To stay safe while still enjoying the benefits of resistance training, take a seat.
Seated exercises are a great option for any senior who’s intimidated by resistance training. If you’re wobbly on your feet, for example, trying to curl a set of dumbbells while keeping your balance can be tough. If you’re not careful, you could wind up falling and hurting yourself. And that’s definitely not what you want from exercise.
Because make no mistake, resistance training is not optional if your overall health matters to you. Resistance training helps keep your heart healthy, bones and muscles strong, weight under control, and mood at optimal levels.
So, if you’re looking for a low-impact way to get your resistance training done, seated exercises are the way to go.
Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of seated exercises for seniors. Then, try out the 10 seated exercises we’d recommend for any senior looking to get strong and fit.
The Benefits of Seated Exercises for Seniors
Here are just a handful of the perks of seated exercises:
- More accessible if you have limited balance or mobility: Standing exercises can be risky if your balance or mobility is less-than-great. While it’s important to practice standing exercises to improve your balance and mobility, you may need a safer movement option if you’re exercising by yourself or just starting to lift weights. Seated exercises allow you to reap the benefits of resistance training without fear of falling down and breaking a bone.
- Build lean muscle: The sad truth is most of us lose 25% of our valuable muscle mass by our 70th birthday. Thankfully, seated exercises are one of your best options for rebuilding any lost muscle — especially if they incorporate resistance bands or dumbbells. And adding muscle will make everyday life a lot easier, from carrying heavy bags to getting up from a chair.
- Increase blood circulation: Seated exercises wake up your muscles and other tissues, moving blood and other fluids through your limbs in the process. Boosting blood flow is a big deal, especially as we get older and more sedentary. Strength training will also challenge your heart, which helps to improve cardiovascular health.
- Improve joint health: Moving your limbs as you lift weights encourages your joints to self-lubricate. This will go a long way toward improving range of motion and reducing stiffness and other joint soreness. Remember, motion is lotion!
- Prevent bone fractures: Osteoporosis — and the broken bones that go with it — is a common symptom of aging. By challenging your muscles through seated exercises, you can build greater bone strength, which may prevent painful fractures.
Can You Lose Belly Fat Sitting in a Chair?
It’s not uncommon to pack on a few pounds around your midsection as you age — blame a slowed metabolism and decrease in energy-burning muscle tissue. Aside from the annoyance that carrying extra weight can bring, it also increases your risk of chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.
Seated exercises — like the ones below — may help you lose those extra pounds. Just make sure you do them consistently to see maximum benefits. Try to work hard enough to get your heart pumping during the exercises.
The 10 Best Seated Exercises for Seniors
We’ve rounded up several of the top seated exercises for seniors. Several of these exercises require dumbbells, so pick a weight that feels safe and comfortable for you. If you’re stuck without a set of dumbbells, look around your house for something you can use as makeshift weights: water bottles, soup cans, and even laundry detergent can be great options.
Do these exercises two or three times per week. Shoot for a single set of 10 repetitions for each exercise. If you’re a beginner, start with five repetitions of each and work your way up.
1. Seated Side Bends
Here’s how to perform a seated side bend:
- Sit in a chair with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Bend your right arm to bring your right hand to the right side of your head. Allow your left arm to hang at your side. Keep an upright posture; don’t slouch or lean back in the chair.
- Inhale. As you exhale, bend gently at the waist to lower your left arm toward the floor. Keep your chest open and pull your right elbow back to feel a stretch in your right side.
- Inhale to return to starting position. Repeat on the other side.
Muscle Groups Targeted: Internal and External Obliques
2. Seated Calf Raises
Here’s how to perform a seated calf raise:
- Sit tall on a chair with your feet flat on the ground.
- Lift your heels off the ground until you feel a squeeze in your calves.
- Slowly lower your heels back down and repeat.
- To make the exercise harder, balance a dumbbell on the top of each knee.
Muscle Groups Targeted: Calves
3. Seated Single-Leg Extensions
Here’s how to perform a seated single-leg extension:
- Sit tall in a chair with your feet flat on the ground and grasp the sides of the seat.
- Keeping one foot planted and your upper body fixed, extend your opposite leg until it’s parallel to the floor.
- Bend your knee to return your foot to the ground. Repeat for the desired number of reps. Then switch to the other leg.
Muscle Groups Targeted: Quads, Hamstrings, Abdominals
4. Seated Knee-to-Elbow
Here’s how to perform a seated knee-to-elbow:
- Sit in a chair with both feet flat on the ground. Clasp your hands behind your head, elbows wide.
- Twist your upper body to the right and lift your right knee to tap your left elbow.
- Return to the starting position and twist to the left to repeat the movement on the opposite side. Continue for reps.
Muscle Groups Targeted: Rectus Abdominis, Obliques, Quads, Hamstrings
5. Chair Squats
Here’s how to perform a chair squat:
- Stand directly in front of your chair, facing away from it with feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing forward.
- Keeping your chest lifted, bend your knees to sit your hips down and back. Gently tap the chair with your butt.
- Push yourself back up to the starting position. Repeat.
Muscle Groups Targeted: Quads, Glutes, Hamstrings
6. Seated Dumbbell Biceps Curls
Here’s how to perform a seated dumbbell biceps curl:
- Sit tall in a chair and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Let them hang at arm’s length by your sides, palms facing forward.
- Keeping your arms tight against your sides, bend your elbows to curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders.
- Lower the weights back down until your arms are straight again. Repeat.
Muscle Groups Targeted: Biceps, Abdominals
7. Seated Dumbbell Overhead Shoulder Presses
Here’s how to perform a seated dumbbell overhead shoulder press:
- Sit tall in a chair. Lift your elbows out to the side to create a goal post position with your arms, dumbbells on either side of your head.
- Tighten your abdominals and press the dumbbells up slowly until your arms are straight.
- Slowly return to the starting position with control. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Muscle Groups Targeted: Shoulders, Biceps, Abdominals
8. Seated Dumbbell Rows
Here’s how to perform a seated dumbbell row:
- Sit in a chair. Hold a dumbbell in each hand down by your sides with palms facing each other.
- Bend slightly forward at the hips. Keeping your elbows close to your body, squeeze your shoulder blades together and drive your elbows back until your upper arms are nearly parallel to the floor.
- Slowly return to the starting position with control. Repeat.
Muscle Groups Targeted: Upper Back, Shoulders, Abdominals
9. Seated Dumbbell Triceps Kickbacks
Here’s how to perform a seated triceps kickback:
- Sit in a chair and lean forward until your chest is almost parallel to your thighs, with arms bent at 90-degree angles, and dumbbells to the sides of your chest.
- Keeping your back flat and elbows hugging your sides, press both dumbbells back until your arms are straight.
- Return the arms back to a 90-degree angle with control. Repeat.
Muscle Groups Targeted: Triceps, Shoulders, Upper Back
10. Seated Forward Roll-ups
Here’s how to perform a seated forward roll-up:
- Sit in a chair with your legs extended, heels on the floor, and feet flexed towards your face. Extend your arms in front of you. Keep an upright posture; don’t slouch or lean back in the chair.
- Begin curling your chin to your chest. Exhale as you roll the entire torso up and over, keeping your legs straight, abs engaged. Reach down towards the toes.
- Once you can’t reach any further, inhale as you begin to roll back up to the starting position, one vertebrae at a time.
- Repeat moving slowly. Avoid using momentum; try to use your abdominals to lift and lower.
Muscle Groups Targeted: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis