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5 Best Chair Exercises for Seniors

senior man and woman exercising with weights at a retirement community

Exercising just 30 minutes a day can do wonders for your health. It can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer; strengthen bones and muscles; reduce the risk of falling and injuries from falls; decrease pain and joint stiffness; improve flexibility and range of motion; boost mood; and lower stress levels.

But if balance issues, mobility problems, injury, or simply lack of enthusiasm for going to the gym are holding you back, try the five best chair exercises for seniors below. They’re safe, easy to do, and don’t require special equipment.

Schedule 15 to 30 minutes a day to get your exercises in, and we promise you’ll start to feel better, move better and sleep better in a few short weeks. Once exercise becomes a habit and you see the benefits, you can add new exercises and activities to keep things fresh and fun. You may even want to join a class for extra motivation. Yoga or tai chi can be done standing or sitting down. Exercising in a pool is another great way to get stronger without stressing joints and muscles.

Total Body Chair Workout for Seniors

These five best chair exercises for seniors will challenge the muscles in your arms, shoulders, upper back, core and legs. Do one set of each exercise, then repeat the full circuit of five exercises again. Two circuits should take you about 15 minutes to complete. (Source: silversneakers.com)

Chair Exercise #1: Shoulder Rotation

Sit tall in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Extend both arms straight out to your sides so they’re level with your shoulders, palms facing down. Bend your elbows 90 degrees so your fingers point straight ahead, palms still facing the floor.

To initiate the movement, raise your hands until your palms face forward and your arms create a goal post. Slowly lower your hands back down so your palms face the floor. That’s one rep. Do 15 to 20 reps total, keeping your upper arms lifted and in line with your shoulders the entire time. It helps to imagine your elbows are glued to an imaginary tabletop — they never raise or lower much as you rotate from your shoulders.

Make sure your shoulders are down and back as you rotate. Don’t let them creep up toward your ears.

Chair Exercise #2: Shoulder Raise

Sit tall in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, arms hanging straight down at your sides. Slowly raise both arms out to the sides as high as you can without arching your lower back or letting your shoulders creep up toward your ears.

If you can, try to raise your arms all the way overhead, with fingers pointing toward the ceiling. If that’s uncomfortable, simply raise your arms as high as you can, ideally higher than your shoulders.

Slowly lower both arms back down to your sides and repeat. Do 15 to 20 reps total. (If that’s too easy, hold light dumbbells or water bottles as you do the exercise.)

Chair Exercise #3: Biceps Curl

Grab a pair of light dumbbells and sit tall at the edge of a chair with your feet flat, hip-width apart. Hold a weight in each hand with arms at your sides and palms facing forward.

Keeping your torso stationary and elbows tucked close to your sides, bend your elbows (not your wrists) to curl the weights up to your shoulders. Pause, then slowly return to starting position. That’s one rep. Do 15 to 20 reps total.

Chair Exercise #4: March

This exercise strengthens your hip flexors. Sit at the front of your chair with knees bent and feet flat, holding onto the sides for balance. Brace your core and lift your right knee about six inches off the floor or as high as you can without rounding your back. Pause, then lower and repeat with your left leg. That’s one rep. Continue alternating for 15 to 20 reps total. (For a balance challenge, try doing this exercise with your eyes closed.)

Chair Exercise #5: Heel Tap

Sit tall in a chair with feet flat on the ground, holding the sides of the seat for support. Engage your core. Lift your right foot and extend the leg in front of you and slightly to the side, at about a 45-degree angle. Tap your right heel on the floor, then bring the right foot back to the starting position. Repeat the movement with your left foot. That’s one rep. Continue alternating for 15 to 20 reps total. (To challenge your core, try letting go of the chair.)

Stay Active at Laurel Circle

Residents at Laurel Circle have a variety of ways to stay fit and active. Instructors certified by the National Institute for Fitness and Sport (NIFS) lead classes for all levels and abilities in our state-of-the-art fitness center. Strength training, balance classes, and walking programs (wait till you see our beautiful 28-acre campus in full bloom) help keep residents motivated and moving. To learn more about our active lifestyle, get in touch.