Chair Aerobic & Arthritis Exercises

Wednesday, July 17 2019

Explore a non-aquatic exercise format that is ideal for water fitness participants who depend on the supportive properties of the water.  ChairFit Sports & Rec is a 45-minute chair workout that blends together AEA Arthritis Foundation exercises with aerobic choreography that has a sport & rec theme.  Expand your teaching horizons with some Sit & Fit inspiration.


Fitmotivation is testing the waters with exercise that is NOT in the water.  Subscribers who already teach or sub chair classes will enjoy some land lubber choreography for a change.  However, if you don't teach chair classes you can consider using this workout as a substitute for days you can’t get in the pool, if your pool or facility has an area to set up chairs.  Better yet, perhaps this video and blog will inspire you to explore the possibility of teaching chair exercise classes.

Teaching chair classes was certainly never on my bucket list.  Let’s just say it sort of found me.  The Sarasota YMCA offers a popular class called Sit n Fit and two years ago I received a dreaded call.  The director explained that all options had been exhausted to find a sub for the Sit n Fit class on the following day and could I possibly fake my way through a chair exercise class?  Unable to muster the word ‘NO’…I agreed and had approximately 24 hours to pull a routine together.  

Never in a million years would I have had the confidence to sub this class if not for taking the AEA Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program (AFEP) online.   Putting together my first chair class was easy because I had a roadmap to follow.  The AFEP is based on a lesson plan that includes essential fitness components.   Armed with this template, I organized the components in a class structure that was similar to how the Sit n Fit class was taught.  I then prepared my choreography by selecting exercises from the AEA Arthritis Foundation (AF) manual.   

For just $25.00, the AF manual is the best and most affordable resource a fitness professional can have.  The exercises for both the water (AFAP) and the land program (AFEP) are illustrated and include modifications, variations and proper execution.  Aside from the chair class, the exercises in this manual have helped make my aqua choreography much more purposeful and functional.   Having access to a library of arthritis exercises inspired me to add a “joint tune-up” to promote optimal range of motion in all of my classes. 

Teaching the ChairFit Sports & Rec routine at the 2019 International Aquatic Fitness Conference (IAFC), I received evaluations that were mostly good, but some attendees complained because I incorporated standing exercises and sit-to-stand drills.  Obviously, some chair classes are promoted to a more de-conditioned population who cannot stand. The Sit & Fit classes I sub at the YMCA are taught to an active older audience with a combination seated and standing exercises.  The participants want and expect to stand.  The few who don’t stand simply modify.  Instructors should design their chairfit routine based on their participants’ fitness level and the class goals. 
Please see the video below for more of the “Why” behind the standing exercises and sit-to-stand drills. 


The wildcard in my subbing debut was the “choreography” thing.  Naturally, I teach the Sit n Fit classes with 100% choreography from the warm-up to the cool down.  No, the AFEP is not supposed to be based on choreography and music phrasing, but MY version is.  None of the other instructors at the YMCA teach the Sit n Fit classes with this kind of rhythmic and choreographed approach. The positive feedback I consistently receive validates my strong belief that older adults respond favorably to the kind of predictable sequencing found in add-on and pyramid choreography. 



As mentioned above, this routine was designed to follow the components of an AFEP lesson plan.

Segment 1:  Warm-up & Joint Prep

This segment includes a warm-up for upper body using exercises from AF Category 1 – shoulder and elbow; followed by a warm-up for lower body using exercises from AF Category 1 – hip and knee.  This extended warm-up also satisfies the flexibility and ROM class component.

Segment 2:  Basketball & Kickboxing

Next, the muscular strength and endurance component was combined with the cardiorespiratory endurance component to form the main segment of the class – a chair aerobic routine with a sports & rec theme.   

Segment 3:  Boating & Cheerleading

The aerobic portion continues with two more sports & rec themes.   This segment also includes a finale of all four themes.

Segment 4:  Limber Legs

Optional activities can be included in an AFEP lesson plan, such as hand weights, rubberized resistance, balance training and floor work.  The optional activity in this video is leg work that is performed in all directions to promote optimal range of motion in the hip joint.    

Segment 5: Core & ROM

This segment begins with a brief seated core routine and concludes with a joint “tune-up” that targets all of the major articulations of the body. 

Segment 6:  Stretch & Relaxation

A final stretch for the upper body is performed, followed by deep breathing and relaxation.


As mentioned above, Fitmotivation is testing the water with this type of NON-WATER video.   If this type of video is or is not something you want to see more of – use your voice by commenting below the video or blog.  Subscriber feedback is what drives new content and features on the site.

Chair exercise has become an absolute favorite new format for me to teach.  It is a privilege to serve in such a rewarding capacity.  I hope that at least one instructor becomes inspired to expand their horizons after watching this video and reading this blog.    


Author: Mark Grevelding is the founder of Fitmotivation. He is also a training specialist and consultant with the Aquatic Exercise Association’s (AEA). Mark has been active in the fitness industry for 22 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE.