5 Safe Chair Exercises for Seniors

photo of a senior citizen doing some light stretching


Consistent physical activity and exercise become even more important as we get older. Older adults who exercise regularly may reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke, extend life expectancy, safeguard mental and physical well-being, and improve quality of life on a daily basis.

Older adults also face potential obstacles to staying physically active that may limit mobility or the types of exercise they can do safely. To counter this, there are a wide variety of seated exercises for seniors that can be done safely without sacrificing results. Today, we’ll be exploring some of our favorite chair exercises for seniors to help older adults stay active and healthy.

Simple Chair Exercises for Seniors

Staying active doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon or play basketball. If those are activities you enjoy and can do safely, then by all means enjoy! For many seniors, however, getting older comes with reasonable concerns for avoiding injury that limit the physical activities they may be able to participate in. While there are ways to help with how the body heals itself, the truth is recovering from sports injuries or other types of negative health conditions takes longer as we get older (with the potential for also being more severe).

To help older adults stay active to reduce the risk of age-related diseases, injury, or negative health conditions, we’ve put together a list of safe chair exercises for seniors you can do right from home. Just because you’re sitting down doesn’t mean you can do full body workout exercises! Our favorites are:

  • Ankle and wrist rolls
  • Sit-and-stand exercises
  • Seated torso twists
  • Modified leg lifts for recliners
  • Seated forward bend

Ankle and Wrist Rolls

A great chair exercise for seniors to warm up before jumping into more rigorous full body exercises, ankle and wrist rolls may help “wake up” the extremities in older adults who may have poor blood circulation issues. Poor circulation in the extremities like hands and feet can lead to mobility and flexibility challenges that could increase the risk of accidental falls, imbalances, or injuries.

Ankle and wrist rolls are super simple chair exercises for seniors to start their routine. Follow these simple steps as part of your pre-workout stretching and warming up:

  1. Sit up nice and tall in a sturdy chair to where your back is straight and not leaning against the backrest.
  2. Flex your fingers by opening and closing your fists several times then, keeping a fist, roll your wrists in each direction 10 times each.
  3. For your feet, begin by flexing and pointing each foot independently while curling and straightening your toes.
  4. One at a time, roll each ankle to the outside 10 times
  5. Repeat this motion the opposite direction, rolling each ankle to the inside 10 times (one ankle at a time).

This low-impact safe chair exercise for seniors can make a real difference when it comes to increasing blood flow in the extremities and helping maintain flexibility and mobility. This is also one of our favorite seated exercises for seniors to pair with post workout recovery in a zero gravity chair, as they both work to increase blood flow throughout the body.

Sit-and-Stand Exercises

Some older adults may struggle with getting in and out of chairs safely and independently. Sit-and-stand chair exercises for seniors help engage the core muscles, practice balance, and maintain mobility. They are also ideal for improving leg strength in older adults.

Sit-and-stand chair exercises for seniors follow simple steps, as well:

  1. Sit in a sturdy recliner with proper support. 
  2. Ensure your feet are flat on the floor, roughly hip-distance apart.
  3. Using as little assistance from hands or arms as possible, engage your core, and lean slightly forward from the hips. 
  4. Pressing your weight through all four corners of your feet, engage your core stability muscles and push yourself to a full standing position.
  5. As safely as possible, reverse these movements, pressing your hips back and bending your knees to lower yourself back into the seated position.

While this is a very simple chair exercise for seniors to do, it’s important to acknowledge your limitations and be prepared to support yourself if needed. Being able to get into, and out of, your zero gravity chair without major support can go a long way for strengthening your core muscles and keeping your balance strong.

Seated Torso Twists

Seated torso twists also make our list of safe chair exercises for seniors for an effective full body workout. These movements engage the core, specifically the obliques, while also helping to maintain a healthy spine. Spinal health can be a crucial element to our overall health, especially as we get older.

The steps for seated torso twists are:

  1. Sit up straight without leaning back, keeping your feet flat on the floor roughly hip-distance apart.
  2. Gently place your hands behind your head with your elbows bent and pointing out toward the sides of the room.
  3. Keeping your pelvis steady in place, exhale and twist your torso to the right as far as you can do so comfortably. 
  4. Inhale as you return to center, focusing on keeping your hips stable. 
  5. Repeat the action for your left side, pushing yourself only as far as you can go safely and comfortably.
  6. Inhale as you return to center, once again. 
  7. Continue these motions 6-8 times for each side.
  8. Rest, then try for a second set of repetitions.

The most important part of the seated torso twist chair exercise for seniors is to only push your body to its comfortable limits. Pushing beyond that could lead to an increased risk of pulling a muscle or otherwise injuring yourself. If you feel you can’t complete a second set of repetitions or can’t make it 6 to 8 twists per side, that’s okay! Rest, relax, and recover then try again another day.

Modified Leg Lifts in a Recliner

A modified leg lift is an easy recliner exercise for seniors that engages the core muscles. It’s important to use a sturdy chair such as a zero gravity recliner to ensure safety and security. Traditional recliners are often push-back recliners or may have less sturdy armrests, both of which may not be as safe during these exercises.

To do a modified leg lift in a recliner, follow these steps:

Sit up straight in your zero gravity chair and engage your core muscles.

  1. Keep your feet together and flat on the floor.
  2. Roll your shoulders back to maintain good posture during this exercise.
  3. Holding the armrests or gripping the seat, keep your feet and knees together then lift both legs as high as you can ( knees bent) as you exhale. 
  4. Hold this position for 5 seconds, then lower your feet back to the floor gently. 
  5. Perform this exercise 10 to 12 times.

This exercise does involve a fair amount of core strength to do. If you are unable to lift both legs together simultaneously, you can modify it further to do one leg at a time, lifting it as high as you can for a good stretch!

Seated Forward Bend

Last, though certainly not least, on our list of safe chair exercises for seniors that will yield results are seated forward bends. These seated exercises for seniors help stretch the upper and lower back, promoting good spinal health as well as increasing mobility and flexibility.

The steps for a seated forward bend are:

  1. Place your feet flat on the floor, roughly shoulder-width apart.
  2. Slowly lean forward, dropping your torso toward your thighs. 
  3. Relaxing your neck, lower your hands toward your feet.
  4. When you begin to feel the stretch, hold your position for 30 seconds.
  5. Slowly return to the starting position, rolling up gently and with deliberate movement.
  6. Repeat this exercise 3 to 5 times.

Seated forward bends are great chair exercises for seniors during warm up and as part of a post-workout recovery routine. They can help prepare the muscles for a full body workout and cool them down to prevent potentially painful conditions like Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).

Post Workout Recovery for Seniors

Taking care of our bodies after physical activity is important at every age. Having a post workout recovery routine in place is even more important as we get older, however, as our recovery may otherwise take longer.

Using the right equipment can make all the difference in the world when it comes to muscle recovery and keeping the body well. While traditional recliners may offer comfort for a while, their designs ultimately add excess pressure to the lower back and pelvic areas, increasing the likelihood of back pain or experiencing sciatica symptoms.

To avoid those, choosing the right recliner is imperative. For example, using a luxury zero gravity chair not only provides the stability and support you need during your exercises, but then immediately doubles as a potentially-effective post workout recovery tool, as well.

Zero gravity chairs with massage take recovery to the next level, keeping your body relaxed and speeding up the healing process. Other bonus features of zero gravity luxury recliners like heat therapy may also help keep your muscles loose, provide pain relief, and improve blood circulation throughout the body.

As you can see, there are plenty of safe chair exercises for seniors that don’t sacrifice results. Staying healthy and active is important at every age, but becomes all the more vital to our overall well-being as we get older. Try out some of these exercises and see how they improve your daily quality of life. Ensure you’re using the right equipment for the job, however, and consider choosing a zero gravity chair as part of an effective post workout recovery routine to keep yourself in top shape at all times.

As always, it’s important to consult your doctor before beginning any new health or fitness routines. Ensure these exercises are safe for you to do before you begin.

Want to learn more about the potential benefits of zero gravity chairs for all ages? Check out these additional resources: