Chair Exercises for Older People with Limited Mobility

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Looking after our health and taking regular exercise are important, and even more so during the coronavirus pandemic.  According to the NHS older adults should do some physical activity every day. Getting older means our mobility isn’t what it used to be. We could have joint issues like arthritis or problems with balance. It would be understandable if this demotivated you and meant you give up on exercise, but there are ways to work around lack of mobility. Chair exercises for older people are a great way to stay active and maintain good health.

Seated exercises like the ones we’re going to look at today can help you build your fitness without putting unnecessary strain on joints.

Chair Exercises

The real advantage of chair exercises is that they’re accessible. You don’t need to be fit already; nor any specialist equipment. All you need is a seat! You can increase the difficulty based on your ability, adding weights if you’re looking for an extra challenge. Alternatively, you can simply come as you are and get moving from the comfort and safety of your home. Chair exercises are great for older people, those with mobility or balance issues, and people recovering from injuries or surgery.

Chair Exercises for Older People

Now we’re going to take you through some useful chair exercises for older people and those with limited mobility. It’s important to start in the right position and to choose a sturdy chair without armrests, such as a dining chair. Sit upright, straightening your spine as much as you can. Your back shouldn’t be resting on the back of the chair, so you may need to shuffle forward a little. Sit with your feet flat on the floor. If it is more comfortable, hold onto the sides of the seat. You are ready to start.

Perform each exercise at a steady pace and without rushing,  – control is more important than speed.

Seated Row

Shuffle forward to sit on the edge of your seat, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Extend your arms out in front of you with your elbows slightly bent and thumbs facing up. Then draw your elbows back slowly while squeezing your shoulder blades together. until your elbows are in line with your ribs. Repeat for 10 rows. This is one of the best chair exercises for older people because it strengthens the chest, shoulders, and back without placing strain on your joints.

Knee Lifts

This chair exercise is good for strengthening your hips. Start by sitting upright and holding onto the sides of the chair. Then, with knees bent, lift one leg as high as is comfortable. Lower it back down gently and with control. Repeat with the opposite leg. To begin with, do 5 lifts with each leg, then increase over time.

Knee Extensions

This chair exercise will strengthen several different leg muscles. Start by sitting up straight with the feet flat on the floor and hold onto the sides of the chair, as in the Knee Lifts exercise. Then straighten one leg with your toes pointing upwards. Do not lock your knee – keep it slightly bent. Then lower the leg back down and repeat on the other side. Do 5 lifts with each leg.


Hold your arms out with your elbows bent at ninety degrees and our forearms out in front of you. Alternatively, cross your arms over your chest and place each hand on the opposite shoulder. Keep your lower body still and slowly twist your upper body to one side as far as you can comfortably go. It’s important to engage your core while you do this – concentrate on pulling your belly button towards your spine. Then slowly return to centre and repeat on the other side. Chair exercises like this one will help you build core strength and improve your posture.

Overhead Press

Start in the same seated position as before. Bend your elbows and bring your hands up to your shoulders with palms facing forward. Slowly raise your arms over your head and hold this position for a moment. Then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat for 10 raises. If you like, you could add a small weight to each hand. There’s no need to buy special exercise weights – a tin of soup or bottle of water in each hand will work fine.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you’re a beginner when it comes to exercise – or you’ve been out of practice for a while – it’s important to start slowly. That’s even more important  if you’re recovering from an injury or surgery, or if you have a condition like arthritis. Eventually you will build up your strength and fitness over time. Making progress with your fitness is one of the most satisfying things you can do – and it doesn’t need to cost you a penny! These chair exercises for older people don’t require any special equipment – just a bit of motivation and patience.

Good luck and enjoy getter fitter whilst sitting down!

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