Exercises for People with Limited Mobility

woman seated in wheelchair holding dumbbells above head

When you have limited mobility, going to the gym can be difficult. Even staying active in general can be difficult. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Home exercises are a great way for people to stay in shape and get their bodies moving. You can start small and build up to tougher exercises as you gradually get stronger. It’s important to make regular exercise part of your routine, so we’ve put together a list of exercises for people with limited mobility.

Arm/Upper Body Exercises (Standing or Seated)

Bicep curls – From either a seated or standing position, hold a dumbbell in one hand and curl it up toward your body. Try not to move your torso, and remember to keep your elbow at your side as you curl. Bend your elbow to curl the weight toward your shoulder. Repeat with the other arm. Gradually increase the weight of the dumbbell overtime as you become stronger.

Arm circles – Extend your arms straight out from your body, parallel to the floor on either side of you. Circle your arms in a forward motion and gradually make the circles bigger until you can feel your triceps stretching. Don’t overdo it, and stick to small circles if those are most comfortable. After 15 seconds, circle your arms in the opposite direction.

Shoulder raises – This exercise combines the dumbbells from the bicep curls and the arm raises from the arm circles. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and place your feet on the ground hip-width apart. Your arms should start next to your body with your palms facing inward toward you. Slowly raise your arms to the outside of your body, making your palms level with your shoulder (or raise them as far as you can). Hold for one second and slowly lower your arms back to the side of your body.

Twists – If standing, place your feet on the ground hip-width apart. Hold a weight or medicine ball in your hands in front of your body. Slowly twist your waist and abdomen from side to side without moving your feet. Tighten your core as your twist to get the most from the exercise.

Lower Body Exercises

Sit to stand – This exercise does exactly as it sounds. Starting from a seated position, slowly raise yourself up, stand for three seconds, and lower yourself back down onto the chair. Keep your torso and neck as straight as possible, with your head lifted and positioned straightforwardly.

Thigh presses – Press your thighs together as tightly as you can and hold it for three seconds. Release and then repeat this motion for at least eight reps. This exercise can also be done by using your arms and hands to press your thighs together.

Calf raises – Place your feet on the ground and stand as straight as possible. Slowly lift up on the balls of your feet, keeping your heels off the ground. Go as high as possible and then return to your original standing position. Repeat at least 15 times.

Knee raises – Place your feet flat on the ground. Slowly lift your leg while bending your knee, and try to lift your leg as high as comfortably possible. If you are unable to raise your leg on its own, use your arms to lift your legs and bend your knees for you. Return to your original seated position and repeat at least ten times for each leg.

Cardiovascular Exercises

Swimming – Swimming and water exercises are some of the best exercise options for those with limited mobility. Exercising in the water takes pressure off joints while still helping to build muscle with resistance. Water-based activities can also improve your metabolism. Research local water aerobics classes in your area for resources on exercising in the water.

Walking – If safe to do so, walking is a great way to improve your blood flow and heart rate. Walking at least 21 minutes per day (or as long as safely possible) will help to improve your mood and maintain your health.

Dancing – One of the best parts about dancing is that it can be done from a standing or seated position. Better yet – it can be fun! Turn on your favorite music and move your body to the rhythm. Use as many muscles as you can to groove to the beat.

Limited mobility doesn’t have to limit you. Regular exercise, even from a seated position, has exponential health benefits. In fact, exercising for at least 20 minutes per day can improve your health. At NEILS, we want you to live your happiest, healthiest life. Talk to your doctor about exercises that are safe for you, or contact us to discuss options for living independently. Your health matters.

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