How to Safely Get up From a Chair

caretaker helping senior woman stand up from a chair.

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Standing up from a chair doesn't seem like something that needs instructions. But if you have difficulty with it—a common issue for older people and others who have been injured or suffer from certain medical conditions—knowing how to stand up from a seated position properly is important for preventing injuries.

When the body is already dealing with compromised strength and balance, the simple act of standing up puts the body in a vulnerable position. Often people try to "pull up" by grasping objects to make up for muscle weakness, but falls often result from grasping unsteady objects or losing grip.

If you are having difficulty getting up from a chair or another seated position, check in with your doctor and visit a physical therapist, who can teach how to complete this movement safely.

In the meantime, you can follow these steps to transition to a standing position with less risk.

How to Safely Rise From a Seated Position

Be sure you are safe first, then rise up. Have someone nearby who can help steady you, if needed, during your first few times trying this. Never try to stand up on your own if you're having trouble.

  1. Move your bottom to the edge of the chair.
  2. Place both feet firmly and flat on the floor.
  3. Place both hands on the armrests of the chair. If there are no armrests, place both hands on the edge of the seat.
  4. Lean forward so that your nose is over your toes (this helps move your center of gravity forward).
  5. Push down through your arms as you help unload your weight off the chair.
  6. As you begin to rise, straighten your legs.
  7. Let go of the chair and finish straightening your legs.
  8. Stand up nice and straight.

Safety Tip

Never grasp unsteady objects, like a quad cane or walker, to pull up. They could tip over.

Improving Strength and Balance

Injuries and medical conditions aside, the normal aging process causes the body to lose muscle mass (sarcopenia). Because of this, it's easy to lose strength in the hip muscles and knee extensors—the muscles that help straighten the legs. Your body relies on these muscles to walk, climb stairs, and rise after sitting. A sedentary lifestyle can also contribute to this weakness.

Research has shown that practicing sit-to-stand repetitively can improve your ability to stand safely. Your physical therapist can also work with you to improve your lower body strength, which is good not just for getting up from a chair, but overall balance and mobility. The stronger your legs, hips, and glutes (your "butt muscles"), the less risk you have for fall or injury.

A therapist can prescribe exercises to strengthen your hips and knees as part of your home exercise program to make standing up from a chair a little easier.

Once you're standing, you should be able to hold your balance safely. If not, specific balance exercises can help.

A Word From Verywell

So many people have difficulty getting up from a chair after injury, illness, surgery, or simply as a result of getting older. If you have trouble standing from a seated position, talk to a medical professional to learn the proper way to stand up from a chair and to strengthen those muscles that are needed to safely rise up.

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  1. Pedersen MM, Petersen J, Bean JF, et al. Feasibility of progressive sit-to-stand training among older hospitalized patients. PeerJ. 2015;3:e1500. doi:10.7717/peerj.1500

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