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3 Modified Exercises for Senior Citizens with Limited Mobility

Limited mobility and senior citizenship do not necessarily go hand in hand. But when they do, exercising to achieve and maintain fitness and health can be a major challenge. Modified exercises for senior citizens allow almost anyone to achieve a level of fitness that provides meaningful health benefits.

Limited Mobility and the Benefits of Exercise

Exercise has been shown to preserve cognition, improve blood pressure, and elevate mood. Additional benefits of regular exercise include:

  • Improved immunity
  • Stronger bones
  • Improved gastrointestinal function
  • Improved protection from chronic disease

But staying active while aging can be downright hard. Changes in muscle strength and endurance, vision, and metabolism can make exercise challenging. When a senior citizen has limited or impaired mobility, it may seem almost impossible to find a balance between maintaining safety and obtaining the benefits of a regular exercise routine.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), older adults with limited mobility should perform physical activity to enhance balance and prevent falls on three or more days per week. Doing so can improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness and bone and functional health and reduce the risk of neurocognitive diseases, depression, and cognitive decline.

Standard exercise regimens that are trendy and rigorous are not safe, nor are they realistic for those senior citizens with limited mobility. Let’s explore some modified exercises for you or your loved one with limited mobility to achieve meaningful health benefits.

Modified Exercise #1: Seated yoga

When you think of yoga, do you imagine someone twisted and contorted into a pretzel-like shape?

Think again.

Yoga can be so much more than gravity-defying body contortions and movements. Seated yoga, or chair yoga, is a great choice of exercise that allows you to build flexibility, strength, balance, and endurance—all while in the seated position.

You can work out your upper and lower body, and even your core, while sitting in a chair. Yoga also adds mindfulness and relaxation that other exercises may not provide.

Modified Exercise #2: Light weights

The aging process leads to significant decline in muscle mass and overall strength. Various studies have shown that after age 40, people usually lose 8 percent or more of their total muscle mass each decade—and this significantly accelerates after age 70. Less muscle mass usually means decreased strength, mobility, and—among senior citizens—independence. It also has been linked with premature death.

But you or your loved one can fight muscle mass and strength loss with strength training. Additional studies show that adding and maintaining a regular strength training routine fights muscle mass loss, especially in older adults.

Hand weights ranging in weight from 1-5 pounds and a set of resistance bands may be a good place to start. Basic exercises such as bicep curls are a good foundation and can even be performed while seated in a chair. As always, it is recommended to discuss beginning a new exercise routine with your doctor to make sure you or your loved one is healthy enough for exercise.

Modified Exercise #3: Aquatic exercise

Exercising in the water, whether swimming or doing water aerobics, is a great low-impact option for those with limited mobility. Additional benefits of aquatic exercise include:

  • Increased oxygen uptake.
  • Increased muscle strength and endurance.
  • Improved flexibility.

The buoyancy of water decreases the force of weight on your joints, reducing compression on your joints for lower impact. The water can also add stability and mobility to flaccid limbs impacted by stroke or other conditions that cause fully- or semi-paralyzed limbs.

Have Fun and Be Creative

No fitness routine will stick without you or your loved one enjoying it. Don’t let age and limited mobility get in your way! Exercise is also a great way to stay social—grab a friend (or two!) and join a local fitness class. If you live in an assisted living community, be sure to take advantage of all the social activities offered to keep you moving and active. After all, if you have trouble moving and are an older adult, you can still find modified exercises to provide you with meaningful long-term health benefits. Stay active, stay social, and stay healthy!

Brooke Figueras

About the Author: Brooke Figueras

Brooke’s passion for serving seniors began upon graduating from the University of Georgia in 2003. She moved to Canton with her family to join The Arbor Company in 2017 and couldn’t be happier.