How To Engage in Exercise Even if You Have Limited Mobility

If limited mobility issues prevent you from moving as much as you’d like, don’t despair. There are many options for exercise and activities even when confined to a chair or a small space. You can keep your body limber, your mind sharp and your spirits high, even when some of your capacities are taken away. Take heart that where there is a will and an imagination, there is a way.

A Chair Is Your Exercise Friend

When a fall, surgery, or medical condition such as arthritis limits standing or moving for exercise, make your living room or bedroom your personal gym. You can use a sturdy chair with firm back support as your own exercise apparatus. It’s important to remember the adage, “Use it or lose it.” The longer we abstain from exercise, the harder it is to start and the more physical abilities we tend to lose or find diminished. The good news is that it’s never too late to start exercising or to resume after a long layoff.

Tutorials and Videos at the Click of a Mouse

Plenty of free online videos demonstrate gentle exercise routines for seniors that take minimum effort and time. Getting your limbs and extremities moving, even if only for a few sustained minutes a few days a week, can make a real difference in the quality of your life. Search on YouTube for phrases like “chair yoga for seniors” or “seated stretching exercises for seniors,” and you’ll find many videos to choose from showing exercises designed for seniors that you can follow along in doing on your own time and at your own pace.

Slow and Easy Is the Best Prescription

Remember to take it slow and easy, especially when getting started. Comfort and safety are the main priorities. The more often you engage in stretching, whether yoga or tai chi or even some hybrid regimen you improvise yourself, the more you should be able to do over time. If at any point you feel pain or discomfort, stop the activity. You don’t want to injure yourself. Modify any movements to your own individual tolerances and abilities. And don’t hesitate to check with your doctor first to make sure they are on board with your plan.

Stretch for Added Zest

Stretching offers many benefits to the neck, shoulders, arms, chest, back and legs by loosening stiff joints and improving blood circulation. Over time and with consistent stretching, you will feel new freedom of movement and range of motion that comes with getting rid of the “rust” and compression that set in with prolonged physical inactivity.

Release the Endorphins

Other exercise benefits include mood enhancement. Physical activity releases feel-good chemicals in the brain called endorphins that can reduce anxiety and promote sound sleep. We naturally feel better about ourselves when we are proactive about our own health and well-being. Regular exercise can also boost our energy and endurance for enjoying other activities.

Engage the Mind

Just as your body needs some TLC to keep things fluid and aligned, your mind needs engagement and nurturing, too. Socialization is important. Invite people who bring you joy to visit you at your home to help liven things up and energize you. You can play a game of cards, compete in board games, or do a puzzle together for fun. Besides the pleasant diversion it offers, engaging with others helps keep the mind alert. When in-person isn’t an option, you can connect with the outside world by writing or emailing friends and family or using a phone app such as Zoom or FaceTime. If volunteering or mentoring is an option, even virtually, look for intergenerational opportunities and activities where you can connect with people of different ages and backgrounds. Reading, doing crossword puzzles, listening to music, and doing crafts such as needlepoint or scrapbooking are things you can do when alone to keep your mind sharp. Options for homebound or even chair-bound seniors are only limited by your own imagination.

Intersect With Nature

Get outside to enjoy nature. There’s nothing quite as refreshing as natural sunlight, fresh air and the open sky for feeling connected to something bigger than yourself. Even just sitting outside can be an antidote for the blues. If you are able to walk, even with the assistance of a cane or walker or by holding onto someone for support, it can make you feel less isolated and dependent. If possible, visit a garden, a prairie, a forest, a beach, a waterfront, or some other aesthetically pleasing outdoor amenity to soak in the tranquility and beauty.

Ask Others

Still stuck for ways to get active and exercise? Do some homework online, ask your physician or nurse practitioner, or check with friends and family for ideas on how to ignite and feed your mind, body and spirit.

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