Whether you’re teaching a group of children who are experiencing physical limitations or trying to keep a group of aging adults mobile and engaged, sitting exercises are a great fit. The benefits are innumerable; those in wheelchairs can participate with the rest of the group, and for just a moment, participants feel able. They are cognitively challenged as they work to keep their mind and body in sync with one another. The physical movement releases endorphins, creating a temporary euphoric feeling during and after exercise. Their joints remain mobile and pain can be reduced. Finally, group chair exercises can be a fun way to bond with the group and to allow the members to bond with one another through laughter and friendly competition and accountability.
What kind of exercises can be completed from a sitting position? There are dozens of options, but here we’ll break down just a few:
1. Toes up. Ask participants to place their feet flat on the floor and lift their toes to the sky for three to five seconds, and then push their toes into the floor for three to five seconds. Repeat five to ten times, depending on group ability and attention span. This stretch affects muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the calves and ankles to improve stiffness and mobility.
2. Spirit fingers. Participants put their hands out in front of their bodies and wiggle their fingers for ten seconds. This exercise can be repeated a few times during the exercise session. This can assist in keeping the joints in the hands and fingers mobile and allowing participants to maintain some of their favorite hobbies or independence in their activities of daily living.
3. Shoulder circles. With their hands on their laps, participants roll their shoulders backward slowly five times. Once finished, prompt the group to roll their shoulders forward five times. This exercise uses muscles your participants may not use very often to promote strength and provide a cognitive challenge.
4. Chin pointers. Seated participants simply touch their chin to their chest (or as close as they can get) and hold the position for ten seconds. Release and repeat five times to stretch and relax the neck and upper back muscles, providing relief for tension headaches and neck pain.
5. Marches. Just because your students or residents are wheelchair bound or have difficulty walking doesn’t mean they can’t reap the benefits of marching exercise. Ask your seated group to march in place for fifteen seconds by lifting one knee and the next, one knee and then the next. They can modify this to their ability; the higher they lift the knees the more benefit it will be to them.
6. Chin to shoulders. To alleviate tension headaches and the pain that accompanies a stiff neck, ask your participants to slowly move their head to the left to get their chin as close to in line with their left shoulder as possible. Hold for three seconds and then repeat on the right side. Do this five times in all.
7. The punching bag. To build upper body strength and challenge your group, ask them to imagine a punching bag in front of them and see how many times they can punch it. Next time, challenge them to punch the “bag” five times more than their last record.
8. Flippers. With their hands in front of them, ask your residents to bend their wrists downward and then upward, downward and then upward, Repeat five to ten times to promote wrist strength and flexibility.
9. Spirit toes. Ask participants to wiggle their toes for 10 seconds; repeat twice throughout the course of the exercise to improve coordination and mobility and keep joints in good health.
10. Cool down. Ask participants to close their eyes and take deep breaths. Breathe in for three seconds, out for three seconds. Do this five times, coaching them throughout the process.
To make chair exercises most successful, follow these simple tips:
- Never exclude anyone; you’ll be amazed at how many immobile residents and students will react to group exercises and the effort they will put forth to participate.
- Demonstrate all moves and coach your group through it. Assist residents and students who are less mobile by providing passive assistance.
- Provide water during the exercise session.
- Consistently schedule group fitness at the same time daily to improve participation.
With these simple steps, you can create a group fitness program for your facility that incorporates everyone and promotes self-growth continually.