Exercises For Seniors: Getting Started With Chair Yoga for Functional Strength
If you are looking for exercises for seniors, yoga has many wonderful benefits. Strength building can definitely be one of them. We can build muscular strength endurance with seated chair yoga. We may be modifying and adapting the poses to the chair, but we can most certainly use chair yoga to increase our functional mobility. We just need to use the mind/body connection aspects of yoga and a bit of effort.
By holding the poses, we increase our muscular effort. Connecting to, and initiating movement, from the core will assist with strengthening the abdominal muscles. Stronger muscles in the core will help us with everything that we do. If you are interested in a short video sequence for building functional strength, scroll down to the bottom for the link.
We can change up a simple seated knee extension exercise by connecting to our core/center and visualizing the muscles working. We can increase our awareness of the sensations that occur when we initiate the muscle contractions, as well as the sensations of the muscles as they relax. We can feel the abdominal muscles engage as we stabilize and ground down through our feet.
Adding this component of mindfulness to the mix can help us power through our functional mobility tasks with a bit more ease. It can also improve your ability to participate in other forms of exercise.
Give this a quick try:
- Try gently straightening your knee and lifting your foot into the air. Now set your foot back down.
- Now, try it again. This time, check in with your posture and inhale to lengthen your spine. As you exhale, contract your thigh and slowly straighten your knee. Notice how the muscles in the top of your thigh feel. Notice a lengthening, or stretch, in the back of the thigh as you straighten it as far as you can (leaving the thigh on the chair).
- Hold your foot in the air, bring your toes back toward your face, and feel the stretch in your calf. Next, slowly bend the knee to return the foot to the ground. Did you notice anything different the second time? It’s certainly fine if you didn’t, but your muscles most likely did.
Functional Strength-Why We Need It and How We Can Get It
We need functional strength in our muscles to perform all of our mobility and functional daily tasks. In the lower body, these tasks may include standing up and sitting down safely, walking around our homes and communities (with or without an assistive device), and getting in and out of the car. Maintaining our lower body strength is also crucial for fall prevention.
We need proper strength in the muscles of our legs to allow for appropriate step length, foot clearance, and weight acceptance for a safe gait pattern. The CDC recommendation for strength training is 2 days a week.
True strength training to achieve strength gains requires you to use a weight that is 60-80% of your 1 Rep Max (that is the amount of weight that you can lift one time). That is a complicated way of saying that if you can do 8-12 repetitions of an exercise easily, you need to increase the weight. If it is too difficult to complete those 8-12, you need to decrease it.
Don’t forget that good old gravity is also resistance. You may find that you are unable to complete 8-12 repetitions of an exercise without any added resistance. In this case, you would want to wait until you can do so before adding any resistance. There are so many poses and ways to implement yoga, that it can help us get our recommended doses of aerobic activity, flexibility, balance, and that wonderful strength training.
Yoga with weights has become quite popular these days. These yoga sculpt classes combine yoga postures and flows with weights to really increase the muscular effort. Adding hand weights to chair yoga is always another option. If you are in search of exercises for seniors in your area, be sure to check out your local senior centers and YMCA if you have one in your area.
Because there are so many possibilities to explore, you won’t have a chance to get bored! If you are interested in starting a strength training program but have concerns or questions on how to get started, check with your doctor for recommendations for a physical therapist or certified trainer in your area. It is never too late to get started on a strength training program.
Check out this study if you want a deeper read on strength and falls: Identification of Elderly Fallers By Muscle Strength Measures
Take a look at this quick article on the importance of strength training: Maintain Your Muscle-NIH
If you are interested in taking a variety of in person classes in your area, your Medicare insurance may cover these programs:
If you are able to stand, try this simple but effective exercise that you are already doing anyway! We are just adding in a bit of mindful movement.
Sit to Stand:
- Begin seated in a sturdy chair. Be sure to have a sturdy counter in front of you in case you lose your balance.
- Sit forward in the chair a few inches.
- Knees are bent and feet are shoulder width apart. Feet are planted firmly on the ground and the spine is long.
- Hinge forward at the hips (spine stays long and not rounded) putting your weight into your feet.
- Exhale as you push through the feet to stand. Engage the thighs and glutes as you straighten the hips and knees.
- Inhale to stand tall with a long spine and the chest expanded.
- Try to use your arms as little as necessary. If you are able to stand without using your arms, cross them in front of your chest as you do this exercise. You can try adding a cushion to build up the height of the chair. Performing this exercise without using the arms activates the quadriceps muscles much more effectively. But don’t worry if you need to use the arms- focus on the form first.
- Finally, on an exhale and with control, keep the spine long as you hinge at the hips, bend the knees, and slowly return to a seated position.
- Try 5 reps with good control. Then, build up to 10-15 if able.
This is a great functional exercise that strengthens the muscles in the lower body and the core. We can easily incorporate this in your day. If you watch television, try completing this exercise during a commercial break. You will be able to sneak in some exercise and you will feel better for it. Trying to get the daily exercise we need can seem overwhelming. But, we can break it down into smaller segments throughout the day.
By being mindful, we can begin to seamlessly incorporate exercise into our daily routines. Take a look at the Resources below to see if anything is of interest to you. Remember to always meet yourself where you are today, go at your own pace, and be mindful of any mobility restrictions that you may have. Never force or strain. Stop immediately if you have pain, dizziness, or are short of breath.
If you don’t have the time for a full class or video, just learning a few poses and adding them into your day can be very beneficial. Check out the blog page for several chair pose tutorials- or take a look at Building An Exercise Routine With Chair Yoga for a round up of 10 Poses For Beginners.
Want More Chair Exercises For Seniors?
Take a look at these two videos for yoga sequences with a focus on building functional strength:
Chair Yoga for Functional Strength
Chair Yoga Poses: Full Body Strengthener
Or visit The Peaceful Chair YouTube Channel for more videos.
You may be interested in these 6 Seated Exercises Using A Yoga Block
Or these 5 Seated Exercises Using Ball
Take a look at How To Improve Your Sit To Stand With Chair Yoga
Learn 5 strengthening exercises for the core here: 5 Chair Yoga Poses For The Core
If you are new to chair yoga, this may be of interest to you: Is Chair Yoga Right for You?
Or, try the 7 Day Chair Yoga Challenge or One Week Chair Yoga Challenge to gently add some movement to your day.
I invite you to sign up for the Monthly Email Newsletter to stay up to date on the latest blog posts and vidoes!
Disclaimer: The Peaceful Chair and thepeacefulchair.com strongly recommends that you consult with your physician before starting this or any exercise program.The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only and is not to be used in place of medical advice or information from your healthcare provider. Neither The Peaceful Chair, the peacefulchair.com, nor any of its contributors shall be held liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information described and/or contained herein and assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information contained in any links, videos, or any content on this website.