Sitting for prolonged periods is associated with elevated health risks, especially for people who are already inactive. Health conditions that disproportionately affect seniors make standing, and especially standing up from a seated position, difficult and often painful. There are exercises to help seniors stand up.
Seniors who have been sidelined by illness, injury, or chronic pain can start rebuilding strength while sitting down, so they can eventually stand and move around more. While seated, seniors can flex their calf muscles by raising their heels off the ground, one foot at a time, as high up on the toes as possible and down again for several repetitions. They can roll wrists and ankles in a circular motion clockwise and counterclockwise. They can slide their heels with the foot flexed forward and back. Surprisingly, this engages the glutes and the hamstrings. Basic leg raises, performed by lifting and the straightening the leg and holding it straight for a few seconds also helps build strength.
Chairs become fitness equipment for many seniors, but please keep in mind to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen. As long as the chair is positioned such that it won’t slip or topple over (usually backed up against a wall), seniors can use a chair to do modified push-ups and practice using their arms to help them rise from a seated position. Another seated exercise to build leg strength involves bending forward from the hips, pressing the feet firmly into the floor, and rising up, even for just an inch or two, trying not to use the arms for assistance, and then slowly sitting back down several times begins. Holding on to a chair for balance, raising a straight leg to the side, holding it for a few seconds, and back down again for several repetitions with each leg helps work muscles in the hips, back, and thighs necessary to build the strength to stand up from a seated position safely, without assistance.
Eventually seniors may rebuild enough strength and flexibility to rise up from a chair on their own. There will always be some types of chairs and sofas that, while comfortable, may make it especially difficult to get up. Very soft cushions or seating that is lower to the floor presents a challenge to anyone with limited strength and mobility. In cases like this, assistive devices, like specially designed canes with dual handles that give extra support when rising from a seated position or mechanized “booster” seats help get a seated person up and out of the chair or off the sofa. The most important thing is to get seniors moving and preferably standing and walking to maintain health and fitness. Exercises that help seniors stand up are a good way to help seniors build not only the strength but also the confidence to get up and move around more.