As much as we hate to admit it, doing simple tasks such as standing from a chair can become more difficult as one ages. This can be a result of several factors including increased stiffness in our joints as well as weakening of the muscles in the legs. This can subsequently cause us to compensate and change the way we move in an effort to make it easier for us to complete the activity – even if that is not the most beneficial way for us to move. Our bodies are excellent at finding ways to “cheat” without us even knowing it! Below are 5 tips to improve your mechanics and optimize your strength so that you can more efficiently use the correct muscles and joints to stand from a chair.
1.) Make sure you scoot all the way to the end of the chair, especially if you are in a comfy couch or recliner. When you sit back further you can sink down more in the chair, and this sets you up for needing more force to be able to stand. Scooting forward also helps you get your feet underneath you prior to standing, decreasing your risk of falling backwards into the chair.
2.) “Nose Over Toes.”- You have probably heard of this, but are you really doing it? To get your bottom off the chair you do need a big bend forward at your hips – NOT at your back/spine. This will naturally assist with raising your hips from the seating surface.
3.) If you need a little extra “boost,” don’t be afraid to use a little momentum to stand. Perform a forward “rocking” motion with your arms/trunk as needed. This could be from with the initial lean forward to get your bottom off the chair, especially if you still struggle to stand.
4.) Practice performing squats in front of the chair to strengthen your legs. If you can tolerate it, a good frequency is 2 sets of 10, 1x/day. When squatting, you need to stick your bottom back as if you are going to sit down, just stop mid way and stand back up by squeezing your glute muscles. You should keep your heels on the ground and bend forward at your hips, not your back.
5.) Keep practicing! If it purely is a strength deficit in your legs, you need to be consistent with performing your exercises multiple times a day. A method of practice is to perform an extra 2-3 repetitions every time you go to stand from the chair.
Megan Edwards PTA- has been with Aquacare Physical Therapy for over 10 years. She is currently clinical director at our Millsboro office.