Journey To 30 Challenge: 15-Minute Total-Body Chair Workout

By the Editors of SilverSneakers |

Yes, you can build strength and stamina from the comfort of a chair. Today’s activity is proof!

Journey to 30 Challenge Try This 15-Minute Total Body Chair Workout

To celebrate our 30th anniversary, we’ve put together the Journey to 30 Challenge! It’s four weeks of summer-fun activities to help you stay active, connect with the SilverSneakers community, and have a total blast doing it.This is Activity No. 15. Find the full step-by-step guide here. And download the game board PDF here. 

Journey to 30 Challenge Board Game PDF

Chairs are one of our favorite workout tools. A sturdy chair can help keep you balanced while you try a tricky drill. Or you can use it to modify a moves (think: free-standing squats refashioned as chair squats).

In fact, many SilverSneakers classes prominently feature seated exercises. Plus, with the right routine — like this one! — you can absolutely get an effective full-body strength workout while seated. 

SilverSneakers members: RSVP for the 30th Anniversary Grand Finale Member Celebration that takes place at 1:00 p.m. ET on September 16. It’s an online workout party that you won’t want to miss! Check your eligibilityand RSVP here. 

The Journey To 30 Challenge Activity No. 15: Try This 15-Minute Total-Body Chair Workout 

You can do this routine at home or at the gym. You’ll just need yourself, a sturdy chair, and some water to sip on.

Do one set of each exercise below in order, resting 30 to 60 seconds between moves (or more if you need it). After the final exercise, rest one to two minutes, and repeat the full circuit again (two times total). Two rounds will take you about 15 minutes to complete.

You can also use these moves as a way to stay active during the day. For example, take a Seated March break every time you finish a book chapter. Or sneak in some Heel Taps the next time you’re in a waiting room.  

As always, safety is key. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely. 

Get and stay fit with SilverSneakers! Choose from dozens of different Community classes, visit a participating fitness location, or view the current schedule of SilverSneakers LIVE online classes.

Chair Exercise #1: Shoulder Rotation

How to do it:

  1. Sit tall in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Extend both arms straight out to your sides so they’re level with your shoulders, palms facing down.
  3. Bend your elbows 90 degrees so your fingers point straight ahead, palms still facing the floor.
  4. To initiate the movement, raise your hands until your palms face forward and your arms create a goal post.
  5. Slowly lower your hands back down so your palms face the floor. That’s one rep.
  6. Do 15 to 20 reps total.

Form tips:

  1. Keep your upper arms lifted and in line with your shoulders the entire time.
  2. It helps to imagine your elbows are glued to an imaginary tabletop—they never raise or lower much as you rotate from your shoulders.
  3. Make sure your shoulders are down and back as you rotate.
  4. Don’t let them creep up toward your ears.

Chair Exercise #2: Shoulder Raise

How to do it:

  1. Sit tall in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, arms hanging straight down at your sides.
  2. Slowly raise both arms out to the sides as high as you can without arching your lower back or letting your shoulders creep up toward your ears.
  3. If you can, try to raise your arms all the way overhead, with fingers pointing toward the ceiling.
  4. If that’s uncomfortable, simple raise your arms as high as you can, ideally higher than your shoulders.
  5. Slowly lower both arms back down to your sides and repeat.
  6. Do 15 to 20 reps total.

Make it harder: Hold light dumbbells or water bottles as you perform the movement.

Chair Exercise #3: Biceps Curl

How to do it:

  1. Grab a pair of light dumbbells, and sit tall at the edge of a chair with your feet flat, hip-width apart. Hold a weight in each hand with arms at your sides and palms facing forward.
  2. Keeping your torso stationary and elbows tucked close to your sides, bend your elbows (not your wrists) to curl the weights up to your shoulders.
  3. Pause, then slowly return to starting position. That’s one rep.
  4. Do 15 to 20 reps total.

Make it harder: Slow down each rep’s lowering phase, counting to four as you lower the dumbbells to your sides.

Don’t miss Seated Strength (Express) with SilverSneakers LIVE! The 15-minute class is offered several times a week to help you build and maintain strength and mobility. Check your eligibility and RSVP here.

Chair Exercise #4: Armchair Pushup

How to do it:

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  1. Sit tall in a sturdy chair with armrests. If you don’t have a chair with armrests, simply press your hands into the seat to push yourself up to standing.
  2. Place your hands on the arms of the chair, and push up to lift your bottom off the seat.
  3. Slowly lower yourself back down to a seated position. That’s one rep.
  4. Do eight to 10 reps total.

Form tip: Try not to use your lower body for help during this movement.

Chair Exercise #5: March

How to do it:

  1. Sit at the front of your chair with knees bent and feet flat, holding onto the sides for balance.
  2. Brace your core and lift your right knee about six inches off the floor or as high as you can without rounding your back.
  3. Pause, and then lower and repeat with your left leg. That’s one rep.
  4. Continue alternating for 15 to 20 reps total.

Make it harder: Try doing this exercise with your eyes closed for a balance challenge.

Chair Exercise #6: Heel Tap

How to do it:

  1. Sit tall in a chair with feet flat on the ground, holding the sides of the seat for support.
  2. Engage your core.
  3. Lift your right foot and extend the leg in front of you and slightly to the side, at about a 45-degree angle.
  4. Tap your right heel on the floor, then bring the right foot back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat the movement with your left foot. That’s one rep.
  6. Continue alternating for 15 to 20 reps total.

Make it harder: Let go of the chair to challenge your core.

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