Exercise is beneficial for everyone in that it helps relieve stress and anxiety, and is a natural mood booster. It is also important for keeping bones and muscles strong. For seniors especially, it is quite important to stay active to keep the body and mind in healthy shape.
Sometimes when we reach a certain age, our mobility is not what it used to be. This is nothing to be discouraged about! If you have limited mobility due to injury, disability, illness or weight, there are several ways to modify exercises for limited mobility. While these exercises are geared towards seniors, they are great for anyone who may experience limitations in their mobility.
Note: individuals should always consult their doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen.
What Kind of Exercises Can Be Done With Limited Mobility?
Each muscle and joint in the body has its own function and responds differently to different kinds of movement. There are many types of exercise that offer different benefits. We will focus on these three as the ones most appropriate for those with limited mobility:
-Cardiovascular Exercises. These exercises are the ones that get your heart and blood pumping. Air punching and arm circles are some great examples, that even with limited mobility, are possible and important!
-Flexibility Exercises. Stretching and yoga are incredibly helpful for the body, and also help to relax the mind.
-Strength Training Exercises. Building strength and endurance in your muscles can be done using free weights and medicine balls, but you can strength train without equipment using body weight.
How to Warm Up Before Exercising
Before getting into the main event for our modified exercises for limited mobility, it is important to warm the body up. Warming up prevents strains and injuries, which are crucial to avoid for those with limited mobility, and vital to the process of strengthening the upper body and lower body. Try warming up with the following:
-Arm Stretches. A cross-body shoulder stretch is a great way to warm up the arms. While you are sitting tall, extend one arm across your chest and pull on it with your other arm, just below the elbow. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch arms.
-Leg Stretches. Toe touches are a great way to warm up those lower body muscles. Extend one leg out as far as you can, and reach out with the arm on the same side of your body to touch your toes. Switch sides, or try both legs together.
Exercises for Age-Related Limited Mobility
1. Knee Extensions
These are key to strengthening the leg muscles. With straight posture, hold on to the sides of your chair, and extend your right leg out with your toes pointed to the ceiling. Slightly bend your knee (do not lock), and lower it back to the starting position. Repeat this 10 times, then switch to the left leg.
2. Knee Lifts
Knee lifts are important for abdominal muscles, which in turn will strengthen the muscles that flex the hips and quads, which are important for sitting. So, in a sitting position, slowly bring your right knee into your chest and hold for a few seconds and release. Slowly lower your knee back to the starting position. Repeat this 10 times, then switch knees.
3. Dumbbell Exercises
Now, the dumbbell or hand weights can be optional, but we recommend using them to help build strength and endurance. Here are some arm strengthening exercises you can practice with or without the extra weight:
● Air Punching
● Arm Holds
● Arm Curls
● Overhead Pumps
● Arm Raises
4. Seated or Standing Rotations
While maintaining good posture, hold a medicine ball close to the body with both elbows bent (or straight out in front of you depending on capability) and rotate slowly to one side. Return back to the center and repeat by rotating to the other side. Do this 10 times. Note: you do not have to use a medicine ball for this exercise, but it will aid with the strengthening process.
5. Hand Squeezes
Reps of these are excellent for the muscles in the arms and chest, and will only require a ball. The exercise is relatively simple; just hold a ball out directly in front of your body and squeeze, as if you are trying to let all of the air out. Repeat the action 8 - 10 times.
This is an exercise that is done in two moves: while grasping the arms of your chair, lift your body up from the seat. Hold for a few seconds, then lower back down. Repeat this 8 - 10 times.
7. Seated Row
This exercise is great for working the upper back. To perform a seated row, hold your arms out in front of you with your elbows bent and thumbs pointing to the ceiling. Squeeze your shoulder blades as you draw your elbows back in a rowing motion. Repeat this 8 - 10 times.
How to Cool Down After Exercising
Cooling down, much like warming up, is an important part of your workout. This is the time to reflect on the power of your body, how strong you are and what you are capable of. Remember these things as you take time to stretch out each muscle you worked, from your shoulders and chest, down to your toes. Your body and mind will thank you.
Special Strong provides nutrition and adapted fitness for special needs children, adolescents, and adults with autism, Down Syndrome, and other disabilities. Through our online training platform, we also provide special needs certification courses for educators, professionals, and parents who want to learn how to adapt fitness to serve the special needs population.