It’s no secret that exercise is paramount to healthy living. The good news is that exercise comes in many varieties, so even if you or a loved one might have limited mobility, being involved in physical activity is still achievable. With a little creativity and safety, plenty of exercises can be adapted while sitting in a chair. This is especially true for seniors who may be worried about injury.
Studies have shown that exercise can help to lessen pain, increase energy levels and physical fitness and may even boost mood. In particular, seated exercises lessen the risk of falling and moderate how much energy is used for seniors. These exercises aren’t exclusively just for seniors, you too can join in and can the same benefits or help out as a companion to make the exercise a little bit more fun.
We are all feeling the effects of how Covid-19 has limited what we can do and were we can go. But for seniors especially, it is important remain active with exercise even with sitting to maintain strength and mobility in these trying times.
Here are a few exercises that we recommend:
The seated march is a good choice to get the heart rate going while also improving flexibility and mobility through the hips.
Sit tall with your feet flat on the floor
Grasp the edges or armrests of the chair for stability and engage your abdominal muscles
Lift your right leg with your knee bent as high as you comfortably can, as though doing a high-knee march
Lower your right foot to the floor with control
Repeat to the opposite side
Perform 15-20 or as tolerated. After a short break, you can repeat the exercise two or three more times if you can to promote a more cardiovascular effect.
The Tap Dance (Toe and Heal Raises)
These two movements, when done together help to strengthen the shin and calf muscles that are used to improve activities like going up and down stairs
as well as mobilize the ankles for everyday walking.
Sit tall with your feet flat on the floor
Point the toes toward the ground then up towards the ceiling for a slight pause
Return the feet back flat on to the floor
Raise the heels up also for a slight pause before returning the down toward the floor.
Repeating the movement 8-10 times or as tolerated.
For added fun, play some upbeat music and tap along to the beat.
Elbow to Knee Crunch
Seated toward the edge of the chair start with your right arm extended up overhead.
Slowly lift your left knee as you lower your right elbow down so that the two meet together or as close as they can without pain or discomfort.
Hold this position for about 2 seconds before lowering both limbs down.
Perform the exercise with the alternate sides and repeat 8-10 times each or as tolerated.
Ball Chest Press - Push and Pull
Sitting with an upright posture, hold a round object like a ball with both hands and chest level
While keeping your shoulders back, extend the arms out for about 2 seconds
Squeeze the shoulder blades together as you slowly return the ball back toward your chest
Repeat 10-15 times as tolerated
A creative spin: If you are caring for a senior you can spice up this exercise by holding onto the ball while they perform this exercise and adding in a little more resistance by countering their push and pull. This simulates a bit of tug-of-war and might feel more fun than exercise as they may reflect to the time when they were kids again fight for a toy.
This exercise promotes strength and coordination for the chest, upper back, and arms.
“The Clock” – Shoulder Raises
Sitting with an upright posture, hold a ball in both hands, or with hands clasped together, with arms slightly bent.
Visualize the face of a clock and begin to draw a circle overhead and all the way around in a controlled fluid manner.
A creative alternative: We advance the clock motion by integrating a “minute hand” in the mix so that each arm raises at a different level with or without light weights. Examples can include times like 12:15, 10:10, 9:15, and 12:45.
Sit to Stands This exercise, which strengthens your abdomen and thighs, maintains the strength necessary to move out and about.
Sitting with an upright posture, knees bent and feet flat on floor, shoulder-width apart.
With a straight back, lean forward so that your nose goes over your toes
Keep the weight on your heels as you slow stand up keeping your back and shoulders straight.
Take about a 3 second pause before slowly sitting back down leading with your hips.
Perform 8-15 times or as tolerated comfortably.
If you are more advanced, try a squat instead where instead of sitting down completely, you would begin to stand back up just before your hips touches the seat of the chair.
Overhead Arm Extensions (Triceps)
This exercise will strengthen your upper arms. You can do this exercise while standing or sitting in a sturdy, armless chair.
Keep your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.
Hold a ball with both hands and raise it up over your head, with arms extended without locking the elbows. Raise that arm toward ceiling.
Slowly lower the elbows so that the ball comes down toward the back of the head.
Repeat 10-15 times, or as tolerated.
This exercise can be performed one arm at a time if using both arms are a bit challenging.
The Slam Dunk
We can combine the two previously mentioned exercises into one for a little more fun and challenge.
While holding on to a ball or other round object as perform the sit to stand, have your partner hold some kind of container up high, like a bowl or basket – this will serve as a basketball hoop as you then stand to raise your arms up high and extending them forward to dunk the ball down like the pro athlete you are!
Around the World (Core Rotation)
This exercise promotes strength and mobility to the core muscles and shoulders used for postural stability.
Hold a ball or weight at your waist with your arms bent 90-degrees.
Using only the upper body and keeping your belly pulled in, twist to the left as far as you can, come back to the middle, and twist to the right.
Repeat 8 times on each side or as tolerated.
For shared fun, a friend or family member can join in by sitting back to back. As you twist in one direction as far as you can, have your partner twist as well so that the ball can be passed along each other, and so the ball truly completes its orbit.
Note: If balls or hand-held weights are not available, common household items like soup cans or bottled water can be a great substitute as they can still be grasped and have a little heft to them for strength.
We are a team of experienced clinical kinesiologists who specialize in preventive and rehabilitative exercise for seniors. We believe that aging is part of a beautiful journey and everyone deserves to live their best life. We understand that as our bodies get older, it doesn’t function the same. As some see this as a limitation, we see it as an opportunity. With the right mindset, knowledge, tools and support we help improve quality of life, slow the progression of certain conditions and help you take control of your health.
Call us today for a free consultation. San Diego 619.263.0329 or Orange County 949.245.6239.