You can improve your quality of life drastically by staying active as you age, according to multiple studies on the health of senior citizens. Physical activity releases mood-boosting chemicals like dopamine and endorphins, supports bone and heart health, and decreases your risk of a damaging fall.
However, for many senior citizens, this is easier said than done. Limited mobility, illness, and increasing fragility make it difficult for many senior citizens to stay active in the traditional sense. Luckily, there are many modified forms of physical activity that can help strengthen the mind and body.
Modified yoga, water aerobics, and chair exercises are all low-impact forms of exercise that strengthen and improve mobility. Read on to learn more about the benefits of chair exercises for seniors.
The Benefits of Chair Exercises for Seniors
Chair exercises are an excellent way to build strength and improve flexibility without putting too much strain on your body. Chair exercises also improve senior mobility by increasing blood flow and lubricating your joints. Whether you’re recovering from an illness or you’re more permanently mobility impaired, chair exercises can help you stay active safely.
Our mobility and independence often become more limited as we age. If you live in a heavily trafficked area, you may not even be able to go for a short walk, especially if you no longer drive. Unfortunately, this loss of freedom often translates to a decrease in mobility and more time sitting.
The more time you spend sitting the stiffer your joints become and over time, you may experience a permanent shift in posture that results in muscle pain and fatigue. As your posture worsens, your lower muscles weaken, making it more difficult to support the upper half of your body. Too much time sitting can also lead to weakened glutes and core muscles, both of which are essential for spine support.
Try the following chair exercises to strengthen your core and improve your posture, even when you’re spending extended periods sitting.
Belly Breath Exercises
Sit up straight in your chair with your feet flat on the floor if possible. Pull your belly button in towards your spine. Keeping your neck long and straight, tuck your chin down. To correctly hold this position, imagine a string running from the crown of your head up to the ceiling.
Take a deep breath—deep enough to expand your chest and belly. Hold for a count of four. Release and repeat.
Increase your repetitions over time to build your core strength. This will help support all of your other chair exercise efforts!
Sit up straight in your chair and shrug your shoulders until they’re as close to your ears as possible. If your arms lift out from your body, you’re pulling too hard. Rotate your shoulders forward, down, back, and up in a slow circular motion.
Then, change directions and rotate back first. Repeat ten times in both directions. This will build your shoulder muscles and increase spinal mobility.
Coordination can become more difficult as we age, especially for seniors who have been diagnosed with a form of dementia like Alzheimer’s. Building muscle memory through repetitive, routine exercises can help patients retain hand-eye coordination and remain independent longer.
These fun exercises can be excellent for both coordination and joint health. And when they’re completed in a group, they’re a great socializing experience as well!
First, sit up straight on the edge of your seat with your feet planted firmly on the floor. Now, clasp your hands behind your head with your fingers interlocked.
Slowly turn your body to the right, twisting at the waist and remaining upright. Take a slow, deep breath, and pull your stomach muscles in toward your spine. Rotate back to your starting position.
Repeat by turning to the left. Do ten reps on each side or until you tire out. This exercise can help build balance, strengthen your core, and increase flexibility.
For this exercise, you can set up a mini basketball hoop at chest level or just use an empty wastebasket. Using a light ball, aim for the “net” and toss the ball to make a basket. You can move the hoop to increase or decrease difficulty. You can also vary the size and weight of the ball over time to increase strength.
This exercise improves hand-eye coordination and is especially fun when done with a friend or as part of a group! A little healthy competition brings a sparkle to anyone’s eye!
You can do a similar exercise with a foam ball and large, plastic bowling pins. Just like regular bowling, have the seated participant roll the ball to knock over the pins. And don’t forget to cheer and celebrate when they get a strike!
Increasing senior mobility through exercise also reduces pain. Physical exercise releases endorphins which reduce inflammation. Increasing motion lubricates your joints, making it less painful to use them. Strengthening your core takes the pressure off of strained muscles, which can lead to less shoulder and back pain.
Generally speaking, the more you move, the less pain you’ll have. The human body was not made to be sedentary for long periods of time. However, there are exceptions. If you are recovering from surgery or have a condition that affects your muscles or joints, discuss your exercise regime with your doctor. Always follow the advice of your doctor or physical therapist about how much or how little you should be moving.
All chair exercises can help alleviate certain pains, but some of the most effective are stretching and flexibility exercises like chair yoga. Try stretching your arms over your head or in front of you, twisting your body, or reaching for the floor.
Range of motion exercises should feel good even if they are challenging. Never push yourself to actual pain, or you could cause damage to your joints or muscles.
Senior Centers in Central Arkansas
For more information about the benefits of chair exercises for seniors or for help finding a senior center near you, contact CareLink! We’re happy to help you find an exercise schedule or class that works for you!