5 Chair Exercises for People with Limited Mobility

  • By Rebekah Pierce
  • 13 April 2023
  • 6 minute read
5 Chair Exercises for People with Limited Mobility | The Health Sessions

This article is written by Rebekah Pierce. 

Regular chair exercises may be the trick to maintaining a healthy lifestyle for persons with limited mobility, from seniors to people with chronic illness. As the saying now goes, “sitting is the new smoking!” 

And while this might only hold a bit of truth, it does highlight the importance of staying active. So let’s look at some of the benefits of chair exercises – and learn a bit more about how to safely do some of the most helpful ones for folks with limited mobility. 

The Benefits of Chair Exercises

Chair exercises are beneficial for people with limited mobility because they can be done without having to leave the comfort of your own home. This means you don’t have to worry about safety issues associated with going out and getting exercise, like slipping on ice or having difficulty getting up after sitting down. 

Chair exercises also provide an effective workout that builds strength and increases flexibility without putting too much strain on joints or fatiguing muscles. And you don’t need fancy equipment or a gym membership. With just a few simple items such as a sturdy chair, some light hand weights, or an exercise band, you can get a full body workout at home.

Additionally, chair exercises are great for individuals with chronic pain or limited mobility due to injury or illness because they allow them to work out without exacerbating their condition. 

Finally, chair exercises can benefit your mental health in addition to physical health. Exercise has been proven repeatedly to reduce stress levels and improve mood – both important factors in maintaining overall wellbeing in life. 

Furthermore, by providing social interaction through group classes or online videos featuring trainers and fellow devotees, chair exercises can help combat loneliness and depression in adults who may not have easy access to socializing opportunities outside the home. 

5 Chair Exercises for People with Limited Mobility

Staying active and fit can be challenging if you live with limited mobility. But don’t worry! You can still get your heart rate up right from the comfort of your own home. 

Check out these five chair exercises courtesy of California Mobility.  See? Staying healthy doesn’t have to be a chore — it can even be fun!

1. Seated Side Stretch

5 Chair Exercises for People with Limited Mobility | The Health Sessions

Video: Seated Side Stretch

  1. Sit comfortably on your chair, perching at the edge. Keep your back upright and your spine straight, with both feet flat on the floor. Keep your hips and lower body stable.
  2. Using your right hand, grip the right edge of the seat. This will stabilize you.
  3. Bring your left hand above your head, making the shape of a long “C.”
  4. Shift the upper torso to the right. Keep your abdomen tight.
  5. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds. Switch sides.
  6. Repeat the exercise three to five times, or as many times as you’re comfortable, for each side. 

2. Seated Knee Extensions

5 Chair Exercises for People with Limited Mobility | The Health Sessions

Video: Knee Extensions

  1. Sit in your chair, positioning your hips as far back in your seat as possible. The back should be tightly pressed to the backrest of the chair.
  2. Keep your core tight. Stick your chest out. 
  3. Put both of your hands on the sides of the chair. Hold on to the seat to stay stable. 
  4. Your legs should be at a 90-degree angle with the chair.
  5. Bring one leg up in front of the body, aiming for a full extension. The other leg should remain in its original position for stability. 
  6. Slowly bring your leg back down to starting position. 
  7. Repeat for both legs to count as a single set, then repeat as many times as you are comfortable doing so. 

3. Isolated Triceps Extensions

5 Chair Exercises for People with Limited Mobility | The Health Sessions

Video: Tricep Extensions

  1. Pick up a dumbbell. 
  2. Sit comfortably in your chair, placing your hips as far back in the chair as possible, while ensuring that your back is firmly against the chair’s backrest.
  3. Keep your core tight. Stick out your chest.
  4. Keep your elbows high, positioned in front of the body, with one hand lowered behind the head. This will create a “V” shape. Use your other hand to brace your arm just beneath the elbow. Keep the helping hand in this position but don’t apply too much pressure. The hand holding the dumbbell will have its palm facing toward your head.
  5. Raise your arm (with the dumbbell) over your head until it is fully extended. 
  6. Lower your arm back to the starting position.
  7. Repeat for both sides. 

4. Seated Bicep Curls

5 Chair Exercises for People with Limited Mobility | The Health Sessions

Video: Bicep Curls

  1. Pick up a pair of dumbbells (you could also use a resistance band).
  2. If you use a resistance band, slide it beneath the seat or sit on it until it’s at an equal length on either side of your body.
  3. Sit comfortably in your chair, placing your hips as far back as possible. Make sure your back is pressed firmly against the chair’s backrest.
  4. Keep your core tight and stick your chest out.
  5. Keep both of your arms at the sides of your body, allowing them to hang naturally with both palms facing forward. Keep your elbows tucked at the sides of your body.
  6. Move both forearms in a curling motion from the sides of the body to the front of the shoulders. 
  7. While keeping tension, lower both of your arms back to the starting position. 

5. Tummy Twists

5 Chair Exercises for People with Limited Mobility | The Health Sessions

Video: Tummy Twist

  1. Pick up a medicine ball or similar object.
  2. Sit in your chair at the edge of the seat. Keep your core tight and stick your chest out. Both of your hands should be in front of your body, gripping the sides of the medicine ball, with your elbows bent.
  3. Lift the ball a couple inches off your lap, then rotate your upper body to the right. Keep the ball positioned in front of your body.
  4. Rotate to the center of the body, then rotate left, and finish by rotating back to the center. 
  5. Each “rep” consists of one full rotation. Repeat as many times as desired. 

What to keep in mind when doing these exercises

When doing these chair exercises, there are a few tips to keep in mind. First, it is important to find an appropriate chair that provides some degree of support and stability but also allows enough movement for the range of motion needed to do the exercises. 

It is also crucial to understand which areas of the body will be worked, as well as any special considerations that should be taken depending on individual needs. Consider assistance from a medical professional or qualified fitness instructor when starting. They can teach you safe ways to exercise and guide you on which exercises are best suited to your level of mobility. 

All exercises should be done slowly and steadily. Allowing ample time for rest between sets for recovery.

Final thoughts

Chair exercises offer seniors many great benefits — physical fitness, improved mental health, and socialization — all at minimal cost and with little risk of injury. They allow people with limited mobility to remain active without having to venture too far from home. 

So if you are someone or you know someone who could benefit from regular exercise but doesn’t want (or isn’t able) to go out jogging each day – why not suggest some fun chair workouts? It could make all the difference!

For more gentle ways to move your body, check out Functional Fitness: How to Train for Everyday Life and 5 Online Exercise Classes for Rebuilding Your Fitness with Chronic Illness.

Author bio: Rebekah Pierce is a writer in upstate New York, just north of the Adirondack Mountains. She holds both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Education degree. In addition to writing, she also owns a farm, where she grows a variety of plants and raises chickens, pigs, and sheep. Her writing interests cover everything from farming and gardening to education, health and wellness, and business. She writes regularly for her own blog, J&R Pierce Family Farm, as well as for California Mobility.

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