Savvy Senior: How Seniors Can Shape Up While Sitting Down
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?
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 sitting down. Here’s what you should know, along with some tools and resources to help get you started.
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 Web sites such as Sit And Be Fit, www.sitandbefit.org., 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 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 www.yogaheart.com, www.peggycappy.com and www.strongerseniors.com, which also offers chair exercise DVDs. Also see Chair Dancing International, www.chairdancing.com, 800-551-4386, a company that offers a variety of chair exercise videos that incorporate gentle no-impact dance moves into their routines.
If you don’t like exercising alone or need some motivation, call your local senior center to see if they offer chair exercise classes, many do. Consider joining SilverSneakers, www.silversneakers.com, 888-423-4632, or Silver&Fit, www.silverandfit.com, 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 exercises.
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. 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 www.amazon.com. 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 that 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, go to www.vqactioncare.com or call 800-585-4920.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to “The NBC Today Show” and author of The Savvy Senior books.
The Gazette does not endorse the contents of The Savvy Senior. Check with professionals about the contents of this column.