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Chair Exercises for Elderly People

author image Carri Ward
Carri Ward has been working in the health and fitness industry since 1997. She graduated from the University of Utah in exercise and sport science and holds an NSCA-CSCS certification. She has 10 years' experience as a personal trainer. She is the founder and president of a youth-serving nonprofit organization.
Chair Exercises for Elderly People
Using a chair for exercise offers numerous possibilities. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images


Exercise comes in many forms and varieties, including chair exercises. Chair exercises effectively assist elderly individuals to exercise and move without putting undo pressure or strain on their bodies. Movement works to lubricate joints and keep them flexible, strengthen and stabilize individual muscles and increase blood circulation. These exercise and movement outcomes result in a decreased number of falls and an increased ability to better accomplish day-to-day physical activities. Unless otherwise stated, perform these exercises on a straight-backed chair with your feet firmly on the ground.

Toe Taps

Keep the heels on the ground and bend the toes up toward the ceiling and back to the ground. To increase the range of motion, sit toward the edge of chair with the legs straight and the heel touching the ground. In this position, point the toes down towards the ground and then up towards the ceiling. Repeat these exercises eight to 10 times. This exercise strengthens the muscles in the lower front and rear of your legs, which you'll use for numerous daily activities such as climbing and descending stairs.

Sunshine Arm Circles

Chair Exercises for Elderly People
Using balls adds variety to exercises. Photo Credit yellow balls and a blue ball image by Ramona smiers from Fotolia.com

In this exercise the individual has a ball and holds it above the head. Always keep the elbows slightly bent and then circle the ball left, down, right, and back up in a big circle. Reverse directions each time and repeat eight to 10 times. If the individual is unable to get the ball above the head then holding it straight out in front and moving the arms around in a circle will also work. This exercise may also be done without a ball. This exercise strengthens your shoulders, which you'll use for lifting and carrying heavy objects.

Seated Row

Sit on the edge of the chair for a greater range of motion. Holding the arms out in front with thumbs toward the ceiling and the elbows bent, draw both elbows back as far as possible while squeezing the shoulder blades together. Release and repeat eight to 10 times. This may also be done one arm at a time pulling the shoulder blade in towards the spine. This exercise works your chest and upper back muscles.

Shoulder Rolls

Sitting tall in the chair, shrug both shoulders up toward the ears and slowly rotate them to the back, down, around to the front, and back to the top. Repeat and switch directions, rotating them towards the front and around to the back. Alternate directions 10 times. Performing this movement engages your shoulders and traps, which are essential to lifting objects.

Tummy Twists

Hold a ball waist height with the arms forming a 90-degree angle and pulled in to the sides. Rotate the upper torso to the left as far as possible, back to the middle and then to the right side. Only the upper body is moving. Keep the abdominal muscles in by imagining the belly button being sucked toward the spine. Repeat the exercise 10 times on each side. This exercise can be done without a ball. This exercise strengthens your core muscles, which you use to maintain correct, upright posture.

Hand Squeeze

Holding a ball in front of you, squeeze the hands together as if you're trying to get the air out of it, release and repeat 10 to 12 times. This exercise contracts the muscles in the chest and arms. To increase intensity, while slightly squeezing the ball, push it straight out in front of you and then pull it back in to the chest. A slow, controlled movement will produce better results.

Glute Squeeze

Squeeze the buttocks muscles together while sitting on the chair. Hold the squeeze for a couple of seconds and release. Repeat eight to 10 times. Strengthening your glutes has a variety of everyday benefits, including helping you walk.

Knee Lifts

Slowly lift the right knee toward the chest and then return to the starting position. Repeat with the left leg. Continue alternating eight to 10 times on each side. This exercise focuses on your quads, which are essential to standing and sitting.

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