Training Articles

Best Chair Exercises for Seniors and the Elderly

The older you get, the less extremes you can push your body to. This doesnt mean that you should not exercise, regardless of your age, keeping health and fit requires some level of exercise. Exercises such as swimming or riding a bike may now not be possible. Walking may also be a challenge over distance, however it is still possible to keep your body in good shape through chair exercises for older adults (also referred to as chair aerobics for seniors).

The benefits are to maintain and improve the condition of your heart and your circulatory system.

In this article, Chair Exercises for Seniors, we will introduce you to some activities you can complete whilst sat down and will help reduce the impact of muscle loss that is often related to the effects of reduced mobility and age. These are exercises that you can carry out in your chair will help keep your limbs more flexible and make you feel healthier.

Benefits of Chair Exercises

Keeping fit can be an aid to living longer, feeling better and ultimately staying active. The key to a more healthier existence is exercise. Chair Exercises can help give you a program that will work by giving you a regular routine that can also prevent or reduce the effects of ailments such as arthritis, diabetes, heart problems, general strains and pain associated with ageing.

Additionally it can also help psychologically by combating anxiety and depression, which are often associated with a more sedentary lifestyle. The ultimate benefit of committing to a program of exercises is that you increase your chances of living longer!

Chair Exercises have 2 main objectives – to improve your Flexibility & Strength. The additional benefits also include improving your endurance and if you are still mobile it can also help with balance.

1. Flexibility

Stretching exercises help improve flexibility of your limbs enabling you to more freely stretch and reach for things such as reaching down to pick things up or tie your shoes. The benefit of basic stretching exercises makes general movements easier so that simple tasks such as looking over your shoulder are less of a challenge or a cause of strains or pain.

When doing basic stretching exercises from your chair it is important to ensure your muscles are warmed up so take care not to stretch too far resulting in the exercise being painful. Later we’ll take a look at some basic exercises you can carry out.

2. Strength

It’s important when looking to engage in an exercise regime to improve your strength that you start slowly and not over extend yourself. Keeping your muscles in good condition requires a sensible approach to build their strength and not over extend yourself resulting in unwanted injuries that will reduce your capacity to keep active.

Strength building exercises will help you to lift things and even if restricted to wheel chair exercises, you can still reduce your dependence on others if you are strong enough to be able to manipulate and control your surroundings from a seated position, through techniques such as chair yoga, a modified version of yoga.

Keeping Healthy & Safe – A few Tips

It is worthwhile checking with your Doctor before commencing any fitness regime, especially if you’ve been inactive for some time or you have any health conditions that mean certain exercises should be avoided.

1. Start Slowly!

Warm up. Build the level of exercise gradually. Don’t Over do it!

2. Don’t Hold your Breath!

During stretching exercises it’s important not to hold your breath as this could impact your blood pressure in a negative way

3. Drink plenty!

One potential impact of ageing is that the sensation of thirst is often reduced and thus your body fails to give itself the signals to tell you it needs hydrating. So unless advised otherwise by your Doctor, it’s important to drink regularly during your exercise program.

4. Don’t push the pain barrier!

It’s normal for exercise to make you feel tired, sometimes really tired and with some exercises you may feel some discomfort or a little sore. It’s important however not to feel pain. The aim and the result of regular exercise is to make you feel better.

Any new symptoms you identify that cause you concern after you’ve commenced your exercise regime should be discussed with your Doctor.

Dangers of Not Exercising

The dangers of not exercising are many.

  • Your muscles will waste from the lack of use and density of your bones will also reduce at a much faster rate.
  • You will be more at risk from accidents as you are less able to control basic body movements. A sedentary lifestyle is often a reason for raised blood pressure and weight gain. Both conditions adding to the risk factor for heart disease and other health problems.
  • As mentioned earlier there are psychological problems associated with physical inactivity. Depression and other mental health issues can often arise.
  • Active body often equals an active mind and even if your exercises are limited to your chair it will help keep the mind alert and ensure you avoid getting confused.

Chair exercises for older adults should be an essential part of your daily routine to ensure the quality of your life is a healthy one. Don’t worry if you’re not chair exercising now as it is not too late to start.

Exercise can also be fun and something to look forward to and help structure and fill your day.

Simple Chair Exercises For The Elderly

Tapping Toes

Keep your heels on the floor. Now bend your toes upwards as far as they can go, try pointing them at the sky and then bend them back to the ground. Repeat this exercise 5 – 10 times and increase the regularity as your level of fitness improves over the days and weeks.

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Rocking and Rolling Shoulders

Sit in your chair with a straight back, making yourself tall. Lift your shoulders towards your head and then rotate them slowly towards your back, then down towards your feet and back to their normal position. The movement should circular so your shoulders roll on their axis. Do this for 10 rotations and then change the direction so your first movement is to lift your shoulders and then rotate them forward and down (rather than rotating them backwards on first lift).

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Squeezing Hands

For this exercise you need a 2 balls, the size of a tennis ball. Hold the balls, one in each hand, in front of you and squeeze your hands together. Squeeze as if you are attempting to get the air out of each ball. Release and repeat 10 to 12 times. This exercise works both the chest and arms musciles. To increase intensity, while slightly squeezing the balls, push your arms straight out in front of you and then pull them back into your chest. Slow controlled movements will help produce better results.

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Butt Clenching!

Sitting up tall with your back straight, squeeze your buttocks together whilst in a seating position. Hold in this position for a few seconds and repeat for 5 – 10 times. Again increase number of times you do this when your fitness level increases.

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Raising your Knees

Whilst seated and with both feet on the floor, slowly lift one of your knees towards your chest and stomach. Lift it to a level you feel comfortable with but that takes some effort. Hold it for a few seconds and then lower until your foot is back on the floor. Repeat this with your other knee and continue until you have lifted both knees at least 5 times.

More exercises fitness programs for older adults will regularly appear on this site, or if you would like to learn more, there are a number of chair exercise video and CD titles designed for seniors available from your local fitness store.

Main image Credit: sparkle glowplug