Although exercising with limited mobility or while on bedrest can be challenging, it is an extremely important part of maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. Staying active provides mature adults a way to increase their mobility, strengthen their muscles, improve their mood, and see an improvement in overall health and outlook. Even exercising for as little as 10 minutes a day can have a positive impact and help seniors avoid a sedentary lifestyle.
Unfortunately, many seniors with limited mobility are missing out on all these important health benefits because they simply don’t know where to begin or how to workout safely.
So, what types of exercises are possible for seniors with limited mobility? We’ll cover the benefits of exercise and the importance of staying active, the precautions involved in exercising with limited mobility, and what types of exercises seniors can safely participate in.
Benefits of Exercise for Seniors with Limited Mobility
Staying active helps keep both the body and the mind in good shape, allowing senior adults to age gracefully and with a positive mindset.
Exercise increases seniors’ abilities by improving their range of motion, strength, and outlook. It is important to not let muscles atrophy with limited mobility or bedrest, as this can cause even more loss of function over time. On the other hand, staying active increases the likelihood of retaining those capabilities. The good news is that in many cases, loss of function is entirely preventable and even reversible. Regular exercise improves muscle tone and strengthens bones, helping to prevent debilitating injuries and falls that can be common with increased age.
Having a daily exercise routine also helps seniors avoid the depression that is very common in those who have decreased mobility or are on bedrest. Exercise has a powerful impact on improving mood and releasing stress as well as helping seniors with limited mobility feel empowered, hopeful, and independent.
Mental health is just as important as physical health, if not more so, and proper exercise that is done safely helps with both. There are a few considerations to exercising safely that we will cover in the next section.
Exercising Safely for Seniors with Limited Mobility
The key to exercising with limited mobility is to keep the focus on safety and injury prevention. All individuals, regardless of age, should exercise to the best of their ability without overdoing it or pushing themselves too far. Injuries can be a common occurrence when people over-exert themselves or try to force their bodies beyond what they can handle.
This means that workout warmups and cool downs are even more important for those who have limited mobility. Mature adults should always gradually increase their repetitions or sets to not over-exert themselves. When doing cardio, frequent breaks are important, as is staying hydrated.
When possible, all exercises should be performed under the supervision of a caregiver, physical therapist, or other health professional. This will help ensure proper form as well as help prevent injuries and falls. Always check with your doctor before embarking on a new workout routine.
Types of Exercise for Seniors with Limited Mobility
Once the importance of exercise has been established, as well as the best practices for keeping mature adults safe during physical activity, it is time to look at the practical considerations of performing exercises while on bedrest or with limited mobility. Keep reading for some of the specific types of exercises that can be performed by anyone – even those with limited mobility.
For those who have access to a swimming pool and enough mobility to get there, swimming can be a wonderful way for mature adults to relax, socialize, and stay active without putting too much stress on the body. Compared to other methods of exercise, there is less risk of injury in going for a swim, making it a preferred activity for many seniors and their caregivers.
In addition, swimming is easy on the joints, helps reduce the risk of osteoporosis, improves flexibility and muscle strength, boosts mood, and improves cardiovascular health, making it the perfect gentle exercise for seniors with limited mobility.
In addition to swimming, many seniors enjoy low-impact water aerobics like aqua jogging and leg lifts. These exercises are a great way to take a swimming workout to the next level and can be completed as a solo activity. Alternatively, many swimming pools, health clubs, and senior activity centers offer water aerobics classes.
Taking aerobic exercises to the pool relieves stress on the joints and is a great option for those with arthritis and joint pain. Exercising in water improves balance and stability, making it a safer option for those who are a fall risk or especially prone to injuries. Additionally, incorporating the use of water weights for strength training is made easier by the buoyancy of the water.
Although it may seem overstated, there is great value in the simple act of walking. Walking builds up endurance, boosts mood, improves heart health, and helps ward off weight gain.
No matter the mobility level, everyone who can manage it should try to take at least a few steps daily to retain the ability to walk and strengthen the leg and core muscles that are engaged during walking. This is true even if the only task you can manage is walking from the bed to the bathroom. On the other hand, going for a daily walk around the neighborhood is a very enjoyable activity for many mature adults. Treadmills are yet another tool that can aid seniors in getting a gentle and easy workout at home.
Resistance bands can be used from any place and any position, making them a great option for those who are on bedrest or restricted to a wheelchair. Resistance bands are easy to use, portable, lightweight, and effective. They can be used for a full-body workout or to target specific areas of the body for conditioning such as the triceps or glutes.
To use resistance bands in a seated position, exercises will typically be focused on working out the upper or lower body, as well as the core when possible. Examples of seated resistance band exercises include leg presses, shoulder squeezes, chest presses, arm curls, lateral raises, chest flys, back flys, and seated band rows. The use of resistance bands can add fun and variety to your workout routine while improving mobility and function.
Likewise, the use of hand exercisers improves grip and increases hand function through resistance training for the hands, forearms and fingers.
Yoga & Tai Chi
Yoga and Tai Chi both have fantastic implications on mental and emotional health and can provide mature adults with pain relief and relaxation. They offer safe, gentle, and easy workouts for practitioners of all ages and ability levels.
Tai Chi is performed with gentle, repetitive movements designed to help integrate the mind and body through motion and meditation. Tai Chi generally consists of slow movements and stretches along with deep breathing and other mental practices.
Likewise, Yoga offers its practitioners a way to unwind, stretch, and relax with a series of gentle poses that combine meditation with physical activity. Yoga is a popular mind-body exercise that improves strength, balance, and flexibility while also having a positive impact on mood and overall well-being.
Alternatively, yoga can be performed from a seated position using modified yoga poses and stretches designed especially for those with limited abilities.
The ability to modify yoga poses through chair yoga means that seniors who are at risk of falls and other injuries remain safely seated while performing the movements.In addition, chair yoga has a low impact on the joints, improves balance and flexibility, decreases pain, reduces stress, and improves circulation.
Examples of common yoga poses that can be done from a seated position include seated mountain, seated forward bend, eagle arms, seated twists, seated warrior, and seated cat-cow. For assistance in lifting, be sure to check out our best seat lifts for elderly disabled seniors.
There are many exercises that can be done from a chair to increase the strength of those with limited mobility. Some examples of simple chair exercises include gentle backbends, leg lifts, arm circles, calf raises, side stretches, and core twists. More advanced chair exercises such as sit-to-stands, chair push-ups, and chair squats can be incorporated for those who still can get up and move around.
Consider adding in the use of dumbbells or wrist and ankle weights for an even better workout.
Developing core strength is important for general mobility, posture, and balance. Core exercises are a great option for building strength and muscle tone that can be done from anywhere without the need for any equipment.
While traditional core exercises like crunches and sit-ups are not ideal for mature adults due to stress on the spine, there are several gentle exercises that can be a part of a daily core conditioning routine. In fact, many core exercises can be modified for those with limited mobility and can be done from a chair or ball. Those who are still able to get out of their bed or chair can engage their core with exercises like squats, side bends, planks, and woodchops.
Stability Ball Exercises
Similarly, the use of an inflatable yoga ball or stability ball can be an ideal way for many mature adults to strengthen their core with a specialized workout routine that is effective yet gentle. Exercise ball workouts can improve core strength, balance, stability, and endurance. In addition, they are a fun way to add some variety to your workout routine and enjoy different low-impact exercises like planks, back extensions, ball balances, leg lifts, hip circles, pelvic tilts, and hip lifts.
Range of Motion
Range of motion exercises are a fantastic resource for seniors with limited mobility because they can be performed by a caregiver or health professional. The benefits of range of motion exercises include decreased stiffness, increased flexibility, better posture, reduced risk of injury, and improved joint function.
Range of motion exercises consist of gentle stretching movements such as arm raises, leg extensions, and shoulder shrugs. These movements should be performed daily in small sets with gradually increasing repetitions. Never force a range of motion movement but move until you feel a slight stretch and stop any range of motion exercise if a sharp or deep pain occurs.
In some cases, special equipment like an exercise pulley can be used to help seniors safely perform these movements.
Using a pedal exerciser is a great option for seniors with limited mobility – and limited space.
Designed to function like a bike, these compact machines allow those who need it to increase their leg and arm strength through pedaling exercises. Compared to a traditional exercise bike, seniors with limited mobility are much less likely to become injured by working out with a pedal exerciser. They are easy to use, and the intensity of the workout can be adjusted to each user’s individual fitness level.
They are typically used in a seated position and can even be used by those on bedrest with proper positioning. They can be used while sitting on the couch watching TV or engaging in another activity, making them an ideal way for seniors to get in some effective exercise without putting too much stress on the body or mind.
It is recommended that mature adults looking to incorporate some cardio conditioning in their workout routine with a pedal exerciser use this machine for at least 10 minutes a day.
A commitment to staying active can make a huge difference in any mature adult’s quality of life. Regular exercise promotes independence and overall well-being in seniors with limited mobility. From having a positive impact on mood to restoring lost function, exercise has many benefits for those with limited mobility.
Consider consulting with a physician or physical therapist before starting any exercise program and always be sure to follow the safety considerations covered in this article.