Physical activity is vital to overall health. The World Health Organization says limiting time spent being idle and taking advantage of opportunities to get moving — even if it’s just a little bit of exercise — can go a long way toward improving overall health.
In November 2020, the WHO released new exercise guidelines for people of all ages. Adults should get between 150 and 300 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity, and that includes older adults and those with chronic conditions or disabilities.
Individuals with limited mobility due to age or preexisting medical conditions may wonder how they can meet the guidelines for exercise. Those with chronic pain or illness sometimes find that exercising for more than a few minutes can be challenging. Even brief periods of exercise can pay dividends, and there are various approaches people can take to work around mobility and other issues.
Just because you are seated doesn’t mean you can’t get a workout in. Seated chair exercises can work various muscle groups. Seated arm rows, tummy twists, overhead arm raises, hand squeezes with a tennis ball, inner thigh squeezes, leg lifts and extensions, and many other exercises can be customized to be performed in a chair.
Exercising in the water can assist with movement and reduce strain on the body. The Arthritis Foundation says the water’s buoyancy supports body weight, which minimizes stress on joints and can alleviate pain. Water provides gentle resistance as well — up to 12 times the resistance of air. That means it’s possible to build strength and muscle even just walking or swimming around a pool.
Resistance bands are like giant rubber bands that can be used to build up strength and flexibility. Resistance bands are effective, low-cost gear that can offer high-impact results for building muscle, staying fit and increasing mobility. Resistance bands can be used in lieu of hand weights for many exercises and be ideal for those who find barbells and dumbbells are challenging to maneuver.
Elder Gym®, a fitness from home service for seniors, suggests exercises like Tai Chi and yoga for those with limited mobility. These exercises integrate awareness of body movement with the exercise through coordinated breathing. The exercises encourage people to focus on slow, fluid movements and deep stretching.
Seniors and others with limited mobility are advised to first discuss fitness regimens with a physician to get a green light to proceed. Then exercise regimens can be started gradually and altered to become more vigorous as the body acclimates to exercise. Increase duration and frequency as strength and endurance builds.