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Savvy Senior

Shape up with chair exercises

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Jim Miller is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or
Jim Miller
The Savvy Senior
July 13, 2011 | 1,945 views | Post a comment

Dear Savvy Senior,

What can you tell me about chair exercises for seniors? I have some balance problems along with arthritis in my left knee which limits my mobility. A friend recommended chair exercises as a good way to get moving but I don’t know where to start. What can you tell me?

Sedentary Senior

Dear Sedentary,

For seniors with balance problems or other health conditions that restrict their mobility, chair exercises are a gentle and safe way to shape up while you’re sitting down. Here’s what you should know, along with some tools and resources to help get you started.

Chair Exercises

Many people find it hard to believe, but the health benefits of chair exercises can be significant for seniors. Chair exercises can help you build muscle strength and endurance, improve your flexibility and balance, and boost your circulation and metabolism.

Your doctor or physical therapist can be great resources to help you learn more. All you need is a sturdy, four-legged chair that sits flat on the floor. Don’t use a rocking chair or a large cushioned chair that doesn’t provide support.

To get you started, there are lots of great instructional DVDs, VHS tapes and books you can purchase to guide you through a wide variety of chair exercises that you can do at home. To find these products try websites like Sit And Be Fit (, 888-678-9438), a non-profit organization that has a chair exercise television program on many PBS stations around the country, and sells dozens of DVDs, videotapes, CDs and books on different exercise programs depending on your needs and ailments.

Another great chair fitness option you should check into is “chair yoga,” which is ideal for improving your flexibility and range-of-motion. Some good resources for finding chair yoga instructional videos and DVDs are, and which also offers chair exercise DVDs.

Also see Chair Dancing International (, 800-551-4386), a company that offers a variety of chair exercise videos that incorporates gentle no-impact dance moves into their routines.

Group Classes

If you don’t like exercising alone or need some motivation, call your local senior center to see if they may offer chair exercise classes -- many do. Or, consider joining SilverSneakers (, 888-423-4632) or Silver&Fit (, 877-427-4788). These are fitness programs offered in fitness centers, gyms and YMCAs throughout the U.S. that offer special exercise classes designed exclusively for seniors including chair exercisers.

Exercise Equipment

There are also several pieces of equipment you might want to purchase to enhance your chair exercises. To boost your circulation, balance and leg strength consider a pedal exerciser (prices range from $25 to over $100), which will give you a bicycle-type workout from your chair. It can also be set on a table to exercise your arms. The Sit-N-Stroll Portable Foot Exerciser is another handy tool for stimulating leg circulation.

And for chair strength training exercises, there are elastic bands, small hand weights and medicine balls you can purchase for around $10 that provide muscle toning resistance. You can find all these products at sporting goods stores, or online at Cans of soup, water bottles or milk containers filled with water or sand could also be used (like small hand weights) for resistance training.

Another great strength training tool you should know about is the Resistance Chair (it costs $280). This is an all-in-one home fitness system that helps seniors maintain and improve their strength from a safe, seated position. To learn more see or call 800-585-4920.

Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC “Today” show and author of The Savvy Senior book. Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit
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