Light Exercises for Spring: Gently Does It

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Well Spring has arrived and for many of us that means the resolution of ‘must get fit and healthy’ but, for some, it’s not possible to go out pounding the pavements or joining a gym.  For those who need more gentle exercise, I have put together some chair-based exercises to help you increase your movement with lower impact.

First things first, before you start: here are a few rules of chair-based exercise

  1.  Always use a strong chair, preferably with armrests and one that is not too soft. When you sit in the chair, your thighs should be parallel with the floor
  2.  Keep your arm and leg movements steady, as this will help avoid muscle and joint strain.
  3.  Warm up and cool down. When you start moving, the blood supply to the heart muscle needs a few minutes to reach optimal flow. An easy warm up is to walk around for a few minutes prior to starting the exercises.  You are trying to raise your heart beat so it is just a little faster than normal.
  4.  Don't exercise too hard. Some days or weeks may be better than others, so adjust the intensity of your stretch to how you’re feeling.
  5.  Never hold your breath while exercising. You’d be surprised just how often we forget to breathe when lifting our arms and legs or staying balanced – we need the oxygen to feed our muscles.

Stretching (flexibility) exercises help prevent joint and muscle stiffness and keep your body supple. Stretching helps loosen you up and produces a sense of wellbeing and gusto for the day’s events.  When done at the end of a day, you should feel relaxed and less stressed.


Exercise 1 - Neck

In a seated position, straighten your back, extend your neck muscles and move your head in large circles – first clockwise for two rotations then anticlockwise for two rotations.  Bring your head back to the middle and then repeat until you have completed 5 sets in each direction (10 rotations in each direction).


Exercise 2 - Back and Stomach

In the seated position with your bottom firmly in the back of the chair seat and with your back straight, raise both arms above your head. Bring your chin to your chest, lift your head back to a straight position and bend backwards from the chest over the top of the chair’s back area - taking your arms with you.  Repeat 10 times.


Exercise 3 - Shoulders

In a seated position, hold your arms out to the side, bend elbows slightly and rotate your shoulders.  Repeat five times with forward rotation and five times in reverse.


Exercise 4 - Arms

In a seated position, lift your arms to chest height and hold them slightly bent and shake your hands (like you’re are shaking water off your hands to dry them) five times.  Then rotate from your waist to the left and shake your hands again – centre your body and shake again – rotate to the right and shake again. Repeat 5 times.


Exercise 5 - Chest

In a seated position, bend backwards arching your back over the top of the chair (expanding from your chest). For a bigger stretch, hang your arms by your side and stretch - trying to put your shoulder blades together. Then straighten out and slowly bend forwards towards the floor, trying to touch the floor with your finger tips. Repeat 5 times.


Exercise 6 - Ankles

In a seated position – hands on your knees feet on the floor.  Lift your legs out in front and then use your calf muscles to pull your toes towards you.  Count to 10 then release.  Repeat 10 times.  If you get tired you can lower your feet to the floor, rest and start again.


Exercise 7 - Knees

Stand facing a table/chair back with both hands holding its edge ensuring there is approximately 12 inches between the table/chair and your body.  Drop your chin to your chest then slowly bend your knees (go as far as is comfortable for you) keeping your back straight.  Now straighten back up and continue the motion past the starting point stretching backwards – for an extra stretch rise up onto your toes (and tense your bottom muscles!).  Repeat 5 times.


Exercise 8 - Waist

Start in the same position as exercise 7, lift your right arm out to should height and twist your upper body from the waist keeping your eyes focused on the fingertips of your right hand.  Hold for the count of 5 and then return to the starting position.  Repeat the exercise on the opposite side.  Repeat on each 5 times.