Regular physical activity is essential for seniors who want to increase their lifespan and also maintain their quality of life as they age. Unfortunately, many seniors are not consistently getting anywhere near the amount of exercise they should be.
Do What You Can
A lot of older adults think that they’re too old to start exercising, or they feel like they’re held back by mobility limitations. Truth be told, exercise is essential to maintaining healthy mobility as we age. It doesn’t matter if they’re in a wheelchair or need to use a cane to get around — there are forms of exercise that can be adapted for seniors of all abilities. Read on to learn more about the best types of exercise for seniors who struggle with limited mobility.
1. Seated Resistance Exercises
Resistance training is one of the best forms of exercise out there for people with limited mobility. By strengthening the muscles and improving recruitment patterns, many seniors may be able to start doing activities they thought were far behind them.
There are many resistance exercises, such as overhead presses, bicep curls, and assisted pull-ups, that even seniors who rely on wheelchairs or walkers can still do.
It’s also easy to resistance train without going to a gym and lifting weights. Household objects like water bottles or soup cans can be repurposed as weights, and bodyweight exercises can be just as effective for beginners.
2. Seated Cardio
When most people think of cardiovascular exercise, they think of walking, running, or cycling.
These are all good options, and seniors who are able to walk unassisted may want to consider them as their cardio exercise of choice. But, for seniors who struggle with their balance or worry about falling, as well as those in wheelchairs, there are also ways to get the heart rate up while staying seated.
There are many cardio classes dedicated to helping seniors improve their cardiovascular health while staying seated. They typically involve lots of upper body movements, with or without weights.
3. Low-Impact Aerobics
For seniors who aren’t wheelchair-bound but still struggle with some mobility limitations, there are lots of low-impact cardio classes available that will help them to increase their heart rate without putting stress on the joints.
Look for classes at a local gym or senior center that are specifically designed to be low-impact. It’s also quite easy to modify classes like Zumba to be lower impact and more accessible.
4. Aquatic Training
Aquatic exercise is perfect for seniors who want to improve their physical health without stressing their joints.
Swimming and water aerobics are great forms of cardiovascular exercise, and the water also provides plenty of resistance to help seniors strengthen their muscles at the same time.
Water aerobics can also help seniors improve their coordination and decrease their risk of falling in their day-to-day life. Falls are the number one cause of injury for seniors, so anything that can be done to decrease the chances of them happening is worth looking into.
5. Iyengar Yoga
It wouldn’t be a complete list of good exercises for seniors without a mention of yoga. Yoga is a great form of exercise for those who struggle with mobility limitations, and Iyengar yoga, in particular, is one of the best for seniors.
Iyengar yoga utilizes props like blocks, straps, and harnesses to help practitioners improve their range of motion, so it’s perfect for older adults whose mobility is limited.
Bonus Tip: Don’t Limit Yourself to a Chair if You Don’t Need it
An aid like a wheelchair or even a shower chair can be great because it gives those with limited mobility greater independence. But, it’s important for those who are not totally wheelchair-bound to avoid limiting themselves exclusively to seated exercises.
Exercise is not only meant to help seniors maintain their quality of life. It can also, in many cases, help live better than they thought imaginable. But, those improvements can only come when seniors are willing to challenge themselves.
For seniors who are capable of standing but opt not to because of joint pain, inflammation, or excess weight, it’s important to work up to gradually increasing movement. With practice and patience, they will likely be able to regain their ability to walk unassisted.