The Best Chair Exercise Videos

Years ago, as I was growing into a stronger sense of disability identity and gaining a deeper understanding of ableism, I read an article that scared me out of my mind. Dr. James Levine, a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist, sounded the alarm on sitting: “There’s a glob of information that sitting is killing us…You’re basically sitting yourself into a coffin.” I know the science is real about how sitting too much poses health risks, but I’m tired of being told my wheelchair is just a ticket to an early grave. Articles on potential health problems caused by sitting almost always focus on solutions suited to people without mobility limitations. Rarely do I see detailed fitness resources for people who sit on the regular (like me), so I’m going to share a round up of my favorite free chair exercise videos.

Keep in mind that just because the exercises are done a certain way in these videos, nothing is set in stone. Adapt as needed. Also, note that some of these require inexpensive exercise equipment like resistance bands or dumbbells. And these videos aren’t just for wheelchair users. Seated exercise can be ideal for people at any fitness level. Especially now that we’re in the midst of a pandemic and going to the gym isn’t an option, I hope these videos help you start or shake up your exercise routine. 

Most importantly, be gentle with yourself. Don’t pressure yourself to exercise. Do what feels right for you and your body.

(Disclaimer: I’ll be honest…some of the disability-related language in these videos isn’t great, but I’m trying to include a wide range of options.)


1) If you want a good kick in the butt, Caroline Jordan is your girl. Her upbeat attitude makes me feel like I have a personal trainer in my living room. Click here for her full playlist of chair workouts.

2) Pahla Bowers is super down-to-earth and relatable, which makes her workouts enjoyable, even though they’re tiring. Click here for her full playlist of chair workouts.

3) SparkPeople’s videos are short and sweet, and Coach Nicole is really easy to follow.
Seated Cardio Workout: Burn Calories Exercising from a Chair
Seated Abs Workout: Chair Exercises for Your Core
Seated Upper Body Toning Workout: Chair Strength Training Exercises
Resistance Band Workout

4) KymNonStop is a barrel of energy and her running commentary keeps me entertained while I’m working out.
Intense Seated Workout
Seated Cardio Boxing Workout
Cardio & Core Seated Workout
Seated Circuit Workout
Challenging Seated Workout

5) HASfit offers videos that demonstrate workouts for varied abilities, including some that show seated and standing variations of the same exercises.
Chair Exercises Sitting Down Workout
Standing & Seated Exercise

6) Chair Workouts with Donovan Green are power-packed and totally energizing. Click here for his full playlist of chair workouts.

7) Jessica Smith’s chair exercise videos make you feel like you’re on a gym date with a friend.
Chair Workout I + II (seated cardio, strength, fat burning low impact exercise)
Chair Stretch (quick stretch, seated exercise)
Seated Exercises for Abs, Legs, Arms

8) Fuzion Fitness with Alexis is great for anyone looking for a slightly more relaxed workout. Plenty of good vibes in the background music.
Chair Workout #1
Chair Workout #2

9) Fair warning: Paul Eugene’s videos can come across as overly enthusiastic, but they’re secretly kind of fun.
Turbo Chair Workout
Sit and Get Fit

10) Lucy Wyndham-Read’s video style is helpful because she puts a description of each set of reps on the screen and also gives you previews of what moves are coming up next. Click here for her full playlist of chair workouts.

11) If you’re in the mood for a good 1980’s workout routine, Lisa Ericson has you covered.
Seated Aerobic Workout

12) Adapt to Perform’s YouTube channel is a goldmine of workout videos from Ben Clark, who is a wheelchair user. Click here to check out his channel.

Any good chair exercise videos that I missed in this list? Or do you have other ways that you like to adapt exercise routines? Share so we can keep moving!

Comments

  1. Chair exercises are great options. I work at a gym and there are classes offered for chair yoga and chair stretching and cardio.

  2. Hello Emily! So happy I found your page! I admire you!!! I am a newly injured T-10 para and I’m trying to start a nonprofit to promote fitness and staying active in your chair to give yourself independence with better health and you are spot on with everything!!! Thank you!!!!

    1. Hi Nina! Thanks so much for the compliment! What a fantastic cause you’re working towards! Please don’t hesitate to stay in touch and feel free to reach out if there’s anything I can do!

  3. It is so important to stay active however you can! I have a website with seated workout videos – I put up 3 videos every week, and rotate them so you don’t get bored. There is a cardio video, one with arms only, and one with arms and legs. There is also a strengthening “boot camp” style video. I focus on a lot of the scapular stabilizers that are very important for all wheelchair users to decrease the shoulder pain associated with overuse. There is an affordable monthly subscription, and you can access the videos any time you want, as often as you want! So no more excuses – it’s time to get moving! Check out http://www.scitotalfitness.com for more info.

    1. Kristin, thank you for sharing this! I’ve checked out the free video and it seems like a lot of fun! I love the music choices! I will look into subscription information!

  4. Emily, this list is incredible! Thank you! I love Pahla B and Jessica Smith, and I recently tried Donovan Green. I came across Caroline Jordan a couple years ago while searching for something I could do because of chronic pain in my ankle. Her workouts are not easy but she is very encouraging. After 5 years of daily pain I am finally having ankle surgery April 16, and I will still be non-weight bearing for a while, so I’m happy to have the seated workouts. I think I am going to try Paul Eugene—I am intrigued by what I saw so far. How can anyone be so upbeat!?

    Thank you for your perspective on “sitting is the new smoking”—aka a death sentence, especially for someone who is living life in a wheelchair. It IS really an ableist sentiment. I would feel awful reading that as well, and my heart hurts for you.

    I feel unseen in the world of exercise at times. It is assumed that everyone wants to run and jump, likes to do burpees, mountain climbers, CrossFit, etc. I cannot do those things and I have never enjoyed those types of workouts. There are many people that can’t do these intense, difficult on the joints type of exercise, either due to weight, injury, age, or ability. I’m so thankful for instructors teaching low impact and for these chair workouts, and for teaching modifications. I am going to look into chair dancing as well! I miss dancing, dance classes, and Jazzercise, and I’m excited to find a way to do it from my chair!

  5. The VA uses the Stronger Seniors program with Anne Pringle Burnell. Several videos, including Chair Yoga, Balance, Strength.
    Extensive YouTube channel.

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