
- Sit upright in your chair.
- Slowly raise the bent right knee towards your chest.
- Lower it back to the starting position.
- Now switch and raise the bent left knee to the chest.
- Repeat ten times on each side.
If your knees are not stable, this exercise can help to increase stability. It does this by strengthening the muscles around the joint, which may also help to relieve the pain of conditions like arthritis.
- Sit on the edge of the chair and keep the knees bent.
- Start with the right knee and extend the leg forwards, keeping a slight bend in the joint and the toes pointing up.
- Lower the knee back down and repeat on the other side.
- Repeat ten times for each knee.
Leg extensions help by improving strength in the muscles in both the hips and thighs.
- Place yourself comfortably on the edge of your chair and keep the arms by the sides.
- Extend the right leg outwards so that the heel just rests on the floor. Ensure the foot is flexed.
- Now lift the leg as high as is comfortable and hold here for a count of three.
- Lower the leg and switch sides.
- You can repeat the process up to ten times.
The primary benefit of heel raises is to improve the strength of the calf muscle. This can help with balance and mobility.
- Sit in your chair with your feet flat to the floor. The hands can be placed either in your lap or at your sides.
- Press into the toes so that the heels lift off the ground and push as far as you can go.
- Hold the position for a second before lowering back down.
- You can perform up to ten repetitions.
Performing toe lifts will strengthen the feet and improve your balance and mobility.
- Begin seated with the feet flat on the ground and the hands at your sides or in your lap.
- Lift both sets of toes without lifting the heel.
- When you reach your max, hold for up to five seconds.
- Lower the toes back to the starting position and repeat up to ten times.
Sit to Stand
Sit to stand will help to strengthen the muscles in the hips and the legs that we use when sitting or standing, making it easier for us to transition between the two.
- Sit on the edge of the seat with the feet on the ground, hip-distance apart.
- The arms should be crossed over the chest with the chin down so that the nose points at the chest.
- Now push up through the heels to lift yourself off the seat.
- Take a step back so that you can feel the chair on the back of your legs and slowly lower down.
- You can repeat this eight to twelve times.
Ankle circles are a great way to improve the flexibility of the joint and are ideal as a warm-up exercise. They are excellent for improving balance and mobility as well as boosting circulation to the lower extremities.
- Sit in an upright position and lift the first foot off the ground.
- Rotate the ankle in a circle in one direction.
- Now rotate the ankle in the other direction.
- Swap feet and repeat the process.
- You can do up to 20 repetitions on each foot.
If you are lacking in mobility in the hips, this exercise will improve that as well as strengthen the muscles here. Hip marches are also suitable for people who need a modified cardio exercise.
- Sit in an upright position so that the back does not lean against the chair.
- Holding onto the side of the chair, start by lifting one leg with a bent knee. Do not go further than is comfortable.
- Lower the leg down in a slow and controlled manner.
- Repeat on the other side with a total of five lifts per leg.