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Sitting exercises

These gentle sitting exercises will help improve your mobility and prevent falls.

Don't worry if you've not done much for a while – these seated exercises are gentle and easy to follow.

For these exercises, 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. Avoid chairs with arms, as these will restrict your movement.

Wear loose, comfortable clothing and keep some water handy.

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 and combine them with:

Chest stretch

A man sits straight, shoulders back and has his arms at 45 degree angle

This stretch is good for posture.

  1. Sit upright and away from the back of the chair. Pull your shoulders back and down. Extend your arms out to the side.
  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

A man sits with his arms crossed holding the oppoiste upper arm, he then twists his upper body, while keeping his bottom half straight

This stretch will develop and maintain flexibility in the upper back.

  1. Sit upright with your feet flat on the floor, cross your arms and reach for 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 5 times on each side.

Hip marching

A man sits straight in a chair, raising his feet as if marching.

This exercise will strengthen hips and thighs, and improve flexibility.

  1. Sit upright and do not lean on the back of the chair. Hold on to the sides of the chair.
  2. Lift your left leg with your knee bent 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

a man sits on a chair with one leg stretched out in front of him, he then points his foot forward and then points it back at him

This stretch will improve ankle flexibility and lower 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.

Try 2 sets of 5 stretches with each foot.

Arm raises

A man sits with his arms by his side, his arms move to upwards until they are above his head.

This exercise builds shoulder strength.

  1. Sit upright with your arms by your sides.
  2. With palms forwards, raise both arms out and to the side, and up as far as is comfortable.
  3. Return to the starting position.

Keep your shoulders down and arms straight throughout. Breathe out as you raise your arms and breathe in as you lower them. Repeat 5 times.

Neck rotation

A man turns his head left to the left and to the right

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 3 rotations 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: 02/04/2020
next review due: 02/04/2023