Mobility limitations are becoming increasingly common among Americans, especially senior citizens. In fact, one survey found that nearly 16 million older adults struggle with walking or climbing, making these limitations the most common disability among the senior population.
Because of their limited mobility, the majority of these older adults live very sedentary lives. This, in turn, puts them at risk for even more diseases and conditions that further limit their abilities and minimize their quality of life.
If you struggle with mobility limitations and feel that you cannot exercise because of them, think again. Exercise is crucial to your overall health, and, no matter what your ability level is, there are lots of ways that you can incorporate movement into your lifestyle. Listed below are five tips to help you get started.
1. Understand the Importance of Exercise
Why exactly does exercise matter so much? What good does it do you?
Regular exercise comes with a number of important physical and mental benefits, including the following:
- Improved mood
- Reduced stress
- Improved self-esteem
- Decreased risk of falls and injuries
- Helps you maintain a healthy weight
- Reduced risk of weight-related illnesses like diabetes and heart disease
- Improved arthritis symptoms and a decreased risk of experiencing joint pain
- Improved ability to live independently
- Reduced risk of falls
- Increased energy and strength
- Improved bone density
Exercise is especially important for people with limited mobility, as it can help you maintain control and empowers you by allowing you to focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t.
2. Find Ways to Modify Popular Forms of Exercise
If you’re in a wheelchair or have a hard time walking and climbing, you may feel that most forms of exercise are off-limits to you. How are you supposed to get in shape if you can’t walk or jog?
While most people turn to running or walking when they first want to establish an exercise routine, it’s important to note that there are many different ways to workout.
If you use a mobility aid like a rollator or walker, you can still get your heart rate up with seated aerobics classes or other forms of cardio like swimming or water aerobics.
There are also many yoga and stretching classes designed to accommodate those with limited mobility. And, there’s no reason why you can’t lift weights and resistance train — there are plenty of exercises you can do from a seated position!
3. Start Slow and Establish a Routine
If you want to reap all the benefits of exercise that are listed above, it’s not enough to just go to one workout class a month. It’s important to make fitness a regular part of your routine.
This can be hard to do, especially if you’ve spent years or even decades living a mostly sedentary lifestyle.
In order to establish a lasting exercise habit, keep these tips in mind:
- Start slow and increase your activity gradually
- Set small goals to keep yourself on track
- Schedule your workouts for the same time every day
- Remember that progress takes time — be patient and stick with it, even if you don’t see results right away
4. Find a Workout Partner
Another way to stay motivated to workout is to do it with a partner. Having someone who’s counting on you to show up to your workouts can be just what you need to stick to exercising even when you’d rather take a break and watch TV.
Working out with a partner is also safer. Having someone around who can spot and support you when you try new exercises is especially helpful for those who have mobility limitations and aren’t quite as strong or stable as they once were.
5. Focus on Functional Exercises
If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to working out, focus on making functional exercises a priority.
Functional exercises mimic movements that you perform in everyday life, such as bending over to pick something up or tie your shoes, carrying groceries into the house, and reaching overhead to put items away.
Exercises like a deadlift, a farmer carry, or an overhead press all mimic these movements and help you improve your range of motion to make sure you can do these tasks with ease.
If you’re still feeling lost, talk to a personal trainer about the types of tasks that are difficult for you. They can recommend specific exercises and teach you how to do them properly.