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Chair-based exercises help people with mobility problems to keep active. Classes are springing up around the country and taking part is extremely cheap or even free. Below we explore how you can take advantage of them.
Chair-based exercises are designed to help people build up their activity levels without putting unwanted strain on their hips, legs or arms. This makes them ideal for people with arthritis or osteoporosis, or who have had back, knee or hip surgery. Also, because the activities gently build up a person’s fitness, they are suitable for people who have very low levels of fitness.
How chair-based exercises can help you
The exercises are a series of stretches, movements and activities that increase your heart rate and make your arm and leg muscles stronger and more flexible. This may help you to become more active and steady on your feet. They may also improve your posture. In addition, over time they may lower your blood pressure and help you to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
What happens in a chair-based exercise class?
The classes tend to last for one hour. They normally start with 10 minutes of “warm-up”, followed by 40 minutes of activities and then a 10-minute “warm-down” of rhythmic movements.
The chairs are often arranged in a circle with your instructor in the middle. You will start with a range of stretches in your chair to improve the flexibility of your shoulders and joints and to gently raise your heart rate.
Later in the class, you may be asked to use a large elasticated band. This adds resistance and helps to build up strength in your leg and arm muscles. Also you may be asked to lift yourself out of your chair and some classes may ask you to stand for a short time.
Music is usually played in the background to set the mood. But it is not aerobics class: you will not normally be asked to move in time with it. To keep the activities varied and interesting, you may be asked to use some equipment – such as “bobbly” balls (which you roll under your feet), a bean bag (that you pass from hand to hand) or even a parachute.
Where are chair-based exercise classes held?
Most chair-based exercise classes are held in community halls, leisure centres and nursing and residential homes.
What you need to take to a class
You will not need to take special items with you, all the equipment used during the class will be provided.
What you might like to wear for a class
It is helpful to wear comfortable clothes that allow you to stretch and move freely. Most people choose to wear jogging trousers, T-shirts and training shoes, but other loose-fitting clothes and flat-soled shoes should be fine.
How you can go to a class for free
It may be possible to join for free on the NHS. To take advantage of this, you will need to be sent to the class by your GP (known as an “exercise referral”).
If you are not referred by your GP, you may find that the class is being run by your local council or a “Healthy Living Centre” and will let you take part for free.