Skip to main content

Warning notification:Warning

Unfortunately, you are using an outdated browser. Please, upgrade your browser to improve your experience with HSE. The list of supported browsers:

  1. Chrome
  2. Edge
  3. FireFox
  4. Opera
  5. Safari

Sitting exercises

These sitting exercises will help improve your mobility and prevent falls. You can even do these gentle exercises in bed or during a hospital stay.

Choose a solid, stable chair that does not have wheels.

You should be able to sit with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent at right angles. Choose a stable chair that does not have armrests.

Wear loose, comfortable clothing and keep some water nearby.

Build up slowly and aim to gradually increase the repetitions of each exercise over time.

Try to do these exercises at least twice a week.

Combine them with:

Chest stretch

man sitting and stretching arms out to the side
Chest stretch

This stretch is good for your posture.

  1. Sit upright and away from the back of the chair. With your arms out to the side, pull your shoulders back and down. Your hands should be around the level of your hips.
  2. Gently push your chest forward and up until you feel a stretch across your chest.

Hold for 5 to 10 seconds and repeat 5 times.

Upper-body twist

man sitting with arms crossed holding his shoulders and twisting body
Upper-body twist

This stretch develops and maintains flexibility in your upper back.

  1. Sit upright with your feet flat on the floor, cross your arms and put your hands on your shoulders.
  2. Without moving your hips, turn your upper body to the left as far as is comfortable. Hold for 5 seconds.
  3. Repeat on the right side.

Do this 5 times on each side.

Hip marching

man sitting and raising one knee at a time
Hip marching

This exercise strengthens your hips and thighs, and improves flexibility.

  1. Sit upright and do not lean on the back of the chair. Hold on to the sides of the chair.
  2. Keeping your knee bent, lift your left leg as far as is comfortable. Place your foot down with control.
  3. Repeat with the opposite leg.

Do 5 lifts with each leg.

Ankle stretch

sitting on chair and pointing toe towards ceiling
Ankle stretch

This stretch improves ankle flexibility and lowers the risk of developing a blood clot.

  1. Sit upright, hold on to the side of the chair and straighten your left leg with your foot off the floor.
  2. With your leg straight and raised, point your toes away from you.
  3. Point your toes back towards you.

Do 5 stretches on one foot, then 5 on the other. Repeat this twice.

Arm raises

man sitting on chair and raising both arms to the side
Arm raises

This exercise builds shoulder strength.

  1. Sit upright with your arms by your sides and your palms forward. Keep your shoulders down and arms straight.
  2. While breathing out, raise both arms out to the side and up as far as is comfortable.
  3. While breathing in, lower your arms to the starting position.

Repeat 5 times.

Neck rotation

man turning head from left to right
Neck rotation

This stretch is good for improving neck mobility and flexibility.

  1. Sit upright with your shoulders down. Look straight ahead.
  2. Slowly turn your head towards your left shoulder as far as is comfortable. Hold for 5 seconds and return to the starting position.
  3. Repeat on the right.

Do the exercise 3 times on each side.

Neck stretch

This stretch is good for loosening tight neck muscles.

  1. Sitting upright, look straight ahead and hold your left shoulder down with your right hand.
  2. Slowly tilt your head to the right while holding your shoulder down.
  3. Repeat on the opposite side.

Hold each stretch for 5 seconds and repeat 3 times on each side.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.

Page last reviewed: 23 February 2023
Next review due: 23 February 2026