Top Chair Exercises for Seniors

Posted on: March 15th, 2022 by hhmin

a senior male does chair exercises while wearing a face maskIf you’re not as mobile as you once were or have issues with balance… or you’re recovering from an injury or surgery, you can still get an excellent modified workout while sitting in a chair. Not surprising, exercising while seated, as opposed to certain types of standing exercises, is easier on aging joints, and therefore can reduce stiffness without adding pain.

That said, working out from a chair offers some nice fitness challenges. We’re not talking about a little arm waving here and you’re done. To prove our point, we’ve compiled a set of challenging chair workouts each focused on a particular area of your body. If you rotate the workouts throughout the week, you’ll ensure the maximum benefits of cardio fitness, muscular strength, and flexibility from head to toe. And we guarantee your bottom will never leave your chair!

What Equipment Will You Need?

Sturdy Chair – The right chair makes all the difference here, so choose well. Kitchen chairs and sturdy folding chairs generally fit the bill nicely. Look for a chair that is very stable (no squeaks, no swaying – and no wheels please!). A cushioned seat is a good idea, but avoid one you’ll sink into.

Clothing – As for clothing and footwear, choose stretchy nonbinding attire, and comfortable athletic shoes. You can also do a chair workout in cotton socks if you like.

Weights/Bands – Lightweight dumbbells and ankle weights add an extra challenge, but filled water bottles are a great substitute in many cases. Some chair exercises incorporate resistance bands, which you can pick up anywhere fitness equipment is sold.

Hydration – Don’t forget to keep a water bottle nearby and drink often

How Are Chair Exercises Beneficial?

We know that prolonged sitting isn’t good for your body, but when you use a chair as a piece of fitness equipment, medical experts promise good things will happen.

Regular chair exercising will:

  • Improve your flexibility and range of motion
  • Improve your balance and reduce your fall risk
  • Decrease your joint pain and stiffness
  • Strengthen your core muscles to improve posture and balance
  • Elevate your mood and improve concentration
  • Help lower your level of stress and improve your mod

Start with Safety Measures & Warm-Ups

Like every good exercise routine, it’s important to warm up your muscles and activate your joints. Focus first on sitting up straight:  slouching, shoulders back, head erect, stomach pulled in slightly. 

4 Important Safety Tips:

  1. Check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.
  2. Don’t forget to breathe – listen to your instructor for cues.
  3. Be sure to pause and sip water often to stay hydrated throughout your workout.
  4. Only do movements you’re comfortable with and never force anything that causes pain or discomfort. It’s OK to modify, e.g., to not raise limbs as high or do as many repetitions. You’ll improve and get stronger if you regularly work out.

6 Easy Warm-Ups:

Shoulder rolls  

Place hands on shoulders with elbows pointing out to the side. Rotate shoulders front 10x,  then to back 10x

Torso Stretch

Let your arm drop to each side 5x to stretch your torso.

Torso Twist

Position arms in genie position and twist torso left and right, 5x each side.

Neck stretches

With hands on your knees and your back straight, slowly look left, then to center, then right, then back to center 5x. For the second exercise, slowly raise head up slightly to look toward the ceiling, then slowly lower head toward chest slightly. Repeat the sequence 10x.

Ankle Rotations

Lift your legs out straight in front and off the floor. If you need support, hold on to your chair seat. Rotate ankles outward 5x and then inward 5x.


Sit up straight with feet flat on the floor. If you need support, hold on to your chair seat. Lift one knee and foot off the floor and alternate for a  total of 10x.

Watch these warm-ups in action and see more great warm-ups here.

Head-to-Toe Exercises to Try

The internet is filled with chair exercise videos demonstrating several ways to work out your whole body while seated. What follows is a sampling of some to try on your own at home. Many community centers offer chair fitness for seniors, and if you’re fortunate to live in a retirement community like Holly Hall in Houston, several chair exercise classes are always on the activities schedule. You can learn and perfect your chair exercise routine in a group class (which is a fun way to get fit) and continue doing them on your own whenever you like.

To try a few head-to-toe chair exercises on your own right now, see the list below. Simply click on the part of the body you want to work on, and the link will open to a short video led by Senior Fitness with Meredith. Each one is specially  designed for seniors who want to work out in a seated position. You’ll be amazed at how challenging these exercises can be

Arm/Upper Body Workout

Working out your upper body and arms is about much more than fighting “the sag.” These exercises will strengthen your upper body to help you resist pulled muscles and other injuries, while improving your posture and overall energy. Using a resistance band, you’ll work on shoulders, biceps, and triceps, as well as finishing movements to strengthen your core.

Leg/Hip Workout

Once you get up and out of your bed or chair, almost everything you do depends on good lower body strength. Mobility is the key to staying fit as you age. This seated workout will help you gain strength and stability in your legs, hips, hamstrings, and calves. This will help keep you confident about walking, taking the stairs, dancing, and more. 

Abdominal/Core Workout

A strong core is incredibly important to your well-being! We use our stomach and back muscles to do just about everything, from getting in and out of a car to climbing stairs to picking up grandkids, groceries, and more. A strong core is necessary for stability, strength, and endurance.  If you don’t use it, you lose it, and that may mean missing out on being able to pick up your grandchild, go dancing, or enjoy a walk in the park.

Aerobic/Cardio Workout

Your doctor will be a big supporter of this one, because you can get your heart rate up in this seated cardio workout specially  designed for older adults. You’ll walk and march your way to a healthier heart, stronger lungs, and the energy to do whatever you enjoy, whether it’s playing golf or playing with the grandkids. This full-body workout is great on its own for beginners, and also makes an excellent warm-up for more advanced exercisers.

Strength Workout

Work your way through a simple series of full-body exercises that help improve your overall strength. It’s just what you need to help fend off injuries, falls, and joint pain. Be sure to have your lightweight dumbbells (filled water bottles also work) on hand to increase the resistance. The workout includes simple exercises like knee raises, upper arm curls and raises, inner/outer thigh work, and more!

Your Mind, Body, and Spirit Will Thrive at Holly Hall.

Continuing to lead a vibrant, healthy lifestyle is a priority at Holly Hall. Our community is a beautiful place to enjoy independent living, whether you choose our cottages or apartments. And because we’re a Continuing Care Retirement Community, our residents have the security of knowing higher levels of care will be available to them on campus throughout the years – with no entrance fee ever required. 

To learn more about the Holly Hall way of life and all we have to offer, complete our contact form, and we’ll be in touch to set up a tour. We look forward to meeting you soon.