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chair exercises for older adults
Exercising on a regular basis helps keep the body moving and functioning properly as people age.

Chair exercises are beneficial for older adults

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Media Contact: Trisha Gedon | Communications Specialist | 405-744-3625 |

For older adults, regular exercise is one of the most important things a person can do for their health, said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Extension housing and consumer specialist and interim associate dean.

“Exercise helps your muscles stay strong so you can keep doing your day-to-day activities. You don’t even need to have a gym membership or have expensive equipment to stay active,” Peek said. “OSU Extension offers organized classes such as Walk with Ease and Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance, but some older adults may have mobility issues that make it difficult to get out of the house.”

If that’s case, all they need is a sturdy chair and a couple of full water bottles or cans of vegetables to get started.

Chair exercises are a great alternative for older adults who have difficulty moving around. Leg, arm and core muscles can get a workout from a seated position, which can help reduce the risk of injury from a fall. Easy stretching exercises are also beneficial for mobility.

Peek provided several example activities to start off the new year:  

Arm exercises

  • Seated shoulder press: Work on arm muscles by sitting in a comfortable chair and raising your arms above your head. To kick it up a notch, hold a water or can of vegetables in each hand for weight resistance.
  • Seated chest press: Start with arms at a 90-degree angle and bring them out in front of the body, then relax and pull them back in. Again, adding weight is an option.
  • Bicep curls: With arms at a 90-degree angle, raise and lower the forearm.

Leg exercises

  • Sitting to standing: Just like it sounds, sit and stand to build leg muscles by using your own body weight.
  • Seated calf raises: With feet flat on the floor, lift heels off the ground and repeat.

Core exercises

  • Leg kicks: Extend both legs away from your body. Lift one leg higher, return to starting position, then repeat with the other leg.
  • Tummy twists: With both hands, hold a small object in your lap, keeping your elbows bent. Twist from side to side while keeping the object in front of your body.


  • Neck turns: Sit comfortably in a chair and rotate your head from left to right until a gentle stretch is felt. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
  • Seated backbend: While seated, place hands on your hips. Slowly arch your back inward while keeping spine straight, then lean backward using only the upper body.
  • Seated side stretch: With one hand, grip the side of the chair when seated. Extend your opposite arm over your head, making a shape similar to an elongated letter C. Shift your upper torso in the direction of the hand holding the chair, and hold for 10-20 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

Peek said anyone starting a new exercise program, whether at home or in an organized class, should first consult with their primary care physician.

“It doesn’t take much to get started exercising at home and the benefits are well worth the efforts,” she said.

For more information about exercising in later years or exercises that can be done at home, contact your local OSU Extension county office.

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