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How to Teach Chair Aerobics to Seniors

written by: Living Well Yoga and Fitness • edited by: Angela Atkinson • updated: 10/27/2010

While it seems contradictory to do aerobics while in a chair, with some creativity it is possible. Many of the movements used in a traditional aerobics can be mimicked while sitting in a chair. In addition, with the use of the right props and techniques you can increase the exercise intensity.

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    Encourage Your Students to use Proper Form

    Make sure your students use a chair that is steady and one that does not have arms. You do not want the chair to slide around and your clients need to be able to freely move their arms.

    To prevent back injury, make sure everyone is sitting up straight. While sitting, it is tempting to lean against the back of the chair or slouch. This can place too much strain on the low back. Instruct your students to sit up at the very front edge of the chair. This forces them to use their abdominal muscles which will make them stronger and it promotes better posture. If some of your students have sensitive backs, allow them to use the back of the chair for support.

    However, make sure they slide all the way to the back of the seat and keep their backs straight. Make sure they do not slouch and just lean against the chair.

    When sitting the shoulders should be directly over the hips. To help build up your students strength, try just doing a few minutes sitting at the front edge of the chair and then slide back. Little by little, add on more time sitting forward until your class can complete the entire aerobic session without back support.

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    Use Traditional Aerobic Movements

    While they're sitting, guide your students through traditional aerobic movements. Try marching in place and pumping the arms. You can alternate between a faster speed and just lifting the feet slightly off the floor, with a slower speed while lifting the knees up higher.

    You can incorporate straight leg kicks while swinging the opposite arm forward and the other arm back. Seated jumping jacks are also good.

    For those who are able, you can instruct them to "jump" their feet apart as wide as they can and then "jump" them back together. If this is too challenging, just have your students step their feet apart and together one foot at a time.

    Incorporating movements such as alternately tapping the heels forward on the floor or alternately tapping the toes out to the side can help to add variety to your routine and keep your students heart rate elevated.

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    Add the Correct Type of Resistance When Needed

    It is not recommend to either hold hand weights or wear ankle weights while doing aerobic activity. The goal of aerobics is to move quickly enough to raise and maintain an elevated heart rate. This means you are quickly swinging your arms and legs without focusing on targeting a specific muscle group.

    Holding or wearing weights is dangerous as the added weight pulls on shoulder and knee joints and can create injury. It is always best to separate your aerobic and strength training segment.

    When you are working with weights, make sure you are moving slowly and with control. As with traditional aerobics, when you raise your arms overhead, you automatically raise your heart rate. This is because the heart must pump harder to move the blood up against gravity.

    As your students are ready for more, try to increase the amount of time they spend with the arms up. You can also add interval training by doing sections with smaller and faster movements and other parts with larger and slower moves.

    Incorporate the principals of circuit training by alternating between a few minutes of intense aerobics with a slow and controlled strength training exercise with weights or bands. You can also have your students hold paper plates. The plates do not add weight, but they do create resistance as your students swing them through the air.