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Chair Workouts for Seniors

Elderly woman practicing chair exercises in her senior living apartment

It’s no secret that routine exercise is very beneficial for a healthy mind, body and soul. Chair exercise for seniors can make your everyday life healthier, more active, and more independent.No matter your age or level of mobility, chair exercises for seniors can be modified to provide a gentle, low-impact workout or a more challenging program. And all you need to get started is a chair — a sturdy, four-legged chair without wheels and preferably without armrests.Are you ready? Then sit down and get moving with these eight chair exercises for seniors.


As with any exercise routine, it’s good to start with a warm-up. These two yoga chair exercises will help get you loose and limber.

Neck Stretch

This stretch will warm up your neck and your group of upper back muscles.

1. Sit up straight with your shoulder blades against the back of the chair.

2. While looking forward, slowly tilt your head toward your right shoulder.

3. Hold this position while gradually lowering your left arm down to your side until you feel a stretch on the left side of your neck.

4. Release, and repeat on the other side. Perform two to five repetitions per side.

Seated Forward Fold

This stretching exercise for seniors helps stretch your upper and lower back muscles.

1. Place your feet flat on the floor and widen your legs. Rest your hands on top of your thighs and draw a deep breath.

2. As you exhale, slowly fold forward at your hips (rather than rounding the upper back) so your body drapes over your legs.

3. Slide your hands downward and let your arms dangle toward the floor.

4. Let your head and neck relax as your body hangs heavy over your legs.

5. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds.6. Take another deep breath, then slowly roll back up to the starting position.Repeat this three to five times.

Chair Exercises for the Core

When your core is strong, it not only improves balance, stability and posture, but also makes daily activities easier and more enjoyable. Start building your abs with these two core exercises for seniors.

Torso Tummy Twists

This seated chair exercise is great for strengthening your core, especially the obliques, and will improve spinal mobility and posture.

1. Sit tall with your feet flat on the ground about hip-distance apart.

2. Place your hands behind your head, elbows bent and pointing outward.

3. Engage your core (imagine sucking your gut in as if you were about to absorb a punch).

4. Exhale and rotate your torso to the left as far as you comfortably can.

5. Inhale and return to the center.

6. Repeat motion, this time twisting to the right.

Perform eight to 10  repetitions on each side. Rest, and then perform a second set. 


Sit-and-stands build your core, legs and lower back muscles to provide the strength and balance you need to more easily stand up from a low chair or a soft couch.
1. Sit on the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor about hip-distance apart.

2. Cross your arms across your chest, rest them on your hips or hold them in front of you for counterbalance.

3. Engage your core, tip forward from the hips, and push your weight down through your feet and rise to a full standing position. Remember to keep your chest up and try to use as little help from your hands or arms as you can.

4. Slowly lower yourself back to a seated position by bending at the knees while keeping your back straight.

Repeat eight to 10  times.

Note: If you can’t fully raise yourself to a standing position, don’t worry.  Simply shift your weight forward and lift yourself an inch or two from the chair seat. Pause, and then slowly sit back down. Over time, you can develop the strength needed to come to a standing position.

Chair Exercises for the Arms

It’s amazing how practically everything we do in our daily lives involves our arm and shoulder muscles. These two seated chair exercises can build strength and improve flexibility to make every day more enjoyable.

Shoulder Presses

This chair exercise for seniors helps build strength in the arms and improves a full range of flexibility in the shoulders.

1. Sit tall in your chair with your feet flat on the ground about shoulder-distance apart.

2. Raise your hands to shoulder level with the palms of your hands facing forward.

3. Press your arms straight up your overhead until they are fully extended.

4. Carefully lower your hands back to the starting position.

5. Repeat this motion 10 times.

Perform three sets of 10.

Step it up a notch by holding lightweight dumbbells or even water bottles. You can also use a long, flat resistance band. To secure the band, simply sit on top of the band’s center before grasping each end in your hands.

Shoulder Rolls

With this easy chair exercise, you can boost your shoulders and trapezius muscles, which are vital for lifting and carrying.

1. Sit tall with your feet flat on the ground.

2. Shrug your shoulders up toward your ears.

3. Slowly rotate your shoulders in a forward circular motion.

4. When you complete your rotation, reverse the circular motion.

Perform 10 repetitions in each direction, for a total of 20  reps.

Chair Exercises for the Legs

Can you really make your legs stronger while sitting in a chair? You bet you! Try these leg chair exercises for seniors and give your calves, quads and glutes a good workout.

Hip Marches

Seated hip marches are a great way to improve flexibility and mobility through the hips, plus get the blood flowing for a modified cardio workout.

1. Sit tall in your chair with your feet flat on the floor, hip-distance apart.

2. Grasp the sides of the chair seat for support.

3. Engage your core muscles.

4. Lift your right leg with your knee bent as high as you comfortably can.

5. Lower your foot back down to the floor.

6. Repeat the motion with your left leg.

7. Perform at least 20 alternating marches in succession.

Do two to three sets of 20, taking a breather between each.

Enhance the challenge by using ankle weights.

Heel and Toe Taps

Get your toes tapping and your heart pumping with this fun exercise designed to stretch your lower body and keep your hips flexible. And they’re fun to do to music!

1. Sit on the edge of your chair with your knees bent and your toes resting lightly on the floor.

2. Hold the sides of the seat for support and engage your core.

3. Extend your right leg at about a 45-degree angle and gently tap your heel on the floor.

4. With your leg still extended, point your toes and tap them to the floor.

5. Flex your foot and tap your heel again.

6. Pull your leg back to the starting position, and repeat with your left leg. Perform these heel and toe taps for three to five minutes.

Try to go a little longer each time you exercise.

At Freedom Village of Bradenton, our residents have practically endless opportunities to stay healthy, active, happy and whole. At our premier Life Plan Community, you too could enjoy our vast array of daily fitness and wellness programs, including yoga, strength and balance, and aquatics classes. And that’s just the beginning. To see how you can get moving and enhance your health and lifestyle, learn more about Freedom Village of Bradenton today.