Exercises for Seniors with Limited Mobility
As it gets harder to get around, it gets easier to become increasingly inactive. We start to park closer, avoid the stairs, and get tired after standing for a short while. In turn, we lose even more of our mobility.
It’s what psychologists call a “self-fulling prophecy.” An expectation or prediction that if moving around is difficult for us now, it’s only going to get worse. The good news is that you can actually improve your mobility through simple exercises — no matter your age, weight, or health condition.
Here at Topeka Presbyterian Manor, we offer fitness groups and residents at different levels of mobility are welcome to join. We also have several wellness programs to keep you feeling good.
Stretching for flexibility.
Many older adults start noticing a decline in their flexibility as early as in their 50s. Simple stretching exercises, done regularly, can help expand your range of motion, making it possible to move your joints and muscles with greater ease. Increasing your flexibility can help:
- Improve your balance
- Prevent falls
- Reduce back pain
Make it easier to:
- Bend and twist
- Get in and out of bed
- Stand from a sitting position
- Enter and exit a vehicle
- Use the stairs
Adding basic stretching exercises to your daily routine is a healthy habit. You can stretch in the morning to wake your body up, during the day to relieve stiffness, and before bed to encourage relaxation.
Seniors with very low mobility — who are unable to get up and down from the floor — can benefit from chair exercises. Exercising while seated can still help to improve your flexibility, especially from the waist up.
Strength training for seniors.
Staying strong will also help improve your balance and posture, as well as prevent falls. That’s because strength training builds both bone and muscle. It can also build confidence in your abilities.
You can start slowly, with beginning exercises for seniors with limited mobility. And you don’t need any fancy gym equipment either. Your body provides all the resistance you need to build up your strength, as you move the weight of your body against the forces of gravity.
For example, think about doing a leg lift while sitting in a chair. You may only be able to lift your leg a little bit until you feel an uncomfortable pull in your thigh. That simple movement is strengthening your leg. The more you do it, the higher you’ll be able to lift your leg.
Advanced strength training exercises — like squats — can seem impossible off the bat. But as you get stronger, you can try doing a squat with a chair behind you for safety. You might also hold on to a chair to stand on one foot and then the other. It’s a simple exercise that can strengthen your legs and your hips.
If you want to use weights, invest in small dumbbells. You can also try a set of resistance bands. Both of these are affordable and take up very little space.
Cardio for mind, body and spirit.
If “cardio” brings 1980’s aerobic videos to mind, you’re on the right track. Cardio — also known as aerobic physical exercise — is any activity that elevates your heart rate.
If you are dealing with limited mobility, walking is your best bet. It’s free, can be done indoors or out, and offers an opportunity for quiet reflection. Topeka Presbyterian Manor has lovely walking paths on our campus, along with a beautiful pond.
Even if you use a rollator, walker or cane, you can go for a stroll at your own pace. Start by going short distances on flat surfaces – like pavement, carpet or tile. From there, you can work up to a longer distance, a faster speed and more challenging surfaces.
A final note about safety.
Exercising after you’ve been sedentary requires a measured approach to minimize the risk of an injury or a fall. As always, you should talk to your doctor beforehand. They may recommend certain exercises and provide advice on how often to exercise, as well as for how many minutes each time.
Every journey starts with a first step. Look at the links below for help getting started.