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Chair Exercises for Seniors

Updated on January 13, 2020

Upper Body Chair Exercises

As a Physical Education Teacher, Group Exercise Instructor, and Personal Trainer, I have enhanced the health and fitness of many people regardless of their stage of life. My chair exercise classes integrate exercises that will improve fitness levels and range of motion. Each class is intended to provide an adaptive exercise program that will encourage participants to live a strong and healthy lifestyle. These safe and effective chair exercises and stretches focus on the upper body! For a full body strength training workout, please see my strength training and chair exercises article.

Tips: It is best to use a sturdy chair without arms. Try to do at least 10 repetitions for each exercise. Feel free to do more! Sit tall and keep your shoulders back. Keep your feet firmly planted on the floor and about hip distance apart.

Photos by: Kevin Stradley

Wirst Circles
Wirst Circles

Wrist Stretch

Warm up your wrists by moving your hands in slow circles. Try both directions.

Also, while holding your arms steady, slowly move your hands up and down to stretch your wrists.

Finger Taps
Finger Taps

Hand Stretch

Finger Taps, Thumb Circles, Hand Stretches

Tap your thumb to each finger. Go in both directions.

Give your thumbs a nice stretch by doing thumb circles.

Close your hands and then open them while spreading out your fingers.

Shoulder Shrugs

Improve the flexibility of your shoulders. Sit up tall in your chair and bring your arms down to your sides.

Slowly lift your shoulders up and then slowly lower your shoulders back down. Repeat 3-5 times.

Arm Reach

A great way to start warming up your arms! Start with your hand near your chest. Push both hands forward and then bring both hands back in.

Chorister Arms

Start with your palms facing up. Sway each arm away from your body while turing your palms so that they face down. Bring both arms back in so that palms are once again facing upwards.

Bicep Curls

Start with both arms down. Bring your hands up towards your shoulders and then lower them back down.

Triceps Extension

Work the back of your arm with these arm movements! Start with your hand reaching forward. Slowly bend your elbow as you bring your hand towards your shoulder. Bring you hand back up to your starting position.

Shoulder Raises

You can do one arm at a time if you would like, or you can do both arms at the same time. Start with your arm(s) down. While keeping your arms fairly straight slowly bring them forward to about shoulder level. Slowly lower your arm(s) back down. This works the front part of your shoulder (anterior deltoid).


Keep both hands close together as you move them around in a circle as if you were stirring a large pot of food. My classes love to call out what we are "cooking" that day. Chocolate pudding is popular! After 10 repetitions reverse and do 10 repetitions in the other direction.

Arm Reach

Only attempt to raise your arms above shoulder level if you are free from shoulder injuries. Start with both arms down by your sides. Slowly raise them all the way up above your head. Slowly lower them back down.


Start with both hands close together and push your arms forward to one side. Bring them back in towards you body. Do up to 10 repetitions on one side. Repeat up to 10 repetitions pushing towards the other side.

Arm Circles

Bend your elbows and rotate your arms one arm over the other. Reverse directions.


Bend your elbows and bring your fists up near your chin. Punch with one arm coming forward and then bring your arm back in. You can do punches with just one arm at a time or you can alternate punches using one arm and then your other arm.

Side Stretch

For a nice stretch leave your left arm down while raising your right arm up. Slowly lean to the left as far as comfortable. Repeat on the other side.

Triceps Stretch

Increase the flexibility of the muscles in the back of your arm. Bring your left hand to your left shoulder. Use your right hand to bring your elbow up until you feel a stretch in the back of the upper arm. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat with your right arm.

Shoulder Stretch

Increase the flexibility of your shoulders. Bring your right hand to your left shoulder. Use your left hand to press your arm a little up and towards your body. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Back Stretch (Light Twist)

Sit up tall and bring your left arm to the side of your chair and your right arm to your left knee. Slowly turn your body towards your left until you feel a comfortable stretch. Repeat on the other side.

Forward Bend

Sit up tall with a hand on each leg. While keeping your back straight slowly bend forward. Slowly sit up tall. Repeat.

Chest & Arm Stretch

Bring both arms to your side with the palm of your hands facing forward. Slowly bring your hands backwards to a comfortable stretch.

Side Bends

Bring both arms down to your sides. Starting on one side slowly lower your arm down and then up 10 times. Repeat on the other side.

Neck Stretch

Sit up tall with your shoulders back. Slowly look to one side to comfortably stretch your neck. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Look forward and then slowly turn your head to the other side. Hold for 20-30 seconds.

Chair Exercise DVD

When I started teaching chair exercise, I read hundreds of articles and watched a lot of videos to get ideas and learn more. Stronger Seniors are my favorite chair exercise DVDs. I highly recommend them.

Stay Active & Healthy!

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    • Mandy Stradley profile imageAUTHOR

      Mandy Stradley 

      4 months ago from Riverton, Utah

      Thank you!

    • asereht1970 profile image


      4 months ago from Philippines

      Great article!. Love these exercises as you can do them while sitting. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great lens with good information for people with limited mobility regardless of their age! I'm working on a new lens about changing how we move and will put this link on it. You're appreciated!

    • ValerieJoy profile image

      Valerie Smith 

      6 years ago from New Zealand

      This is very helpful information. Thank you for this great lens.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I didn't know you could exercise while sitting in a chair.

    • JJNW profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      Terrific exercises and photos. Very helpful!

    • NibsyNell profile image


      7 years ago

      Such a great lens! It's great to see exercises suitable for a wide range of people for a change.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thank you!!! Great idea's. I work at an assisted living and have been looking for some different idea's for chair exercises.

    • shahedashaikh profile image


      7 years ago

      Great.Feel fine after doing them.Have bookmarked to do them everyday.Thanks for sharing.

    • LornsA178 profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      I have to go back here again to do the exercises. Great lens! Thanks!

    • Elaine Chen profile image

      Elaine Chen 

      7 years ago

      this is great information as I sit on a chair for most of time; either watch movie, read e-news, blogging, etc... the moment I let my eye rest for a while, I can do those exercises

    • pinkrenegade lm profile image

      pinkrenegade lm 

      7 years ago

      Great lens. These exercises are helpful to people like us who spend a lot of time sitting down.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      If your shoulder is hurt these are helpful I stopped and then started again and persisted till the pain went.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Fabulous lens. My own physiotherapist recommended similar exercises for me when I first became very ill with joint and muscle pain.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very informative lens. Well done

    • intermarks profile image


      7 years ago

      Great information for those who work on their chair for the whole day.

    • YogaAngel profile image


      7 years ago

      This is Awesome!!!!!!! I just learned some chair Yoga. I'm going to put a link to this on my blog!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very nice lens, I like it!

    • OrlandoTipster profile image


      7 years ago

      Found something to do while reading emails


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very important information for us chair bound Squidoo addicts. Thank you.

    • Hypersapien2 profile image


      7 years ago from U.S.

      Nice lens, with great exercises.

    • Rangoon House profile image


      7 years ago from Australia

      You have captured the demonstration of these exercises so well. Am sure I will do some straight away. Blessings.

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 

      7 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      Another great lens to help my step-mum with her mobility. Thank you! Angel Blessed**

    • kimark421 profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens. Good exercises for me to do when I am stuck at the computer for hours, which happens some times,

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I had no idea there were so many exercises you could do from a chair. Thanks for sharing!

    • GeekGirl1 profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens. This is very useful to people who don't have much to time to stand during work hours.

    • TheGourmetCoffe profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens, so many practical and easy exercises! Definitely will recommend this lens to others. I also "liked" your lens!

    • chas65 profile image


      7 years ago

      reta lens for many of us who sit in front ofa computer mch of the day as well as those who are not as mobile.

    • Wedding Mom profile image

      Wedding Mom 

      7 years ago

      These chair exercises are great especially when working long hours on a desk.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very inforamtiv lens, thanks for sharing!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Good for long stretches at the computer!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      You don't have to be "senior" to benefit from these exercises. Nice to take a break while writing on Squidoo to do some chair exercises without going far from the computer.

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image


      7 years ago

      Very informative lens. Thanks.

    • squallpogi profile image


      7 years ago

      Thank you for this very informative lens! I might need this! I have to say, you look very cute on those pictures.. haha..

    • tonywarde lm profile image

      tonywarde lm 

      7 years ago

      Mandy, thanks for sharing! "Like"'d this! Great help for, not only seniors, but for all - so I have shared it on my Facebook and Tweeted this too!.. Best wishes.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Fantastic lens. So easy to understand your instructions which is not always the case with exercise instructions. My mother-in-law has had four hip surgeries and these chair exercises are a blessing to her. Again, excellent lens.

    • LynetteBell profile image


      7 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      Thanks for sharing

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      These are the kind of exercises I would have loved having for when I worked in an office. Anybody can do them!

    • Mandy Stradley profile imageAUTHOR

      Mandy Stradley 

      7 years ago from Riverton, Utah

      @OliviaDaughter LM: Thank you!

    • OliviaDaughter LM profile image

      OliviaDaughter LM 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this, my mother use to do some of while in rehab. Take Care

    • OliviaDaughter LM profile image

      OliviaDaughter LM 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this, my mother use to do some of while in rehab. Take Care

    • markadamdouglass profile image


      7 years ago

      Some great ideas here!

    • Mandy Stradley profile imageAUTHOR

      Mandy Stradley 

      7 years ago from Riverton, Utah

      @MartieG: Wonderful!

    • MartieG profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 

      7 years ago from Jersey Shore

      We care for my elderly Mother in law and I would love to get her started with these exercises - blessed :>)

    • Mandy Stradley profile imageAUTHOR

      Mandy Stradley 

      7 years ago from Riverton, Utah

      @Kailua-KonaGirl: Wow, thank you so much!

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image


      7 years ago from New York

      These are a greast resource. Not old for seniors, but also for those of us that work behind a computer all day, every day. *Squid Angel Blessed* and added to "My Squid Angel Blessings for 2012" in the "Healthy Living » Senior Citizens" neighborhood. In fact, yours is the 1st lens to be featured in this category this year! Whoohoo!

    • SailingPassion LM profile image

      SailingPassion LM 

      7 years ago

      Great source of info for a relative of mine :-)

    • pg maniac profile image

      pg maniac 

      7 years ago

      This Lens is a super easy read and the color schemes is amazing - Well done!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      7 years ago

      Good lens - pinned to my Fitness and Health board. Check out the Sit and Be fit DVD's - the originator wants everybody to aim for fitness, even if they have handicaps.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      8 years ago

      I love that you have exercises for people who may not be mobile.

    • SharpLee profile image


      8 years ago

      Really nice lens! Very good instructions and photos! Thanks!

    • FunMoneyBusiness profile image

      Sharyn Read 

      8 years ago from ... either in the kitchen or at my laptop...

      Great work - it's amazing what us 'chair sitters' can do it we choose to, thanks for the info!

    • Mandy Stradley profile imageAUTHOR

      Mandy Stradley 

      8 years ago from Riverton, Utah

      @JJNW: Thank you!!

    • JJNW profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      Super clear and helpful. Great photos & gorgeous model ; )! SquidLiked by a Giant Squid.

    • howdoyouspellst profile image


      8 years ago

      These are great!! I love the pictures you have as examples.

      Blessed by a SquidAngel!!!


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