Did you know that seated exercise is becoming very popular?

Neither did I until very recently! Yet it seems that there are a whole host of excellent seated exercises which hold their own when compared to many more conventional exercise regimes which are usually performed on foot.

Having taken a look at some of the chair exercises possible, it would seem that they would be suitable in a wide range of circumstances and not just for seniors with mobility or balance issues. They can also work equally well for someone recovering from an injury or surgery and for those of us who sit for a living and, by default, spend a great deal of our time moving very little aside from our fingers.

A seated workout can help to develop cardio fitness, flexibility and muscular strength. However, before throwing caution to the wind your first step should be to choose a good solid chair; wheels are highly dangerous and something too deep or padded would make freedom of movement extremely difficult. A heavy kitchen chair with a padded seat should prove ideal.

Here are ten of my favourite chair exercises which provide a good workout from the neck down, can be done from the seated position, are suitable for most levels of movement and can be performed at any time of the day or night.

As with any exercise, it pays to warm up first. The first two exercises will help with this:

  1. Neck Stretch – This will warm up your neck and prepare you for further exercises.

Sit up straight and slowly tilt your head towards your right shoulder. As you feel the stretch extend your left arm down and to the side. Release and repeat on the opposite side. Repeat four times per side.

  1. Shoulder Circles – Warm up the shoulder muscles to reduce the risk of a muscle strain.

Place your fingertips on your shoulders and circle your shoulders forward for fifteen repetitions. Reverse the movement, and circle backward for fifteen repetitions.

Now that your muscles are warming up continue with the shoulders, move onto arms and finally tackle legs.

  1. Shoulder Rolls – Sit up straight with feet flat on the floor. Shrug your shoulders tight up towards your ears and rotate them in a circle. As you reach the top you should reverse the motion. Ten repetitions in each direction are
  2. Upper Arms – Sit on the edge of the seat with your feet flat on the floor. Hold your arms in front of you, point your thumbs toward the ceiling with your elbows slightly bent. Pull back your elbows, whilst squeezing your shoulder blades together, until your upper arms are in line with your body. Extend your arms again and repeat up to ten times. This exercise will help strengthen your arms and your shoulders.
  3. Toe Taps – this exercise has two levels of difficulty and exercises the calves.
  • Sit up straight with your feet flat on the ground and bend your toes toward the ceiling and then back to the floor.
  • To increase the difficulty, sit on the edge of your seat with your legs straight. Keep your heels on the ground as you bend your toes upward and then back down. This version increases the range of motion. Begin with five repetitions and try to increase by one each time you do the exercise.
  1. Knee Lifts – this exercise strengthens your quads, the largest muscle group in your body.

Sit up straight with your feet flat and slowly lift your right knee toward your chest. Lower your foot back to the floor and repeat with your left leg. Build up gradually to ten repetitions per leg.

  1. Stomach Twists – this exercise strengthens obliques and abdominal muscles and helps maintain good posture.

Sit up straight with your feet flat on the ground. Hold your arms at a ninety-degree angle with your elbows firmly by your sides and your forearms extended in front of you. Rotate your upper torso as far to the left as possible. Keep your lower body still and squeeze in your stomach muscles for a count of five. Return to the middle and repeat the exercise to the right. Build up to ten repetitions on each side.

  1. Chair Running

Sit with your legs extended, toes pointed and arms bent by your sides. Lean back slightly so that your shoulder blades barely touch the back of your chair. Gently lift your feet from the floor. Pull one knee toward you while the other is extended and then switch. You should feel like you are performing a slow running motion. If necessary try gripping the armrests or sides of the seat to aid balance. 

  1. Seated Tap Dance

Sit with knees bent and toes resting lightly on the floor. Extend one leg and gently tap your heel to the floor. With your leg still extended, point your toes and tap them to the floor. Flex your foot and tap your heel again. Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite leg. Perform this alternate tap dancing motion for as long as possible – three to five minutes would be ideal and try to keep going a little longer each time.

  1. Ankle Rotations

Sit up straight and rest your ankle on the opposite knee. Rotate your ankle in circles. Perform ten rotations clockwise and ten rotations anti-clockwise. Point your toes for an additional stretch.

There are many more exercises which can performed from a sitting position but these ten offer a workout from the neck down to the ankles and suit most abilities. As with all forms of exercise, caution is advised in the beginning. Rather than throwing yourself in and executing the maximum number of reps possible, start slowly and gently and work your way up to a nice comfortable number.