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Chair Pilates for Seniors: 5 Routines Build Strength and Flexibility

Author: Connie Chow, founder at DailyCaring, was a hands-on caregiver for her grandmother for 20 years – until grandma was 101 years old! Connie has an MBA from the University of Southern California and has been featured on major news outlets, including WJCL22 Savannah (ABC), KRON4 San Francisco, NBC10 Philadelphia, 23ABC Bakersfield, KAGS Texas (NBC), and KVAL13 Oregon (CBS). She has spoken at Institute on Aging, written for Sixty and Me, and been quoted in top publications, including U.S. News & World Report, HuffPost, and Society of Senior Advisors.

Connie’s note: When caring for my grandmother, I’ve seen firsthand how much of a difference regular exercise can make. No matter how slow or restricted the movements, I believe that exercise helps older adults stay as mobile as possible. These pilates exercises are a safe and gentle way to keep stiff joints moving and build strength.

Chair pilates improves strength and flexibility

We share 5 wonderful gentle chair pilates videos for seniors that are free to watch on YouTube.

These routines make it easy for older adults to do these simple chair pilates exercises at home.

Pilates (pill-aah-tease; hear it) is a low-impact exercise that focuses on strengthening muscles while improving flexibility and posture. 

It’s usually done on a machine called a reformer or on a mat placed on the floor.

But doing modified pilates movements while seated in a chair is a great way for older adults to get the health benefits of these exercises without needing to lie down.

Staying seated means that even those who are frail or not very flexible can safely do the exercises and work towards increasing their strength and flexibility.


Adapt the workout so it works for them

The best part of an at-home chair pilates routine is that it’s easy to adapt to your older adult’s abilities.

Skip or modify any movements that could cause pain or are too difficult. 

And anytime your older adult gets too tired, just stop the routine right there.

Safety is the most important factor

The most important thing is to make sure your older adult is safe and comfortable while they exercise.

Older adults should follow the instructor’s movements only as far as is comfortable – exercise shouldn’t hurt.

Skip or modify any movements that put too much stress on their body or that causes any discomfort or pain.

Remind your older adult to move slowly and gently and pay attention to their body. It’s much better to do less rather than risk strain or injury.

They’ll still benefit from the exercises even if they only do a fraction of the range of motion or completely skip some movements.

Over time, their flexibility and strength will improve and they’ll be able to do more and more.

5 video routines: gentle chair pilates for seniors

This video uses a series of gentle exercises to build core strength and improves balance. 

The instructor clearly explains how to sit in the starting position and why it’s important to align the body that way. She goes slowly to give plenty of time to follow her directions.

2. Chair Pilates – 33 minutes

This gentle video is perfect for beginners. Overall, this chair pilates routine uses easier exercises and smaller movements.

In addition, there are three instructors so each person can demonstrate a different version of the exercise.

The instructor sitting on the left side demonstrates simplified, most gentle versions of each exercise.

The instructor in the middle shows the “standard” version. And the instructor on the right side shows an advanced version.

Seniors should start slowly, choose the movements that are most comfortable for their body. Until they get used to the routine, they might want to stick with the gentlest versions.

As their strength and flexibility improve, they may want to try the next level of movements.

In this gentle seated pilates routine, the instructor uses a small soft ball to aid in the exercises. A small pillow or rolled up towel (secured with string if needed) should work just as well.

In the hot potato exercise, swing the leg out to the side only as far as feels comfortable. Even if it’s  only a few inches, that’s absolutely fine.

This is another relaxing, gentle chair pilates routine with guided breathing and movements that stretch and strengthen the body.

When the instructor does gentle twists, her hand position and the twist both use a wide range of motion. This might require more flexibility than is safe for your older adult

Instead, consider slowly reaching each hand toward the opposite knee to get a gentle stretch through the torso without too much rotation.

This instructor goes at a comfortable, relaxed pace and gives clear instructions on how to do each exercise.

She often shares simple modifications on how to make an exercise easier.

But feel free to modify any of the movements to keep your older adult comfortable and safe from injury, like using a smaller range of motion.

If you prefer DVDs…

The above videos are free to watch on YouTube from any device. But if you’d prefer workouts that you can play on your TV, check out these DVD options:

Recommended for you:

By DailyCaring Editorial Team

This article wasn’t sponsored, but does contain some affiliate links. We never link to products or services for the sole purpose of making a commission. Recommendations are based on our honest opinions. For more information, see How We Make Money.


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