5 Best Chair Exercises for the Elderly

By Helen Harper

Exercise is important for people of all ages. But it’s especially important for older adults. Regular fitness sessions have been shown to build strength and improve flexibility, reducing the risk of a fall. Plus, it has been linked with improvements to your mental health, helping you maintain a positive mood.  

However, there are many circumstances where your mobility might be limited. The good news is that this obstacle doesn’t have to stop your fitness journey. There are plenty of exercises you can do on a chair. Let’s look at some chair workout ideas for seniors. 

Warm Ups 

Before you start any intense exercises, you should do a warm-up. This will allow you to get the blood pumping through your body and reduce the risk that you will feel sore later. There are a few popular seated exercises you can do.  

First, you can try marches. In this case, start in a relaxed position, with your knees bent and heels on the floor. Then, start raising and lowering your feet, as though you are marching. Swing your arms at the same time. Keep marching for 30 to 45 seconds. Then, give yourself a few moments to get your breath back. Repeat this exercise 2 to 3 times.  

Arm circles are a great exercise to warm up your upper body. In this case, you need to hold your arms out straight. Then, make small concentric circles in the air. Keep going for 30 to 45 seconds. Repeat as needed.  

RELATED CONTENT: Creating a Safe Exercise Routine for Seniors 

1. Chair Squat 

Let’s start with one of the most popular chair exercises for seniors, the chair squat or sit to stand.

Start in a standing position with the back of your heel against the chair. Then slowly lower yourself until you are seated in the chair. If possible, keep your arms out in front of you. If you need to, you can hold onto the armrests on the chair to guide yourself down. You should feel this targeting your abdominal muscles and strengthening your legs.  

The next step is to stand up again. Plant your heels shoulder-width apart. Try to drive through your knees as you stand. Again, you can use the armrests on the chair if you need to. If you can’t stand up all the way, you can aim to lift your body off the chair for a few seconds, then lower yourself back down. This video demonstrates the chair squat.  

If you’re looking for a challenge, there are also a few ways that you can make this exercise more intense. For example, you can put a minute on the clock and see how many chair squats you can do.  

2. Calf Raises 

If you are looking for a simple way to boost strength in your legs, calf raises are ideal.

Start seated with a straight back and your feet planted on the ground. Then, lift your heel off the ground, keeping your toes on the floor. This should produce a stretch in your calf muscles. Aim for 5 to 10 reps on your right foot, then 5 to 10 reps on your left foot. Finish with 10 reps on both calves simultaneously.  

RELATED CONTENT: Great Fall Prevention Exercises for Seniors 

3. Dumbbell Curls 

Dumbbell curls can help build arm strength. And you don’t even need to have dumbbells. A substitute, like a milk bottle, can work just as well.  

Start seated with a weighted dumbbell in each hand. Place your elbows on the chair rest and bend your arm so that your forearm is facing towards you and is perpendicular to the ground. Then, slowly lower the weight until it is parallel to the ground. Lift it and return to the starting position. Repeat this 10 to 20 times.  

You can also lift the weight over your head. If you are doing this, you will need fewer repetitions; 12 overhead lifts will be enough for a set. Then, give yourself a much-needed rest. This article has some additional dumbbell lifts you can explore.  

4. Leg Lifts 

For this exercise, you will need to start sitting down. Grip the armrests of your chair and keep a straight back. Then, lift your legs up as far as they can comfortably go while keeping your knees together.

Try to extend your legs out straight. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds, then slowly lower your legs back to the ground. Aim for 10 repetitions of this exercise.  

5. Torso Twists 

A simple way to work out your core muscle group is through torso twists. Sit with a straight back. During this exercise, you won’t be able to lean back in your chair. Place your hands behind your head. Your elbows should be pointed to either side of the room.  

Then, you will slowly twist your body to the right until you can’t twist any further. Hold this position for a few seconds, then exhale and move back to the middle. Next, twist to the left until you can’t twist any further. Hold the position for a few seconds. Exhale and move back to the middle. Repeat this exercise 10 to 15 more times.   

RELATED CONTENT: Exercise Wearables for Active Seniors 

Walking with a Mobility Scooter 

If you are looking for a more active exercise, you might want to go for a walk with a mobility scooter. This is an ideal way for those with joint mobility issues to get around. If you ever get too tired, you can sit down and take a break while you recover. Plus, these scooters have padded handles, to help you balance over uneven ground.

Many can be foldable, which can make storing them in your car during a road trip easier. There are dozens of scooters available, though this list of the best mobility scooters for adults and seniors can make shopping a little easier.  


Just because you are having some mobility problems doesn’t mean that your fitness levels need to suffer. You can get a great workout without leaving your chair.

As always, it’s important to know your limits. Avoid pushing yourself too hard. This could lead to a dangerous fall or other injury. You can also feel free to modify the exercises, to avoid any pain or joint issues. 

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Tags: Senior Fitness, Exercise