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5 Chair Exercises for People with Type 2 Diabetes

Living Well

May 25, 2023

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by Gianetta Palmer

•••••

Danielle Hildreth, RN, CPT

Medically Reviewed

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•••••

by Gianetta Palmer

•••••

Danielle Hildreth, RN, CPT

Medically Reviewed

•••••

•••••

Any type of movement is helpful when you live with type 2 diabetes. Whether you’re looking for something new, just starting an exercise routine, or have mobility issues, these chair exercises can be a good place to start.

Movement has long been touted as the key to a long and healthy life, especially for those of us living with type 2 diabetes. Regular exercise has many benefits. It can help you maintain a moderate weight, increase your endurance, and keep your blood sugar levels stable. Plus, it can provide you with a better overall sense of well-being.

It doesn’t matter what kind of movement you incorporate into your life, as long as it gets you going.

If you’re new to living life with type 2 diabetes, have gotten off track with your plan, or you’re simply looking for something new to help yourself feel and look better, then keep reading. And if you have mobility issues, these seated exercises can help you keep your movement plan going.

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Types of chair exercises

I’m a big fan of walking and usually consider it my primary form of exercise. But I don’t have a dedicated schedule, timeline, or designated spot where I walk. It usually depends on how I’m feeling that day. Somedays, if it’s raining or cold, I’ll walk inside my house to get in my steps, but most days, I like to walk outside. I live in the mountains, so there are many opportunities to walk while enjoying some beautiful scenery.

Recently, I injured myself moving furniture, and my doctor recommended I avoid too much activity while my knee healed. They advised that I could still incorporate movement into my daily routine but modify it so there would be less weight on my knee. My doctor suggested I go online to see what options were available for seated exercises and try several to see what I liked the best.

Here’s a list of traditional exercises you can perform while seated to keep your body moving.

1. Chair marches

GIF of a person performing seated chair marches
  1. Find a comfortable chair, preferably with a straight back, and sit fully back with your back straight.
  2. Alternate each leg, raising them up and down at least 6 inches, as if you were marching in place or walking up and down stairs.
  3. Start with 30 seconds of marching and work up from there.

Alternatively, you can march for 30 seconds, with a short rest period, and do 3 sets.

2. Seated leg extensions

GIF of a person performing seated leg extensions
  1. Sitting on the front of the chair with your back straight, extend one leg straight in front of you.
  2. Hold for 5 seconds, and then lower your leg to the starting position.
  3. Repeat with the opposite leg.

Aim for 2 sets of 10–12 reps. Hint: You may need to grasp the sides of the chair to help with balance issues.

3. Seated situps

GIF of a person performing seated sit ups
  1. Sit in the middle of the chair with your arms crossed in front of you.
  2. Place your feet firmly on the floor, lined up with your hips, to help with balance.
  3. Lean back to the back of the chair and return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat 10–12 times.

4. Seated crunches

GIF of a person performing seated crunches
  1. Sit in the middle of the chair with your arms crossed in front of you.
  2. Place your feet firmly on the floor, lined up with your hips, to help with balance.
  3. Lean forward as far as you can while keeping your back straight, and then return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat 10–12 times.

5. Seated bicep curls

GIF of a person performing seated bicep curls
  1. Sit in the middle of the chair with your back straight.
  2. Using a dumbbell, food can, or whatever is easy to control with one hand, slowly curl your arm upward to your chest and lower slowly to the starting position.
  3. Repeat with your opposite arm and aim for 2 sets of 10–12 reps.
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Other types of seated exercises

If you’re seeking additional exercises to help manage diabetes but haven’t considered yoga or tai chi because of mobility or balance issues or didn’t know where to start, you should consider checking out online videos so you can go at your own pace.

Tai chi

This activity is a series of slow, gentle movements and physical postures that help with balance, flexibility, and mental well-being. Its use of controlled breathing and being in the moment have made it a popular activity and can be performed while sitting in a chair.

An easy online search revealed several free videos that users can see if they are suitable for them.

Chair yoga

Yoga may not be at the top of your list of activities if you have balance or mobility issues. Still, like tai chi, you can easily modify poses, making yoga a great addition to any movement plan. Many organizations and fitness experts offer free videos to get you started with chair yoga so you can decide if it’s right for you.

The bottom line

The one thing I’ve learned after 20 years of living with type 2 diabetes is that having a regular form of movement helps me feel better — both physically and mentally.

Living with a chronic health condition takes a lot of work and stamina. But if you figure out what works for you and stick with it, you can have better blood glucose control, maintain a moderate weight, and improve your overall well-being.

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About the author

Gianetta Palmer

Gianetta Palmer is a blogger, copywriter, and essayist living in the mountains of north Georgia. Her reported features and personal essays on camping, health, insurance, and personal finance have appeared in numerous online publications. Connect with her at website.

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