When your mobility is limited, it’s easy to feel like your options for exercising and staying fit are limited or even nonexistent. But there is light at the end of this tunnel, there are things you can do and they will help.
Making the best of what you’ve got
For many people, it can be disheartening to have your mobility go away, especially for those who lose their mobility practically overnight. But, as much as you may feel frustrated and want to give up, the best solution is to make the best of what you’ve got.
There are many beneficial exercises that even people with limited mobility can perform and benefit from. So don’t give up!
The most important thing is to get moving – in any way you can.
What exercises can you do?
Some of the best ways to exercise for people with limited mobility are: Water aerobics, yoga, light weightlifting, walking or stationary biking. Both of these activities are low-impact and allow you to get moving.
Water aerobics can be done year-round with a heated pool. The buoyancy of the water helps add support, while offering gentle resistance that will help you increase your strength without putting stress on your joints.
Yoga is excellent for maintaining the full range of motion of your muscles and joints. This is especially beneficial to those with arthritis. Yoga can help keep you limber, which in turn, helps prevent injuries.
Light weightlifting or exercise bands:
Lifting light weights is important to help maintain both muscle mass and bone density. A loss of bone density through osteoporosis is a common ailment of seniors.
When you’re just starting out, and before lifting any weights, perform the exercises and movements without any weights to get your muscles and joints accustomed to the motions and to ensure you can perform the motions before stressing your joints with weight.
Start with light weights, just one or two pounds, and gradually increase the weights as you develop your strength.
An alternative to lifting weights for strength training is to use elastic exercise bands. These will give you resistance, similar to weights, but without having to hold or lift heavy objects. Exercise bands can be wrapped around forearms if gripping with the hand is difficult, as well as, can be wrapped around the legs to provide lower extremity exercise.
It’s also important to perform exercise that will help improve your aerobic and cardiovascular conditioning. These exercises help improve the fitness of your respiratory and cardiovascular system. Walking or stationary peddling are good ways to do this.
If you have the ability to walk (even with an assistive device such as a cane or walker), start with short and slow walks. Gradually increasing the time and/or distance. If your walking is unsteady, make sure to have someone accompany you for safety and it’s best to walk on a level, flat ground or surfaces.
If walking is too difficult, another option is to use either a stationary reclined bike or restorator bike. A reclined bike is one that allows you to sit while you pedal. A restorator bike is only the pedal portion of a bike. It can be placed on the ground in front of a chair (or wherever you are seated) allowing you to use your legs to peddle.
Getting started: some important things to consider
1. Begin slowly
if you haven’t exercised for a while, your body will need to adjust from being sedentary to becoming active again. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself and set yourself back farther.
Start with a short duration of time, even just 5 to 10 minutes. The important thing is getting started. Your ultimate goal should be to work up toward being able to exercise for 20-30 minutes, three days per week.
Alternate the type of exercises you do. If you engage in walking or water aerobics on Monday, lift weights on Wednesday. The main point is, never perform the same exercises on the same muscle groups back-to-back. Allow those muscles to rest and recuperate with at least one to 2 days in-between before returning to those exercises again.
Before engaging in any exercises or stretching, it is important to warm up your muscles first. Using slow, gentle movements… move your arms, legs, neck, trunk through their full range of motion to get the blood flowing into your muscles.
Before engaging in exercises, it’s important to stretch your muscles to avoid injuries. Stretching should only be performed after you have first engaged in some warming up exercises. Do not stretch first, when your muscles are cold.
Stretch within a range that is comfortable. Do not attempt to force a stretch. Never stretch to the point of pain. If you begin to experience pain, back off on the stretch to a tolerable level or stop the stretching altogether.