Take a Seat and … Ready, Set, GO!

Take a Seat and ... Ready, Set, GO

Note: before undertaking chair-based exercise, check with your GP to make sure it is safe for you to engage in.

Chair-based exercise is taking the world by storm – and for a very good reason. Although almost everyone aspires to a regular exercise routine, we don’t all have the ability to make it happen while we’re on our feet. Medical conditions, mobility issues, even winter weather, can all make heading out with the golf clubs or tennis racket, or meeting up with the walking group or gym buddy, near-impossible. Enter chair-based physical activity (provided your GP is onboard with the plan, of course)!

Chair-based exercise allows participants to complete physical activity while seated in a chair suited to their needs, circumventing issues caused by poor balance and mobility. Perhaps what’s even more important, is it allows participants to engage in physical activity without it being weight-bearing. This means chair-based exercise is low-impact and easy on the joints.

This potentially life-changing form of exercise can be delivered in a number of different forms depending on whether it’s intended to build strength (muscle), improve circulation and heart health, or develop fitness. If you aspire to all three forms of chair-based exercise, you’re on your way to a full body work out!

Given the potential chair-based exercise offers, it’s no wonder it has been the subject of numerous research-based studies, the results of which are worth getting excited about! Some osteoarthritis sufferers who engaged in chair-based yoga reported a reduction in general fatigue as well as pain. Others, who experienced osteoarthritis in the knee, found strength training in their quadriceps lead to a 20-30 percent reduction in pain. Balance, walking speed, and grip-strength also improved in individuals engaging in chair exercise targeted to their problem areas. 

Perhaps what is just as important, is once a participant knows how to engage in chair-based exercise, and has been advised it is safe to practise it unsupervised, they can carry out their given routine in their own home with no more equipment than a chair (after a time, you may be encouraged to add in equipment such as dumbbells, ankle weights, or exercise bands). What’s more, once you are familiar with the exercises that suit you, and how to safely carry them out, many can be incorporated into your everyday life. Some chair-based exercise enthusiasts do their ‘marching practise’ while seated at the breakfast table waiting for the toast to pop! Others perform a full workout while watching the TV news.

As for the chairs – just what are we looking for? A chair which is sound and stable is essential (avoid folding chairs and any with castors or rollers on the legs). Unless advised otherwise by your instructor, the chair should be without arms as they will restrict your movement. Your chair should be placed on a non-slip surface, and for extra stability, with its back against a wall.

If you like the idea of a chair-based exercise class, a number of opportunities to attend exist around the country (if you’re looking for them online, search by regions and be aware they are sometimes referred to as ‘seated exercises’). If you’re not able to attend a class, why not gather together a few friends, set up a screen, and access an online class suitable for everyone’s abilities.

Even if you are already a gym bunny or a fitness fanatic, chair-based exercise is well worth considering. It can build variety into your training programme, allow you to enjoy exercise time with a friend or family member less mobile or active than yourself, and provide a cosy way to exercise at home when the winter weather closes in or darkness falls before you have time to get outside.

However you go about accessing chair-based activity, remember to chart your progress, and enjoy every minute!