Tips and Exercises to Help You Get Up From a Chair

By Victoria Luddy

Let’s face it, sometimes the simplest movements are the ones we take for granted, including getting up from a chair. 

Luckily, most people never have to think twice before standing. Standing is a habitual, everyday task until you encounter the day you can not stand from a chair. There are many reasons people of all ages may have difficulty with these everyday tasks, such as an injury, post surgery, pain, age related changes, impaired breathing, or poor balance. 

Of course, you can modify your chair to make standing easier. For example, elevate the seat, use firm surface, arm rests, wear shoes for better grip on floor, or purchase a chair lift. In addition, one can analyze and understand what it takes to stand from a seated position. Understanding the mechanics and muscles required will help create a more fluid movement. Here are some tips to help stand from a chair:

1. Scoot! Position yourself: Bring your bottom toward the edge of the chair. It is easier to get up from mid or front of the chair than the back of the chair. Position you feet shoulder width apart and just underneath your knees or slightly behind. Your hands can be on arm rests or on the front of seat by knees ready to push off from a stable surface. Do not pull from an assistive device, such as cane or walker as it is unsteady, rather have it nearby the chair within reach.

2. Nose over toes! Begin standing transition: You may begin to rock to use momentum. Begin to lean forward over your knees and you should be able to see your feet, thinking “nose over toes.” Now, your eyes tend to follow where you look, so while you begin looking nose over toes to get your body forward eventually you need to find a focal point to focus on above you as you ascend. I like to tell clients that their body will follow your eyes; therefore, if you continue to look down and your body may want to go down, so look straight ahead. 

3. Straighten and Squeeze! Stand: Your legs, arms, and trunk muscles each play a role in the final transition to standing. Drive through the legs by straightening your knees (tighten your quadriceps muscles) and tighten/clench your buttocks (gluteal muscles). As you drive through your legs, tighten your abdominals, bring your chest up and push through your arms as needed as you continue to find that focal point in front of you. Maintain an upright position.

Put all three steps together for one smooth movement and you are now vertical! The more you practice the easier it gets! 

Here are a few simple exercises to target important muscles needed to stand.

Knee extensions - While sitting straighten one knee with the foot in the air and back of the knee is still against the chair, hold for 2-3 seconds and return foot to floor, repeat 20 times on both legs.

Gluteal squeezes - Tighten your buttocks together, hold for 5 seconds, repeat 10 times.

Sit to stand - This modified squat can be done in a chair from standing descend back to the chair to tap your buttocks on the chair and slow and controlled stand again, repeat 10 times.

Contact a physical therapist if you are having difficulty with any functional mobility at home, including standing from a chair. A physical therapist will provide you with a full assessment to find the impairments limiting your abilities to function and provide you with a plan to get better.