5 Fitness Tips for Seniors with Limited Mobility
Staying active is a core component of supporting overall health and quality of life as we age. Unfortunately, this can be easier said than done as seniors face many challenges to mobility, including everything from age-related chronic health problems to fears of falling. However, it is possible for older adults at any age to start enjoying the many-body and brain-boosting benefits of fitness and exercise. Wondering where to begin when it comes to getting your aging loved one up and moving? Start with the five limited mobility fitness tips for seniors.
1. Start Slow
Regardless of age, it’s easy for anyone to get carried away by the excitement of starting a new exercise program. However, rushing into too much too quickly can be a recipe for failure -- especially for seniors. Why? Because sedentary bodies need to adjust to movement again.
Not only can overdoing it with a new fitness regimen lead to burnout, but it can also result in injuries -- ultimately leading to less, not more, mobility. And the fewer seniors move, the less capable and confident they become about moving. The result? A vicious cycle threatening everything from mental health to the ability to live alone.
Seniors can avoid taking on too much by starting slowly with their limited mobility fitness plans. Even small changes can lay the groundwork for a big change. It’s also essential for older adults to check in with their healthcare providers before beginning any new exercise regimen. In addition to clearing seniors for exercise, a physician can also make helpful recommendations for getting started.
2. Do It Every Day
Want to help your aging loved one derive all of the benefits of working out? Encourage him/her to do it every day. According to the Mayo Clinic, committing to regular exercise has a number of benefits, including improving energy levels, enhancing your mood, weight control, better sleep, and decreased risk of everything from hypertension to cardiovascular disease. Just 30 minutes of walking a day can yield incredible benefits, but for now, if your aging loved one can manage just five minutes of strategic movement and fitness, daily efforts will lead to growth over time. (Even just getting off the couch is progress for seniors suffering from limited mobility -- particularly given research linking too much sitting with increased mortality.)
One caveat? More crucial than moving your body every day is moving your body the right way every day. Participating in a fitness class specifically aimed at older adults can help ensure that seniors are performing the correct types of exercises in the correct way. A physical therapist or personal trainer with expertise in working with seniors can also offer vital partnerships for seniors looking to improve their mobility through limited mobility fitness exercise.
Many people aim to add exercise to their daily routine and fail, so what can caregivers do to prevent aging loved ones from this particular pitfall? Research indicates that establishing exercise as a habit plays an integral role in maintaining a fitness routine. Which begs the question: how do you help seniors make it a habit? Experts recommend establishing a ritual; starting small; and focusing on developing the habit first before worrying about results.
Speaking of establishing a ritual, early morning is best for many seniors as it can help them stay on track. Also, make sure to choose activities that you and your aging loved one both enjoy. These four daily exercises are suitable for people of all ages and abilities and can help them build both capacity and confidence.
While endurance-boosting cardiovascular exercises might be the first type of physical activity that comes to mind, it’s one of several fitness activities critical to achieving optimal health. Also important? Flexibility. Don’t forget stretching! NIHSeniorHealth recommends 12 flexibility exercises aimed at helping seniors improve their flexibility and enjoy more freedom of movement. These can be done easily at home using a sturdy chair or a wall for balance. Just make sure seniors warm up before stretching to avoid injuries.
One additional tip? Caregivers struggling with motivating their aging loved ones to begin a limited mobility fitness program may find that joining in themselves offers the perfect incentive with mutual benefits.
4. Try These Three Exercises
In addition to endurance and flexibility, balance and strength are also significant for strengthening senior mobility. Not sure where to begin? Start with the following three exercises designed to improve limited mobility fitness among older adults:
1. Light Weights
Muscle strength is invaluable to preserving the quality of life in seniors. NIHSeniorHealth recommends starting with weights of just one to two pounds and gradually increasing the amount of weight used. Seniors should shoot for exercising all of their major muscle groups at least two days a week for a period of 30 minutes and should avoid exercising the same muscle group on consecutive days. These three strengthening exercises are also a great place to start.
2. Water Aerobics
Aquatic exercise offers a multitude of health benefits for seniors without putting pressure on bones, muscles, and joints. Depending on their abilities, seniors can start with walking and progress to other forms of aquatic exercise. The Mayo Clinic suggests several types of aquatic exercise, or check in with your local fitness center to find out about water aerobics classes for seniors. In addition to aquatic exercise, there are numerous things caregivers can do to help aging loved ones enjoy better cardiovascular health.
According to the American Senior Fitness Association (ASFA), yoga is “a tremendous tool for combating the concerns of an aging population” with the potential to “slow -- or even slowly reverse -- the aging process.” Because seniors are increasingly turning to yoga for benefits related to everything from managing arthritis pain to reducing anxiety levels, many health clubs, senior centers, churches, and assisted living centers are offering senior yoga and other limited mobility fitness classes for older adults.
5. Be Aware of Your Body
Slight discomfort and minor aches and pains are normal at the beginning of any new fitness regimen. However, seniors should cease or reduce any exercise or movement that causes sharp, stabbing pain or joint pain. Joints should always be slightly bent (avoid “locking” them) and movements should be slow, steady, and controlled. (Bouncing and jerking cause muscles to contract, which can lead to injuries.) Remember: it’s quality over quantity when it comes to senior fitness.
While starting a new fitness routine doesn’t get easier with age, it’s not impossible either. And doing so is a more than worthwhile endeavor as the importance of exercise for older adults cannot be overstated. Mobility has even been determined to be a “protective factor” of cognitive functioning in seniors. The best part? It’s never too late!
These five tips can help caregivers support aging loved ones on the path toward a more active 2017. And don’t forget to download our comprehensive resource on heart disease, “Caring For and From the Heart” for more valuable content on health and wellness for seniors and their caregivers.
About Chelsea Sayegh
I started working as a Marketing Coordinator for United Methodist Homes in October of 2016. I work on public relations, website management and community planning for their award winning independent and assisted living communities. As a graduate of Ursinus College with a degree in Media and Communications and a passion for serving nonprofits, United Methodist Homes has become my home away from home. I spend my days working in a community filled with smiling faces, helpful hands and wonderful residents. I have a passion for assisting seniors and take great pride in being able to promote a company with such a positive mission and values. As an individual committed to learning and growing, I have jumped right into this exciting career!
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