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19 Seated Exercises for Seniors to Increase Mobility

 Sitting exercises for seniors


It's a frustrating catch-22. As we age, working out becomes more difficult to do since our physical abilities decrease. Yet, keeping an active lifestyle is critical to maintaining mobility and health as we grow older. 

The good news is that taking the first step towards a healthier, more active lifestyle can be both empowering and life-changing. And it is entirely attainable! No matter your physical limitations, seated chair exercises are accessible to everyone. 

For seniors looking to maintain physical health or anyone seeking an effective low-impact fitness routine, seated exercises offer a gentle yet impactful way to enhance mobility, flexibility, and overall well-being.

Don’t start your fitness journey alone. Find a club near you for support and expert guidance when you need it. 

What are Seated Exercises?

Seated exercises, or sitting exercises, are a simple and valuable form of physical activity tailored to individuals who work better from a seated position. Seated exercises are typically performed while sitting in a chair and are designed to improve mobility, enhance flexibility, and promote overall well-being.

Why are Seated Exercises Beneficial?

With little preparation or equipment necessary, seated exercises aren't just beneficial, they're easy to pick up and add to anyone's routine, making them highly accessible! Plus, engaging in seated exercises for just a few minutes a day can boost mobility and enhance strength, balance, and posture. Sitting exercises offer a low-impact solution for physical fitness without putting excessive stress on joints and muscles.


Who Can Benefit From Seated Exercises? 

  • Seniors: Seated exercises are especially advantageous for seniors looking to maintain or enhance their physical abilities. As we age, our bodies don't heal or regenerate as fast—and that’s perfectly normal! But adding some seated exercises to a senior's daily routine can suit many fitness levels, ensuring that individuals can engage in safe and effective routines.
  • Those Recovering from Surgery or Illness: Those recovering from surgical procedures or dealing with illness benefit greatly from seated exercises since they offer a way to gradually rebuild strength and regain mobility without overexertion.
  • Those Seeking Low-Impact Options: If you’re looking for low-impact exercise options that don’t overexert the joints, then seated exercises are a wonderful way to find movement without harsh impact. 

These types of seated exercises can also be beneficial if you're undergoing other forms of physical therapy or have specific medical conditions. See if your doctor agrees that seated exercises would complement your treatment plan. 

Before Beginning Any Exercise Routine

Before we dive into specific, seated exercises, let's dispense the disclaimer: Always consult a doctor before starting any new exercise routine. Especially if you've recently undergone surgery, have recent injuries that could be agitated by overusing a particular muscle, or can't physically perform perfect posture during certain exercises. 

Exercises are not one-size-fits-all. Listen to and trust your body's limitations, stretching and strengthening gradually and gently, without rushing. 

If you feel any sharp pain, return to a comfortable position and stop the exercise. Talk to your doctor if you have any chest pain, balance issues, nausea, dizziness, or trouble breathing while exercising. 

No Gym? No Problem.

The good news is you don’t need a gym membership to get moving! For everything we outlined today, you only need a chair. 

You’ll need to choose your chair carefully; not any chair will do. Look for a sturdy chair without arms. No folding chairs or anything with wheels. Once selected, scooch your chair to an open space so you can move your arms and legs freely all around. And sit down. 

Then, start small. Be gentle with yourself and do only a little bit at a time. Before you know it, your chair exercises will add up, and you’ll be hauling groceries from the car with ease. 

19 Seated Exercises for Seniors to Increase Mobility

Looking for a fun way to improve your mobility? These 19 seated exercises for seniors will enhance well-being as well as boost circulation, flexibility, and strength, all from the comfort of a chair.

Roll Out the Joints

First things first, and that's a thorough warm-up. That means some movement in all directions to see if there are any physical limitations you'll be working with today. 

  • Wrist Rolls: Extend one arm forward, circle your wrist, then switch directions. Repeat with the other arm or try both at once. 
  • Ankle Circles: Stretch one leg out, rotate ankles first clockwise, then counterclockwise. You may challenge your flexibility by attempting to write the alphabet with your big toe. 
  • Neck Tilts: Slowly tilt your head to each side, bringing your ear closer to your shoulder. Gently return to the center. Repeat for several minutes. 
  • Shoulder Rolls: Lift your shoulders toward your ears, then roll them backward and down in a circular motion.
  • Spinal Flex: This is a seated variation of a cat/cow stretch. First, arch your back, chest forward and gaze up toward the ceiling. Then, on the exhale, round the back, gazing toward the belly button. Repeat slowly as desired.

Now March! 

Next, it's time to get those legs moving. While seated, lift one knee, then the other, resembling a seated march. Move at your own pace.

Do the Twist

All warmed up and ready to move! Next, sit up straight and slowly twist your upper body from one side to the other. Hold briefly between each side and engage the core muscles. From this position, try the following core-engaging twists. 

  • Side Stretches: Sit tall, extend one arm overhead, and lean to the opposite side. Hold, then switch sides for a deep stretch. 
  • Gentle Twist: Then, bring the right arm to the outside of the left knee. Gently twist to the left and bring the gaze behind you. Repeat on the other side. 
  • Core Exercises: Lift your knee toward your chest, then extend your leg. Repeat with both legs for a seated "bicycling" motion.

Heart Openers

Now, let's open the heart area, practice impeccable posture, and see what the world has to offer! Sitting still, lift your arms to the sides, opening your chest. Repeat several times throughout the week to improve posture over time. 

  • Seated Back Bend: While seated, place your hands on your lower back, gently arching backward for a spine stretch.
  • Cactus Arms: Raise your arms to the sides, bend your elbows toward the kidneys, and squeeze your shoulder blades together to open the chest. Repeat as desired.

Get Dancing

Your heart is open; it's time to twist and shout! Hit play on some of your favorite tunes, and enjoy grooving to your favorite music for the next few exercises.

  • Hip Stretch: (aka Seated Figure Four Stretch) Open the hips before you get moving. Cross one ankle over the opposite knee. Gently press down on the raised knee for a hip stretch. Hold for 8-10 deep breaths. Switch sides.
  • Toe Taps: Alternate tapping your toes on the ground, engaging leg muscles and promoting circulation.
  • Heel Slides: Slide your heels forward and backward under your chair, strengthening leg muscles.
  • Arms Up: Extend your arms shoulder-height to the sides, then lower them. Repeat to enhance shoulder mobility.
  • Flutter Kicks: Keep your feet off the ground and flutter your legs up and down for a seated leg workout.


After a brief rest from the chair dance, it's time to practice that ever-important, albeit not too exciting, sit-to-stand movement. For the next few minutes, practice standing up from your chair and sitting back down as many times as you can (up to 10 times) to strengthen leg muscles and maintain mobility.

Standing Modifications

Once you're up, if you've got some energy left in the tank, try to modify a couple of challenging exercises by standing behind a chair, using it for balance and support when needed. We’ve modified a few traditional exercises so you can get all the benefits!

  • Squats: Stand behind the chair, holding on to the back for support. Squat behind the chair 4-8 times at your own pace to strengthen leg muscles. 
  • Planks: Practice planking against an open wall. Straighten your arms against the wall, engage your core, and hold your body against the wall at an angle. See if you can hold for 5-10 deep breaths. 
  • Pushups: From the plank position, bend your elbows, bringing your face closer to the wall. Push back up to standing, engaging upper body muscles for wall pushups. 

While you may want to join a gym or frequent an exercise center a couple of times a week for social reasons, don’t let a lack of gym membership hold you back from getting started on these simple exercises today. 

Once you’ve mastered some of the basics above, you may want to branch out to other routines. We’ve got you covered! Here are four FREE seated exercise routines we love:

And there’s lots more fun free stuff available on the PF App. So, relax, pull up a chair, sit down, and get started today!