Seated and Standing Chair Exercises for Seniors (2023)

Seated and Standing Chair Exercises for Seniors (1)Share on Pinterest

Exercise is essential, no matter who you are. If you’re a senior, physical activity is important in helping reduce your risk of developing certain health conditions, boosting your mood, and keeping you active.

If going to the gym or heading outdoors for a walk isn’t an option, or if you’re just looking for a routine you can do at home, performing chair exercises (either seated or standing) is an excellent way to boost your physical fitness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people ages 65 and over should aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity, as well as 2 days of muscle strengthening activities.

If you have a chronic condition or limited mobility, you may need to modify these recommendations. That’s why it’s important to work with a doctor or physical therapist on an exercise plan that works for you.

Although the benefits of exercise for seniors are extensive, some top reasons it’s critical for health, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, include:

  • a lower risk of certain health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes
  • improved bone health
  • a lower risk of dementia
  • improved quality of life
  • a lower risk of depression

One review looked at various studies on the impact of resistance exercise on bone health. The review determined that resistance exercise, either alone or in combination with other interventions, may be the best strategy to improve muscle and bone mass in the older population. This is particularly true for middle-aged men and postmenopausal women.

Another study examined the role exercise plays as a tool to help manage the symptoms of depression in older adults. The researchers discovered that combining physical exercise of high or low intensity with antidepressants is more effective for sedentary older adults with major depression than antidepressant drug therapy alone.

(Video) Full Chair Workout - Seated and Standing - No Equipment | More Life Health

Getting started

(Video) Full Body Workout For Seniors - 60 Minutes (Seated and Standing)

Before you begin any new exercise program — even those designed for seniors, such as the one below — make sure you’re cleared by your doctor to participate in physical activity.

These moves are all doable at home. Alternatively, you may wish to join a fitness class led by a qualified instructor at a physical therapy clinic or fitness center geared toward seniors.

The key to a successful exercise session is to take it slow, know your limits, and listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, stop and try a different exercise. If you continue to feel discomfort or pain, consult your doctor or a physical therapist for guidance.

Seated exercises allow you to target the lower body while seated. If mobility is an issue, if balance problems prevent you from performing exercises in a standing position, or if you’re recovering from surgery or an injury, seated exercises are an excellent alternative.

Here, Dr. Grayson Wickham, PT, DPT, CSCS, founder of Movement Vault, shares his favorite seated leg exercises.


Always begin each workout with a 3- to 5-minute warmup, either while sitting or standing.

(Video) 30 Min Senior Workout Routines - Standing & Seated Chair Exercise for Seniors, Elderly, Older People

  1. Warm up by alternating marching feet for 30 to 60 seconds.
  2. Then, perform 30 seconds of arm circles.
  3. Repeat for 3 to 5 minutes.

Seated knee extensions

  1. Sit in a chair with your back straight and your arms at your sides.
  2. Extend and straighten your right knee while focusing on squeezing your quadricep muscles, which are at the front of your thigh. Hold for 3 seconds.
  3. Change legs and repeat.
  4. Perform this as a single-leg exercise for 15 repetitions on each side or a double-leg exercise for 15 repetitions total.

Seated pillow squeezes

  1. Sit in a chair with your back straight and your arms at your sides.
  2. Place a pillow between your thighs or knees.
  3. Squeeze the pillow by contracting your inner thigh muscles. Hold the squeeze for 3 seconds, then relax.
  4. Perform 12 repetitions.

Seated clamshells

  1. Sit in a chair with your back straight and your arms at your sides.
  2. Bend your knees and place your hands on the outside of your knees. Your hands are going to provide the resistance for your legs.
  3. Contract the muscles on the outside of your hips by trying to move your knees away from each other. While doing this, use your hands and arms to provide resistance, pushing your knees inward.
  4. Hold the contraction for 3 seconds, then relax.
  5. Perform 12 repetitions.

Ankle pumps with straight knees

  1. Sit in a chair with your back straight and your arms at your sides.
  2. Straighten your legs in front of you and pump your ankles downward, as if you were pushing down on a gas pedal.
  3. Hold for 3 seconds.
  4. Keep your knees straight and move your ankles in the opposite direction, bringing the top of your feet toward your shins.
  5. Hold each position for 3 seconds.
  6. Perform 10 repetitions in total.

Marching (chair aerobics)

  1. Sit in a chair with your back straight and your arms at your sides.
  2. Begin by marching with alternate legs. Bring one thigh up as high as possible and return to the starting position, then do the same with your other leg.
  3. Pump your arms, if possible.
  4. Continue for 30 seconds, or do 20 total marches.

This full body routine from Wickham includes exercises that you can do either seated or standing. It also includes weighted exercises with light dumbbells or hand weights.

Doing exercises from a standing position can help improve balance, but if your mobility is limited, you may find it easier to do them seated.


  1. For a standing warmup, stand next to a chair. Only place your hand on the back of the chair if you need it for balance.
  2. March in place for 30 to 60 seconds.
  3. Then, do 30 seconds of arm circles.

You can also perform the sequence of marching and arm circles while seated.

Dumbbell curls

  1. Either sitting or standing, hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Bend your elbows, bringing the dumbbells up to your shoulders while keeping your elbows by your sides.
  3. Perform 12 repetitions.
  4. If you need the chair for balance while in a standing position, do single-arm curls, using your nonworking hand to balance on the chair.

Dumbbell overhead press

  1. Either sitting or standing, hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Move the dumbbells to shoulder height. This is your starting position.
  3. Raise your arms overhead as high as possible, then return to the starting position.
  4. Perform 12 repetitions.

Side bend holds

  1. Sit in a chair or stand next to one.
  2. Straighten your arms overhead as high as possible.
  3. Squeeze the muscles on the side of your torso, bending to one side. Continue to contract these muscles for 5 seconds.
  4. Return to the starting position, then side bend to the other side.
  5. Hold this contraction for 5 seconds.
  6. Perform 5 repetitions per side.

Squats with chair support

  1. Stand in front of a chair, holding the top of it for support.
  2. Move down into a squat position by pushing your hips backward and bending your knees. Focus on keeping a straight back, and keep your chest up.
  3. Try to go as low as you can, with the goal of your upper leg being parallel to the ground.
  4. Stand up and repeat.
  5. Perform 10 repetitions.

Chair squats

  1. Sit in a chair with your back straight and your arms at your sides.
  2. Drive your heels and the middle of your feet down into the ground as you stand up tall. Be sure to keep your chest upright.
  3. Lower into a squat position by bending at your hips, pushing your hips backward, and bending your knees until you have sat back down in the chair.
  4. Perform 10 repetitions.

Standing lateral hip raises with chair support

  1. Stand up tall, holding on to the top of a chair for support.
  2. Lift one leg straight out to the side. You should feel the muscles in the side of your hip contracting.
  3. Keep your leg as high as possible while continuing to stand up straight. Try not to lean over to the side. Hold this position for a few seconds.
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat.
  5. Perform 10 repetitions per leg.

Heel raises while holding on to a chair

  1. Stand up tall, holding on to the top of a chair for support. Your feet should be about 6 inches apart.
  2. Push the balls of your feet into the ground as you lift your heels as high as possible, contracting your calf muscles.
  3. Hold at the top for 3 seconds, then slowly lower back down.
  4. Perform 10 repetitions.

Standing hip extensions with chair support

  1. Stand up tall, holding on to the top of a chair for support.
  2. Bend your right knee. Squeeze your right glute muscle and extend your right leg backward. Focus on not arching your low back while you do this. This may feel like a small amount of movement, but you should feel your glute engaging.
  3. Hold for 3 seconds, then return to the starting position.
  4. Perform 10 repetitions per leg.

Tips for limited mobility

(Video) 30 Min Standing & Seated Exercise for Seniors, Obese, Plus Size, & Limited Mobility Workout - Chair

If mobility issues prevent you from completing seated or standing exercises, there are ways to modify the moves and still benefit from doing the exercise. Wickham recommends performing the exercise using a shortened range of motion.

For example, if you experience pain, shoulder mobility restrictions, or both with the dumbbell overhead press, don’t lift your arms all the way overhead. Instead, only go three-quarters or half the way up, or as high as feels comfortable for you.

“It’s normal to have mobility restrictions, especially as you age due to years of poor posture and sitting,” says Wickham. Listen to your body and start a flexibility and mobility routine in combination with your workouts.

Staying physically fit is essential for all of us, and our needs can change as we get older. Participating in an exercise program that accommodates limited mobility can help keep you active and improve strength and range of motion.


How often should seniors do chair exercises? ›

Benefits of Performing Chair Exercises

Exercising on a regular basis (preferably at least 30 minutes per day) will not only keep an aging adult's heart healthy, but can also prevent strokes, heart attacks, falling, high blood pressure, and chronic diseases such as dementia.

What is the free chair exercises for seniors app? ›

SitFit lets you exercise from the comfort of your own chair. If you are unable to stand for very long, these short exercises are for you. SitFit gives you a free preview of the Team Pink armchair exercise DVD. Not everybody can do sit ups, bench presses, weight lifting, etc.

What is the best time of day for seniors to exercise? ›

The key take-home message is to exercise daily, and if mid-afternoon works well for you, then that is the optimal time to work out. Get in your activity whenever you can – just keep it consistent! Regular exercise helps seniors stay independent longer.

How effective are chair exercises? ›

It elevates heart rate – Studies have linked regular physical activity to cardiovascular health. Gentle chair exercises help get your blood pumping to strengthen your heart and help your body move oxygen and blood to your muscles more efficiently.

Can elderly regain leg strength? ›

Seniors should strength train two to three days per week, focusing on all major muscle groups during each session. When it comes to strength training, legs are an essential part of the equation. With consistent weight training and stretching, you will see an increase in muscle strength and flexibility.

What to do when elderly lose strength in legs? ›

1. Exercise
  1. Ankle Circles – This exercise is a great way to strengthen the ankle and leg muscles. ...
  2. Hip Marching – This simple exercise targets seniors' thighs and hip flexors, making them walk faster and farther. ...
  3. Calf Raises – Strengthening your senior loved one's calves is essential for balance and walking.
Sep 29, 2021

How do 80 year olds strengthen their legs? ›

Lunges are a great lower body exercise for seniors. They can also help strengthen your back, relieve pain, prevent loss of bone density, and improve coordination. Keep your back straight, lower the hips, and keep your chin up as you step forward to complete one lunge.

What is the number one balance exercise for seniors? ›

8 best balance exercises for seniors
  • Single-leg stance. Standing on one leg is a great way to test your stability and measure your progress after you start balance training. ...
  • Tree pose. ...
  • Heel-toe raises. ...
  • Heel-to-toe walking. ...
  • Sit-to-stand. ...
  • Dead bug. ...
  • Side leg raises. ...
  • Walking lunges.
Apr 20, 2023

What is the chair stand test for elderly people? ›

The chair stand test is similar to a squat test to measure leg strength, in which participants stand up repeatedly from a chair for 30 seconds. This test is part of the Senior Fitness Test Protocol, and is designed to test the functional fitness of seniors. purpose: This test assesses leg strength and endurance.

How can seniors exercise at home without equipment? ›

The No-Gym-Required Routine: Bodyweight Exercises for Seniors
  1. Benefits of Bodyweight Exercises for Seniors. ...
  2. Glute Bridge. ...
  3. Squats. ...
  4. Chair Squats. ...
  5. Wall Push-ups. ...
  6. Side Lying Circles. ...
  7. Bird Dog.

How many days a week should seniors exercise? ›

Adults aged 65 and older need: At least 150 minutes a week (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) of moderate-intensity activity such as brisk walking. Or they need 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity such as hiking, jogging, or running. At least 2 days a week of activities that strengthen muscles.

Are chair exercises good for seniors? ›

The Benefits of Chair Exercises for Seniors. Chair exercises are an excellent way to build strength and improve flexibility without putting too much strain on your body. Chair exercises also improve senior mobility by increasing blood flow and lubricating your joints.

How many times a week should seniors do strength training? ›

A good goal is about 150 minutes per week of moderate-level exercise, but you see benefits even at lower levels than that. Older adults should try to get strength training in the mix one to two times per week.”

How long should a sedentary person exercise? ›

The most health benefit comes when inactive people become moderately active. Try to work up to 150 minutes a week brisk walking. Making exercise a regular part of your life can have a major impact on your health. The key is to choose activities that involve most major muscle groups (walking, cycling, and swimming).


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