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Chair Exercises for Seniors

Updated on December 2, 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: my husband Kevin

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.


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