19th Mar 2020

Easy exercises you can do sitting down

Amie Mills

By Get Active 

We all know that unless you are are a wheelchair user, sitting for too long can increase your risk of chronic health problems, such as as heart disease and high blood pressure. Too much sitting can also negatively impact your mental health. Luckily,  even if you’re stuck in your seat all day, there are lots of simple exercises that you can do to stretch and move your body. 

If you’re looking for some exercises while sitting down, that provide activities to improve mobility and balance issues, these exercises are for you! 

Before you start: 

  • Wear comfortable clothing and keep some water to hand. 
  • Sit in a solid, stable chair. Avoid chairs with arms, as these will restrict your movement.
  • Sit with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent at right angles.  

Warm up exercises:

Like any other physical activity, you should begin with a warm up. Warm ups help to warm and prepare the muscles for the movements they’re about to do. This dramatically reduces the risk of injury, which is why warm ups are so important.

1. Neck Stretches

Sit up straight, and slowly tilt your head toward your right shoulder until you feel a stretch. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds.  Release, and repeat on the other side. Perform two to five repetitions per side. 

2. Shoulder Circles 

In a seated position, place your fingertips on your shoulders. Circle your arms up, back, down and forward for fifteen repetitions. Reverse the movement, and repeat.  This exercise will warm up your shoulder and reduce the risk of strain.


Chair Exercises 

 Chest Stretches  

A. Sit upright with your feet flat on the floor and your back away from the chair. Pull your shoulders back and down. Extend your arms out to the side.

B. Gently push your chest  up until you feel a stretch. 

Hold for 5 – 10 seconds and repeat.

Image taken from the NHS website.

Image taken from the NHS website.

 Upper-body twists  

A. Sit upright with your feet flat on the floor and your back away from the chair. Cross your arms and place them on your shoulders.

B. Without moving your hips, turn your upper body to the right. Turn only as far as is comfortable. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat on the left side.

Aim to do each side 5 times. 


A. Sit upright with your feet flat on the floor and your back away from the chair. Hold on to the sides or base of the chair.

B. Lift one leg with your knee bent as far as it is comfortable and then lower your foot back to the floor.

C. Repeat with the opposite leg.

Aim to do 5 lifts with each leg.

Image taken from the NHS website.

Image taken from the NHS website.

 Ankle Stretches  

A. Sit upright, hold on to the side or base of the chair and straighten one leg with, raising your foot off the floor.

B. Point your toes away from you and then point your toes back towards you. 

C. Place your foot back on the floor and repeat with the other leg. 

Aim to stretch each foot 5 – 10 times. 

Arm Raises  

A. Sit upright with your arms by your sides.

B. With palms faced forwards, raise both arms out and to the side (try to keep them as straight as possible), and then raised up as far as is comfortable. 

C.  Return to the starting position. Repeat 5 times. 

Tip: Breathe out as your raise your arms and breathe in when you lower them. 

Image taken from the NHS website.

Want some further inspiration? 

It’s easier to understand an exercise when you can actually see it being performed. Youtube provides a range of free chair-based exercises. Head to Youtube and and type in the search bar “chair exercises” or “seated exercises” for a range of free exercises to try. 

Video from Youtube

To find activity sessions near you, try a search on the Get Active activity finder


Being active is about finding out what works for you. We can help you find loads of great activities to choose from, however fit (or unfit) you think you feel.