You may already know that being more active is one of the best things you can do to improve your health and quality of life. But you may wonder how you can be active if you can't stand up to exercise. No matter how old you are, how fit you are, or what health problems you have, there is a form of exercise that will work for you.
This topic covers three light exercise programs to help get you started. It also has tips that may help you to make exercise a habit.
Before you start an exercise program on your own, it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor. This is especially important when you are older than 65 or have health problems, such as high blood pressure or heart disease.
When you are ready to start, try these light exercise programs. Each one covers the three types of fitness so you can stretch your muscles, build up your strength, and get your heart beating faster—while you are sitting.
You need to be in a firm chair when you do these exercises. Remember to breathe as you do them, and rest a moment between each exercise.
- Program A: Seated Exercises. You don't need any equipment to do these exercises.
- Program B: Seated Exercises With a Ball. You'll need a large ball, such as a therapeutic ball or child's beach ball. Or use a throw pillow.
- Program C: Seated Exercises With Elastic Bands and Soup Cans. You'll need elastic bands, such as surgical tubing or resistance bands, and soup cans or other light hand weights.
If you haven't been active in a while, start with 5 to 10 minutes of exercise. As you feel stronger, increase how long you exercise. Change your programs around so you stay interested. You can do one program on one day, a different program the next day, and another on the third day. The goal is to be active each day.
The key to exercise is to do what works best for you. You can do the exercises all at one time, or you can do some in the morning and some at night. You can exercise during commercials while you watch TV. It's up to you.
Making exercise a habit
Adding activity into your life may take some time before it becomes a habit. Here are some tips that may help:
- Have your own reasons for being active. Do you want to feel better or have more energy? Do you have a specific health concern (bone and muscle strength, heart health, mood, or something else)?
- Think about what might get in your way, and prepare for slip-ups. Use a personal action plan to write down your barriers and how you can get around them.
- Set goals. Include long-term and short-term goals. Reward yourself each time you reach a goal. You may want to keep track of when you exercise so you can see your progress.
- Get support from your family and friends. And support yourself. Think about the progress you've made, and give yourself a pat on the back.
For general information about becoming more active, see the topic Fitness: Getting and Staying Active.
Some minor soreness or stiffness is to be expected at first, but pain is a warning sign to stop.
Other Works Consulted
- Bell M, et al. (2007). Chair Exercises for Older Adults. University of Georgia, Department of Foods and Nutrition. Available online: http://www.livewellagewell.info/study/2007/12-ChairExercisesUGA113006.pdf.
- National Institute on Aging (2011). Exercise and Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide From the National Institute on Aging. Available online: http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/exercise-physical-activity-your-everyday-guide-national-institute-aging-1.
Current as of: May 5, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal Medicine