Chair exercises are an alternative way to get physically fit and strengthen certain areas of the body. They are most beneficial for individuals with mobility problems.

Regular physical activity is important for improving health. However, some individuals may find this more difficult due to mobility difficulties or other health issues.

In this article, we provide information about performing chair exercises. We also list some exercises that a person can try.

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Chair exercises may be beneficial to individuals who have reduced mobility. This may include older adults and individuals who have:

Individuals with mobility issues should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week. They should also try to do muscle-strengthening resistance exercises 2 days per week.

However, this may not always be possible. In this case, people should aim for as much physical activity as they can.

Performing chair exercises can help exercise the joints and burn calories. It can also help a person improve their:

  • posture
  • flexibility
  • muscle strength
  • circulation
  • balance

A study from 2016 received feedback from instructors of chair-based exercises. These instructors usually deliver these sessions to older adults and those with dementia. The study reports that instructors noted improvement in participants’ mood and cognition. In addition, participants experienced social benefits from the sessions.

A 2020 study looks at the use of chair exercises in older women. It concludes that chair exercises resulted in positive physical health changes. It also mentions that people had a lower fear of falling after performing chair exercises.

Another 2020 study investigates chair exercises for individuals with difficulty swallowing after a stroke. It claims the exercise improves swallowing ability and day-to-day activities, while reducing time spent in the hospital.

There are various chair exercises that a person can do, focusing on different parts of the body. Below are some examples.

Ankle stretch

This can help with flexibility and may also reduce the risk of blood clots.

  1. While sitting up straight, place one foot firmly on the floor and raise the other straight ahead.
  2. Point the toes away from the body, then point them back toward the body.
  3. Continue this exercise 2–5 times with each foot.

Heel digs

This can help the lower body muscles, such as the hamstrings. It can also help improve blood circulation in the lower legs.

  1. Plant one foot on the floor and raise the toes of the other, keeping the heel on the floor.
  2. With the heel staying on the ground, try to raise the toe up toward the shin.
  3. Repeat this with both feet.

Knee extension

This exercise can help improve upper leg strength and exercise the knee joint.

  1. Place both feet on the floor and the knees together.
  2. Straighten out one leg directly in front of the body.
  3. Hold for approximately 1 second, then lower the foot back onto the floor.
  4. Repeat with each leg.

Hip march

This may help improve lower body flexibility, particularly the hips and thighs.

  1. While holding on to the sides of the chair, sit up straight.
  2. Lift one leg as far as it is comfortable, keeping the knee bent and the base of the foot facing the floor.
  3. Place the foot down slowly, at a controlled pace.
  4. Repeat with both legs.

Core twists

This may help strengthen the core and the spine.

  1. Sit up straight on the front edge of the chair.
  2. Place the feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor.
  3. Clasp the hands in front of the chest with elbows sticking out.
  4. While the hands are clasped, twist from the waist to the left as far as it is comfortable.
  5. Repeat with the right side.

Chest stretch

This stretch can help a person improve their posture.

  1. Sit up straight on the front edge of the chair.
  2. Pull the shoulders back and down while extending both arms out to the side.
  3. Push the chest forward until a stretch occurs across the chest.
  4. Hold for approximately 5 seconds and repeat.

Upper body twist

Upper body twists can help improve flexibility, particularly in the back.

  1. Sit up straight with feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
  2. Cross the arms across the chest and hold one hip.
  3. Turn the body to the alternate side without moving the hips, as far as it is comfortable.
  4. Continue on the other side, repeating a few times either side.

Seated row

The seated row exercise may help strengthen the upper back muscles. It may also benefit posture.

  1. Sit up straight and hold both arms out at shoulder height. The arms should be pointed away from the body, with the thumbs pointed toward the ceiling.
  2. Draw the elbow backward and squeeze the shoulder blades together until the upper arm lines up with the side of the torso.
  3. Bring the arm back to the starting position and repeat.

Arm raises

Arms raises may help with shoulder strength and flexibility.

  1. Sit up straight and place arms by the sides.
  2. Face the palms away from the body, and raise both arms out to the side.
  3. Keeping the arms straight, raise both arms up as far as it is comfortable.
  4. Hold for a few seconds, then lower back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat several times.

Neck rotations

This exercise may help improve mobility in the neck.

  1. Sit upright, lowering the shoulders and looking directly ahead.
  2. Slowly, turn the head toward one shoulder as far as it is comfortable.
  3. Hold for a few seconds, then return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat on the other side and alternate several times.

Before beginning a chair-based exercise regimen, a person may wish to consult with their doctor. A doctor can discuss whether they recommend this plan and offer safe exercises.

A person should ensure they do not exercise beyond their capabilities. They should conduct moderate-intensity exercise that may make them slightly breathless and a little warm.

However, a person should ensure they do not hold their breath whilst exercising.

People should also warm up before exercising and cool down afterward. This allows for optimal blood flow to the heart. It may also reduce the risk of pulling a muscle.

Additionally, a person should ensure they have an appropriate chair for these exercises. The chair should be strong and sturdy, provide good support, and have armrests.

Chair exercises may be beneficial for individuals with reduced mobility. This may include older adults, people using wheelchairs, or individuals with cognitive conditions.

Chair exercises may help improve a person’s quality of life, flexibility, and mobility.

There are a variety of chair exercises that can focus on different areas of the body. People should ensure not to overwork themselves. They should also warm up and cool down before and after the exercise.