FOR SEVERAL DECADES, people have used the term “use it or lose it” to aptly describe the best way to offset the problems that come with aging – both physical and mental.

Exercises for Oldsters by Bonnie Prudden“I have to commend you on how quickly you move,” said the young man who was about to dig a trench in my drive for a new TV cable. I had just run in and out of the house in order to retrieve my car keys and move the car so that the digging could begin. So I’m wondering why this 30 or so man was so observant. “Well, I’m 80 and I’ve never stopped moving,” I said.

As we continued our conversation I learned that he was happy being outside and digging ditches but that he was also a dance teacher, which was why he was so observant of my movement. He and his wife taught all kinds of dance to disadvantaged kids on the weekends. I also learned that he had two little girls, four and six, and had taught them balance by having them stand on his tummy while he was lying on his back on the floor.

You are never too young to begin and you are never too old to begin. BEGIN is the key word. You are bedridden? You are wheelchair bound? You haven’t exercised in how long? You’ve been ill for months? No excuses. Beginning does not require that you run around the block. Pull your tummy in. Tighten your seat. Shrug your shoulders. Reach for the floor. Reach for the sky. Turn your toes in, turn your toes out. Pull your knee up to your chest. Touch your shoulder with your hand. Take deep breaths. Did you do it?


We start by knowing the rules.

  1. Begin slow and easy.
  2. Do a little at a time, 2 to 5 minutes but often, 5 to 7 times a day.
  3. Combine exercise with daily habits.
  4. Increase time spent each week.
  5. Watch your diet.
  6. Air and sun are for humans. Get out in it daily.

Most people see a chair and think how nice it would be to sit down. Chairs, however, are apparatus. Not only that, once you have them they are free to use, there are many variations and they are everywhere. How you choose to use your chairs depends on your need, capabilities, and your imagination.

Bonnie first discovered the chair as apparatus after her skiing accident in which she fractured her pelvis in four places. The three months of casting which accompanied the fractures left her without strength and feeling very old at the young age of twenty-two. One day her home nurse turned on music as she was cleaning up the room and Bonnie, the trained dancer, had to move. She began her, by a mistake, rehab sitting on the edge of the bed but the next day graduated to the chair and eventually during a trip to Florida, continued her rehab in the ocean, a wonderful way to strengthen muscles gently.

The next time she recognized the chair as apparatus was when she was asked to speak to the ladies in the Osborne Home. They were all over 70. Under Bonnie’s guidance they tapped, kicked, swung, lifted, pushed and pulled their way to feeling like 60 in only eight weeks.

Chair Exercises drawing by Bonnie PruddenIf you are coming back from an illness or surgery and are in no shape at all, begin in the chair. Chair exercise increases circulation and flexibility, reduces fatigue, strengthens muscles and is more fun if music is added.

Chair exercises are a bridge between sitting and walking. Once you start you will be surprised at how much you can accomplish in a chair.

President Kennedy had rocking chairs. They were “prescribed” for him because he had back pain. Rocking chairs use your muscles as you rock and different rocking chairs use your muscles in different ways. And they do so gently.

I’ve had to use a chair myself after a car accident when my knee was severely damaged. The doctor who knew me prescribed self-help BP Myotherapy three times a day. I asked if I could do chair exercise. I did – but rather than sitting I used it for support while I stood behind it – performing as many exercises as I could each day before heading for the pool for more work.

Whether you are confined to a chair, recovering from something like a hip replacement, accident, a long illness or just need to begin from scratch, think THE CHAIR. It’s everywhere.


  • Combined Movement Exercises by Bonnie PruddenKnee to Nose
    Lift first the right knee to the nose and then the left. Repeat 8 times on each side.
  • Knee Cross
    Cross right knee over left. Then left over right. As you grow stronger and more limber, sit back in the chair and lift the knees higher and higher as you cross them. Eight crosses on each leg equals one set.
  • Toes In / Toes Out
    Take your shoes off. Sit with feet about one foot apart. Keep heels off the floor and turn both feet inward, then outward. Repeat 20 times.
  • Heel Raises
    Place feet side by side with heels pushed under your chair so that your legs bend at the ankle. Raise heels by keeping the balls and toes of your feet on the floor. Lower. After 10 raises with both feet, alternate with first one and then the other for 10 each.
  • Arm Lifts
    Place hands on the arms of your chair and raise your seat; lower slowly. If it is too hard to raise yourself, start at the top with straight arms and your seat off the chair – now lower slowly. Start with two and add one a week until you are doing 10. As soon as possible, raise your feet from the floor.
  • Knee Bends
    Place hands on the back of a chair for support. Do 8 half knee bends. Go lower as strength improves until you are doing 8 full knee bends.
  • Knee to Nose
    Place your hands on the seat of the chair. Bring your knee as close to your nose as you can and then kick the leg out in back. Repeat 8 times.

So whether you are eighty and feel it or 25 and feel 80, BEGIN. Carpe Diem!


Check out Bonnie’s Gym In A Chair in these books: Pain Erasure the Bonnie Prudden Way, Bonnie Prudden’s After Fifty Fitness Guide and How to Keep Your Family Fit and Healthy.

If you have questions or need help, email me at

For more information about Bonnie Prudden®, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, workshops, books, self-help tools, DVDs, educational videos, and blogs, visit Or call 520-529-3979 if you have questions or need help. Enid Whittaker, Managing Director, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®

The illustrations featured in this article are by Bonnie Prudden.