The 10-Minute Seated Core Workout

By K. Aleisha Fetters |

Build a strong, supportive core with these chair exercises—no need to get down on the floor!

SilverSneakers Chair Core Workout

Yes, a strong core is vital for staying active and independent as you age. But curlups, planks, and other common core exercises that involve getting down on the floor—and, even harder, back up again—aren’t your only option. In fact, some of the best core exercises for older adults take place from a seated position, explains Tiffany Chag, M.S., R.D., C.S.C.S., a strength coach with the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

“Anytime you’re sitting, your core should be engaged to help you maintain tall, upright posture,” she says. Shoulders should be down and back, with a minimal dip in your lower back. When you try to maintain that posture while performing the right exercises, your core is really cooking!

What exactly are the right exercises? Start with the four below, recommended by Chag as well as Leython Williams, D.P.T., a physical therapist and facility manager at Athletico Physical Therapy in Lincolnshire, Illinois.

You can pick one or two to add to your normal strength routine, or string them all together for a quick and effective 10-minute core circuit. To complete the circuit, perform each exercise for one minute, then move onto the next one. After completing all four exercises, repeat the circuit one more time (two rounds total). You’ll need a light weighted ball and a resistance band. If you don’t have either at home, head to your local gym or community center. (No gym membership? Check your SilverSneakers eligibility here!)

Keep in mind: This is not a race! For best results, focus on performing all reps slowly and with control.

1. Seated Twist

Sit tall in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, and hold a light medicine ball, dumbbell, or other similarly weighted object in front of your chest. Extend your arms to hold the ball at eye level in front of you, with elbows slightly bent.

From here, gently twist your torso to the right as far as comfortable. Make sure the rotation comes from your core, not your shoulders or arms; it helps to imagine your upper body is a statue. Pause, then return to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side. Continue alternating until one minute is up.

Cautionary note: If you have osteoporosis, twisting and bending moves may not be right for you. Talk to your doctor about safe exercise.

2. Side Bends

Sit tall in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Let your arms hang down on both sides of your body.

From here, gently bend to the right at your waist, extending your right hand as far toward the floor as comfortable. Return to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side. Continue alternating until one minute is up. As you progress, try performing the exercise with a light dumbbell or object in each hand.

Cautionary note: If you have osteoporosis, twisting and bending moves may not be right for you. Talk to your doctor about safe exercise.

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3. Resisted Knee Lifts

Sit tall in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and palms on top of your thighs.

From here, gently press your right palm down into your right thigh while pressing your thigh up into your palm. Press firmly enough that you feel your abs tighten. Hold for a few breaths, then release and repeat on the opposite side. Continue alternating until one minute is up.

4. Band Extensions

Anchor a resistance band around a sturdy table leg, bannister, or object to the right of a chair. Sit tall in the chair with your feet flat on the floor, and hold the ends of the band with both hands in front of your stomach. The band should be taut and parallel with the floor at navel height.

From here, press your hands straight out in front of your stomach, resisting against the band’s pull to the right. Hold for a few breaths, then bend your elbows to return to starting position. Continue for 30 seconds, then turn your chair around so the band is anchored to your left side and repeat.

Another Great Way to Strengthen Your Core

If you love SilverSneakers classes, good news: SilverSneakers Classic emphasizes the core, and you can use a chair as needed.

SilverSneakers Group Exercise Classes