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Chair Exercises and Limited Mobility Fitness

Toni-Ann DiSantis

Chair Exercises and Limited Mobility Fitness

Exercise Tips for People with Injuries, Illness, or Disabilities (via helpguide.org)

 

The benefits of exercise are not restricted to people who have full mobility. In fact, if injury, disability, illness, or weight problems have limited your mobility, it’s even more important to experience the mood-boosting effects of exercise. Exercise can ease depression, relieve stress and anxiety, enhance self-esteem, and improve your whole outlook on life. While there are many challenges that come with having mobility issues, by adopting a creative approach, you can overcome your physical limitations and find enjoyable ways to exercise.

Limited mobility doesn’t mean you can’t exercise

When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that energize your mood, relieve stress, boost your self-esteem, and trigger an overall sense of well-being. If you’re a regular exerciser currently sidelined with an injury, you’ve probably noticed how inactivity has caused your mood and energy levels to sink. This is understandable: exercise has such a powerful effect on mood it can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication. However, an injury doesn’t mean your mental and emotional health is doomed to decline. While some injuries respond best to total rest, most simply require you to reevaluate your exercise routine with help from your doctor or physical therapist.

If you have a disability, severe weight problem, chronic breathing condition, diabetes, arthritis, or other ongoing illness you may think that your health problems make it impossible for you to exercise effectively, if at all. Or perhaps you’ve become frail with age and are worried about falling or injuring yourself if you try to exercise. The truth is, regardless of your age, current physical condition, and whether you’ve exercised in the past or not, there are plenty of ways to overcome your mobility issues and reap the physical, mental, and emotional rewards of exercise.

What types of exercise are possible with limited mobility?

It’s important to remember that any type of exercise will offer health benefits. Mobility issues inevitably make some types of exercise easier than others, but no matter your physical situation, you should aim to incorporate three different types of exercise into your routines:

Cardiovascular exercises that raise your heart rate and increase your endurance. These can include walking, running, cycling, dancing, tennis, swimming, water aerobics, or “aquajogging”. Many people with mobility issues find exercising in water especially beneficial as it supports the body and reduces the risk of muscle or joint discomfort. Even if you’re confined to a chair or wheelchair, it’s still possible to perform cardiovascular exercise.

Strength training exercises involve using weights or other resistance to build muscle and bone mass, improve balance, and prevent falls. If you have limited mobility in your legs, your focus will be on upper body strength training. Similarly, if you have a shoulder injury, for example, your focus will be more on strength training your legs and abs.

Flexibility exercises help enhance your range of motion, prevent injury, and reduce pain and stiffness. These may include stretching exercises and yoga. Even if you have limited mobility in your legs, for example, you may still benefit from stretches and flexibility exercises to prevent or delay further muscle atrophy.

 

Setting yourself up for exercise success

Talking to your doctor about exercise

Your doctor or physical therapist can help you find a suitable exercise routine. Ask:

How much exercise can I do each day and each week?
What type of exercise should I do?
What exercises or activities should I avoid?
Should I take medication at a certain time around my exercise routine?

To exercise successfully with limited mobility, illness, or weight problems, start by getting medical clearance. Talk to your doctor, physical therapist, or other health care provider about activities suitable for your medical condition or mobility issue.

Your doctor may even be able to recommend services aimed at helping people with limited mobility become more active, including specially designed exercise plans.