Written by Ari Parker — Updated: Wednesday, February 1, 2023
As we age, mobility and balance issues are increasingly common, and the injuries we incur from falling become more serious. That’s why many seniors choose seated workouts to help improve strength and mobility while reducing the risk of injury.
To perform these seated exercises, make sure your chair is stable. You should avoid chairs with wheels or putting your chair in a space where the four legs aren’t on level flooring (e.g., two legs are on carpet and two are on the hardwood).
**As always, you should consult a medical professional to make sure that you are able to undertake physical exercise. If you ever feel any physical pain either before or during your exercise, please stop and consult a doctor before continuing.
Arm circles will help you warm up and activate your arm and shoulder muscles to ease into your workout. Put both of your arms straight out to the side, parallel to the ground. Once in position, create circles (either forward or backward) with your hands. Quick, small circles will activate your arm and shoulder muscles more. Big circles will provide more of a stretch. Do both for a thorough warm-up.
Toe taps will help you activate your legs and add a little bit of cardio to your routine. Once sitting, lift one leg up enough to have your foot leave the ground. As you lower the leg to tap your toe to the ground, raise your other leg. Continue alternating (lift one leg and tap with the other toe) for as long as you want!
Slowing this movement down and holding your leg in the air for a few seconds will make this more of a strength exercise. Moving your feet quickly, on the other hand, will increase your cardio effort. Feel free to mix slow and fast toe taps into your routine—and pair toe taps with some music and arm movements to have a little fun with it.
Jumping Jacks are a great cardio exercise, but can be challenging for people with mobility issues. Seated Jacks provide a great alternative! While sitting, push your legs out while simultaneously pushing your arms out and up (so your body makes an “x”). Bring your arms and legs back in toward your body, then repeat as many times as you like.
Seated bicep curls use the same motion as those done while standing, so the benefits are the same. To start, grab dumbbells (you can also use water bottles, cans, or other weighted objects), and sit in your chair. If possible, use a chair without armrests for a full range of motion.
With a weight in each hand, let your arms rest naturally at the sides of your body. From here, bend both arms at the elbow and lift your hands up toward your chest with your palms facing forward. To finish one curl, slowly lower your arms back down next to your side. It’s best to keep your elbows close to your body during your motion to activate your biceps. A good number of reps is somewhere in between 8-16, but you can do as many as you want!
Shoulder presses done while sitting are essentially the same as those done while standing. Grab your weights (or weight substitute), bend your elbows, and raise your hands so your palms are facing your head just under your ears on either side. From here, push the weights up til your arms are straight (avoid locking your elbows at this step). Bring your arms back down to the starting position, then repeat. Similar to bicep curls, a good number of reps to shoot for is in between 8-16, but do what feels right for you!
Squats can be a challenging exercise for those with mobility and balance problems. A safer alternative is repetitive sitting and standing (or seated squats). From a seated position, stand up (push your hands against your arm rests or upper thighs for extra balance support). Once standing, sit back down. The slower you go, the more you’ll activate your quadriceps (upper thigh muscles). You can even try squatting without sitting, knowing the chair is there to catch you if you need it to.
For this exercise, you should grab something with a little weight to it—like a medicine ball, a heavy book, or a water bottle. While sitting in your chair, hold your medicine ball (or other weight) directly in front of your body with both hands. From here, bring the medicine ball to the left and rotate your spine. Come back to center, then repeat the motion on the right. This will activate your core, which will help with both back pain and balance. Repeat the exercise as many times as you want.
For a little comical banter paired with your workout, check out this video by Bob & Brad, physical therapists with several video workouts suited for seniors.
In this video, the instructor, Jules, walks you through a series of exercises paired with music. This is a great option for someone looking for a longer, 30-minute workout.
Always make sure to stretch before and after your workout! If you need inspiration, take a look at these stretching exercises, which are easy to fit into your daily routine.