10 exercises to do whilst sitting down

Check out the Spring edition of the Nutracheck Healthy Balanace digital magazine now!
Free for members.

Seated exercises are low impact and gentle, making them a great alternative to standing movements if you have limited mobility. These moves help to build up strength and mobility (important for preventing falls), improve fitness and burn more calories. Chair-based exercises are perfect for people who can’t use their lower body due to injury or disability, as well as those who are new to exercise and want to start slow.

Research shows that chair-based exercises can be beneficial in improving upper and lower body function in older adults*. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this type of exercising isn’t intense enough – doing it regularly has a significant impact on overall health.

You can improve your strength, mobility and posture, while boosting circulation, too.

When performing these exercises, choose a solid, stable chair that doesn’t have wheels, or a wheelchair that can be securely locked into place.

Avoid cutting out lots of foods

How often should we exercise?

150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week is the goal. For example, you could do 30 minutes on five days of the week. This can be broken down further to suit you – for example, you could try 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening, or 10 minutes three times a day. The key is to get your heart rate up and move throughout the day.

If you are unable to walk very far or your balance is a concern, chair-based exercises are a great way to get moving safely and achieve your 150 minutes of activity each week. You could also burn around 150 calories per hour!

Top tips for chair-based exercises

  • Use a sturdy chair which is low enough that your feet can be flat on the floor with your knees bent at 90 degrees. Avoid using a swivel chair as this will affect your movement control.
  • Ensure you have enough space around you to fully extend your arms and legs up and out.
  • Avoid slouching in the chair – keep your back straight and tummy pulled in throughout.
  • You should be seated in the centre of the chair for the most stability and best range of movement. Don’t sit against the backrest if possible.

Top tips for seated strength exercises

  • Before starting any exercise routines it is important to warm up your muscles first. The mobility moves would be good for getting your blood flowing, as well as some seated marching to warm up your lower legs.
  • For all the exercises, start seated in the centre of the chair with a straight back and your tummy pulled in.
  • For any of the arm-based moves, use a light weight such as a tin of soup, water bottle or even small dumbbells to help boost the resistance your muscles have to work against, if you are able.
  • Aim to complete a few of the moves in a circuit, then repeat the circuit 2-3 times.
Avoid cutting out lots of foods

Mobility moves

Head rotations

  1. Sit upright in the chair, with a straight back and your tummy pulled in.
  2. Rest your hands on your lap and relax your arms.
  3. Turn your head to the right as far as you comfortably can, then return to centre.
  4. Repeat on the left side. Do this 10 times on each side, then rest for a couple of minutes and repeat.
  5. This works on your neck mobility. Over time, aim to complete more turns to each side before resting.

Seated twists

  1. Sit upright in the chair, with a straight back and your tummy pulled in.
  2. Cross your arms over your chest so that opposite arms rest on opposite shoulders.
  3. Gently twist your torso to the right as far as you comfortably can, then back to centre.
  4. Repeat on the left side.
  5. Do this 10 times on each side, then rest for a couple of minutes and repeat.
  6. This works your torso mobility. Over time, aim to complete more twists on each side before resting.
  7. For more stability, sit sideways in the chair and grasp the back of the chair for support (as shown).

Shoulder rotations

  1. Sit upright in the chair, with a straight back and your tummy pulled in.
  2. Let your arms rest down by your side.
  3. To start, lift your arms and rotate backwards with your shoulder joint, as if you’re rowing with invisible oars.
  4. Complete 10 rotations backwards, then switch to a forward motion for 10 rotations, so as if you’re rowing in the opposite direction.
  5. Rest then repeat backwards and forwards rotations again.
  6. This will work on your shoulder mobility. Over time, aim to complete more rotations before resting.


Avoid cutting out lots of foods

Strength-based moves – upper body

Seated row

  1. Hold your arms out in front of you, with palms facing each other and fists lightly clenched.
  2. Pull your hands back towards you as if you’re pulling a plate towards your chest, until your hands are level with your chest and your elbows are bent behind you.
  3. Return to the start, then repeat 10-15 times.

Bicep curls

  1. Hold your arms down by your side, gently clench your fists and turn your wrists to face forward.
  2. Bend your arms at the elbow, keeping your upper arm straight, and lift your lower arms up to meet your upper arms.
  3. Return to the start, then repeat 10-15 times.

Overhead reach

  1. Hold your arms down by your side with palms open and facing inwards.
  2. Reach your arms up and over your head so you're reaching for the sky.
  3. Return to the start, then repeat 10-15 times.

Jabs

  1. Gently clench your fists and hold your hands in front of your chest like you’re getting ready to punch.
  2. Extend one arm out to punch the air in front of you, return to the start then repeat with the other arm.
  3. Try to get a rhythm going between punches as the faster you do this, the more of a cardio move it will be.
  4. Repeat for 20-30 jabs.


Avoid cutting out lots of foods

Strength-based moves – lower body

If you have strength and mobility in your lower body, give these strength exercises a go.

Leg extensions

Sitting
  1. Carefully extend one leg out in front of you.
  2. Lower it back down to rest your foot on the floor, then repeat with the other leg.
  3. Aim to complete 10-15 times on each leg.

Hip openers

  1. Rest your hands on your knees, then step your right foot out to the side, so that you’re opening your legs apart.
  2. Return the right leg back to the centre and repeat on the left side.
  3. Repeat 10-15 times on each leg.

Stand up, sit down

Sitting
  1. Start in a seated position and hold your arms out in front of you for balance.
  2. Gently bring yourself up to standing without using your arms to push yourself up.
  3. Once standing, carefully lower yourself back down to a seated position.
  4. Repeat 10-15 times.

This site uses cookies to personalise content and ads, provide social media features and analyse our traffic. Find out more about how we use cookies.

Choose which cookies you allow us to use. You can read more about our Cookie Policy in our Privacy Policy.