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Your questions about chair workouts, answered

Regular exercise helps improve balance and prevent falls by increasing strength and flexibility. Exercise also improves sleep, mood, and overall health. But you might assume that intense workouts are needed to get these results. Not true! Alicia Estrada, Bold’s head trainer, answers five top questions about the many benefits of seated exercise for older adults.

You’ve probably heard before that exercise means constantly being on your feet, paired with an intense cardio routine or interval training.

But did you know this isn’t actually true? 

You don’t need to practice fist-pumping cardio if you want to exercise, and you don’t even need to go to a gym – there are many exercise routines you can do in a chair, and at home. 

In fact, upper-body exercises can remain mostly the same as if you were standing, and there are plenty of lower body exercises that can be done in a chair.

We’ve answered five common questions about seated workouts and shared three simple seated exercises to try at home below.

1. How do I know if a chair workout is right for me?

We’ve found that seated workouts work well if you’re uncomfortable standing for longer periods of time or feel off balance when standing.

A seated routine may also be right after a heavy exercise day or a day of walking when you want to rest your legs a little more.

2. Is it going to be too “easy”?

In our experience, chair exercises can be as challenging or simple as you want them to be.

For example, you can still:

  • March your feet
  • Stretch your calves
  • Stretch forward and backward
  • Stretch your shoulders
  • Do crunches moving your legs in and out from your body

Classes designed specifically to be done while seated, like the classes that Bold offers, will walk you through exercises like these and more.

For an additional challenge, you can always add hand weights or ankle weights, but they’re not required to get results.

3. Will a chair workout still help me build muscle?

Several studies have shown that chair exercises improve participants’ ability to perform arm curls and their handgrip strength. 

And by repeating lighter exercises, you can still build muscle fairly quickly. For example, lifting light or no weights in an upper body exercise while seated.

And remember, any exercise is better than no exercise – seated or otherwise. 

Just ask Alicia – increasing your exercise from none at all to even 10 minutes a day makes a difference.

4. If I am trying to regain my balance, can a chair workout still help me? It seems like I should be practicing being on my feet.

Yes! Seated workouts still help improve balance because you are maintaining your posture and a straight spine by leaning back on your chair. 

Seated exercises also help you engage your core and center of your body. 

You’ll hear our trainers talk a lot about keeping a “Bold base” – engaging your core and sitting in an upright position, with your legs planted hip distance apart and firmly on the ground. 

Practicing this position will help you become more comfortable with stability exercises.

Like with any exercise routine though, remember to listen to your body. 

If a movement doesn’t feel right, you can always modify it, choose a different exercise, or just let your body rest.

5. Do I need to prepare differently for a seated workout vs. standing?

Safety first! You will want a sturdy chair and a space that’s free of clutter. 

For many exercises, no additional equipment is needed unless you want to add hand weights to make upper body exercises more challenging.

Three chair exercises to try

To get started, here are three exercises you can do.

1. Sit to stand squats

Set up

  • Sit midway and straight up on a stable chair
  • Feet are flat on the floor
  • Knees are hip width apart
  • Arms are crossed in front of your chest and raised straight in front of you


  • With or without your hands assisting you, push yourself up to standing
  • If you need to use your hands, slowly progress yourself up to no assistance
  • Drive all your weight through your heels
  • Stand up straight
  • Return to starting position
  • Repeat 8 – 12 times

2. Bicep curls

For this movement we suggest adding light weights that feel comfortable to you. Many Bold members use weights between 2-5 lbs.

If you don’t have weights, but want to try adding them to your workout, you can also use a water bottle filled with coins or rocks, or canned goods as an alternative to hand weights.

Set up

  • Sitting or standing
  • Feet flat on the floor
  • Feet hip width apart
  • Arms down by your side


  • Raise your hands up towards your shoulders
  • Keep your elbows tucked in to your sides
  • Keep your wrists straight
  • Bring your hands back down in a controlled motion
  • Repeat 8 – 12 times

3. Chest fly

Set up

  • Sitting or standing
  • Feet flat on the floor
  • Feet hip width apart
  • Elbows are bent and up at chest level
  • Hands are up by your forehead
  • Palms face each other


  • Slowly open your elbows out to the sides
  • Slowly bring them back to start position
  • Repeat 8 -12 times

Alicia is a kinesiologist and personal trainer with over a decade of experience leading fitness programs at luxury retirement communities in Northern California. Alicia also specializes in strength and conditioning for rehabilitation, and her classes offer a mix of challenging and creative exercises. Why is Alicia passionate about Bold?: “Bold is about going beyond where we are today and creating the future that we want to live in."