Best Mobility Workout for Seniors: 2021 Complete GuideReading 10 minute
5 Exercise Categories for Seniors
Aging indeed affects elderly mobility—it is a natural process. However, the right mix of exercises involving flexibility movements, strength training, cardio exercises, and balance exercises helps ease mobility problems in the elderly. Moreover, a study reveals that physical activity positively affects self-esteem and the quality of life in older adults.
Mobility exercises are broadly classified into these five categories:
1. Flexibility Exercises for Seniors
With age, the joints and tendons become weaker and affect mobility. However, exercises like stretching improve flexibility in the joints, allowing you to carry out various movements easily, like neck and back movements, hip and thigh actions, and arm movements.
- Always warm up with a short walk or light jog before beginning flexibility exercises.
- Hold a stretch for 10 to 20 seconds.
- Do not attempt to stretch if you feel any pain.
- Take a deep breath and slowly exhale as you stretch.
- Always have a chair close by while you are exercising.
Let’s take a look at some of the flexibility exercises for seniors.
Overhead side stretch
This exercise gently stretches your torso and arms while helping you maintain your balance. For those who cannot stand, you can do this exercise while sitting in a chair.
- Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart.
- Breathe in and raise your hands over your head and keep your torso long.
- Breathe out and gently lean to the left.
- Hold for 10 to 20 seconds and breathe normally.
- Return to center.
- Repeat on the right side; breathe out as you lean to the right.
- Repeat up to 3 times on each side.
The soleus stretch works on the lower body and frees up the hamstrings. Use a wall for support or any equipment like a sturdy chair or grab bar. This mobility exercise strengthens and stretches the leg muscles.
- Stand at an arm’s length from a wall and feet hip-width apart.
- Step your left foot back and stabilize your body.
- Gently bend your right knee while keeping your feet grounded.
- You will feel your left hamstring stretch. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds.
- Slowly straighten your right knee and bring your left foot back.
- Repeat with your right leg.
Neck and Shoulder Mobility
Neck and shoulder mobility exercises help improve the range of motion necessary for day-to-day activities like driving, cooking, or cleaning. Stiff muscles in this part of the body are discomfort and restrict head and upper body movement. This has an impact on peripheral vision, reaching out, and posture. One should do all neck and shoulder exercises very slowly with normal breathing.
- Start with a deep breath and slowly move the chin towards the chest as you breathe out. Gently breathe in and move your chin up, and gaze upwards. Repeat 2 to 3 times.
- Continue normal breathing and move your head left and then right. Take care not to have any sudden movements. Repeat 2 to 3 times.
- After the neck, relax your shoulders and let your arms hang loosely by your side.
- Roll your shoulders 5 times outwards and then 5 times inwards.
2. Endurance/Cardio Exercises for Seniors
Cardio activity is any movement that increases your heart rate, like brisk walking, stair climbing, swimming, running, cycling, or playing a sport. Experts recommend 30 minutes of moderate cardio exercise 3 to 5 days a week to keep your heart healthy, reduce weight and strengthen your lungs.
- If cardio exercises are new for you, start small and slow.
- The workout should be hard enough so that you can talk in short sentences, but not so hard that you’re left breathless and can’t talk at all.
- Monitor your heart rate and stop in case of any discomfort.
- Always warm-up before starting any exercise, and cool down after working out.
- Always have a chair around while you are exercising.
Stair climbing is an easy way to get your heart pumping. Climbing stairs strengthen the larger leg muscles, helps with body balance, and keeps high blood pressure in check. Please do this exercise only if you do not have any knee pain and joint problems.
- Climb up and down a flight of stairs at a speed that suits you.
- Grab side rails while climbing up and going down the stairs.
- Keep your knees soft and avoid any sudden movements.
- If climbing stairs is difficult for you, you can use a sturdy and non-slip step stool with grab rails to step up and down, one foot at a time.
Walking is a simple and popular exercise for seniors. It benefits the heart, lungs, blood circulation, digestion, and sleep cycle. Walking also helps in controlling diabetes. Brisk walking or hiking in a group is enjoyable and also refreshes the mind and mood.
- Warm-up before you start brisk walking.
- Pick a pace that you can keep up for at least 30 minutes.
- Keep yourself hydrated while walking.
- You can try a walking workout to make it more fun.
- Add a gentle stretching mobility routine after your walk.
Low-impact aerobic exercises are beneficial for your cardiovascular health. Doing it in a group with music adds a fun element to this exercise for seniors. In addition, they can be mood enhancers and beneficial for physical and mental health.
- Warm-up before any workout.
- Aim for a total body aerobic workout that suits your mobility level.
- Other group activities like dancing can also act as a low-impact aerobic workout that helps with mobility.
- Add light weights to increase the intensity of the workout.
Swimming is an excellent cardio workout that improves mobility for seniors. For those with joint pains, swimming is an effective and low-impact, total-body workout. Swimming also improves the respiratory system, strengthens the lungs, and improves body balance.
- Warm-up before stepping into a pool.
- Focus on getting an adequate workout rather than tiring yourself out in the pool.
- Take breaks and stay hydrated by sipping on water.
- Try water aerobics for a low-impact and fun mobility workout. It is perfect for beginners and those who haven’t stepped into a pool in a long time.
3. Balance Exercises for Seniors
Balance exercises work on improving muscle strength and building body coordination. For example, simple dynamic balance exercises can help the elderly avoid falls by improving spatial awareness, building hand-eye coordination, and correcting posture. Studies reveal that a 12-week program that includes balance exercises could improve mobility, balance, mental function, and quality of life among the elderly.
- Start easy and slow. Always have a chair close by to rest.
- Warm-up before beginning any exercise.
- For standing balance exercises, find your dominant leg. Then start the workout first with the non-dominant side and then move on to the dominant leg.
- Distribute weight evenly between both feet.
- Maintain a good posture while holding a position.
This dynamic exercise is simple and effective. You can use a chair or a tall grab bar for support. It aids in improving balance and strengthens the leg muscles.
- Stand straight with a tall posture, shoulders relaxed, and feet firmly planted.
- Slowly lift your right foot a few inches above the floor without bending your knees.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds or more
- Flex claves for additional stretch.
- Move to the next leg and repeat this 10 times.
The Tree Pose is a yoga exercise that focuses on steady breathing, building balance, and using core strength. You can use a chair for support.
- Stand with feet less than hip-width apart and firmly planted on the ground.
- Breathe in and lift the left foot and slide it up towards the right knee; stop just below the knee.
- Breathe out and hold your palms together in a prayer position, either in front of you or extended above your head.
- Focus on a point in front of you and hold this position for 10 seconds or more while breathing normally.
- Repeat this with the other leg and repeat the exercise 3-5 times.
This exercise uses an inflatable exercise ball. Ball March is a slightly advanced balance exercise to improve mobility in seniors. It strengthens the spine and core muscles while building coordination and balance.
- Begin by sitting on the exercise ball in a good posture.
- Plant your feet firmly and keep your core engaged.
- Now begin lifting each leg alternately a few inches off the ground in a slow march.
- Continue this ball march for 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Strength Exercises for Seniors
With age, the body loses muscle mass and bone density. You can slow down this natural process by doing strength exercises. The CDC states that mobility exercises like strength training reduce the symptoms of many chronic conditions like arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and obesity. You can use barbells, dumbbells, resistance cords, or bodyweight to do strength exercises.
- Warm-up before starting any exercise routine.
- If you are using weights, begin by using lighter weights and gradually progressing towards heavier ones.
- Use proper footwear to support your feet in strength workouts.
- You can convert any exercise into a strength workout by holding light weights in your hand or using ankle weights.
Squatting strengthens the entire lower body and the core muscles around the torso. This makes activities like climbing stairs and picking up things from the floor easy.
- Begin by standing right in front of a chair.
- Keep your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width and extend the arms parallel to the ground.
- Carefully bend your knees and lower yourself as if trying to sit in the chair. Make sure the knees don’t extend beyond the toes.
- You may either hover above the chair or sit in the chair and use your core strength to stand up straight again.
- Repeat this 5 times.
Planks work the core muscles that support the torso. They are responsible for carrying out activities like pushing, pulling, reaching, and lifting. In addition, they strengthen the upper body - arms, shoulders, upper back, and abdomen.
- Start in a prone position with elbows bent directly under the shoulders, forearms, and palms flat on the floor.
- Keep your legs hip-width apart, balancing your body on the toes and arms.
- Lift your hips and keep the back and neck in a straight line parallel to the ground.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds.
- If it is too hard, keep your knees on the floor and hold the position.
Quadruped Arm and Leg Extension
Also known as the Bird Dog, this exercise is a great strength training exercise for seniors and enhances body balance. The core muscles activate as the opposite arm and leg extend at the same time.
- Get on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders.
- Make sure your knees are now under your hips.
- Keep your back flat and abdominals tight as you stretch your right arm ahead of you.
- Simultaneously, lift your left leg and extend it behind in the line of your hips.
- Hold this position for 3 to 5 breaths and return to normal.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Do this cycle of opposite arms and legs at least 5 times on each side.
5. Stretching Exercises with Equipment for Seniors
Older adults with limited mobility or those recovering from surgery or injury do not have the entire range of motion. In such cases, seniors can engage in stretching exercises using resistance bands, step stool with handles, or a sturdy chair. In addition, they can perform many mobility workouts while sitting in a chair, such as ankle flexibility, arm stretches, and chair yoga.
- Use the right mobility equipment for the correct exercises.
- Always warm up before any workout.
- Build up slowly and aim to increase the repetitions gradually.
- Maintain a good posture whether sitting, standing, or lying down.
Rock the boat
This workout uses a chair for support. Chair-assisted activities give more confidence to older adults who may worry about maintaining their balance. This exercise improves balance and strengthens the core muscles in a low-impact movement.
- Stand facing outwards.
- Gently lift the right leg and extend it to the side while slightly leaning to the right.
- Hold the position for 10 seconds, and then place your leg down.
- Repeat on the other side. Do this 5 times on each side.
Stair Tapping uses a step stool or a step (it is important to choose the right step stool that is sturdy). When done slowly, stair tapping works as a flexibility and balance workout. Pick up the pace to convert it into a cardio workout. Moreover, it builds the lower leg muscle mass.
- Stand in front of a step stool or a step.
- Hold on to a cane, tall grab bar, rails, or use a cane for additional support.
- Step up your right foot and bring your left foot to meet it.
- Now step off in the same order.
- Repeat alternating each leg as you step up and then step down.
- Repeat this cycle 15 to 20 times.
This workout uses resistance bands that help in extending the reach and increasing the work of the muscles and bones by adding resistance. A seated row exercise simulates the rowing action and is a full-body workout.
- Sit on the floor or the bed with your legs extended and knees slightly bent.
- Center the resistance band around the soles of your feet and hold the band in your hands.
- Pull the band towards you with both hands so that there is no slack.
- Move your elbows back and pull in your shoulder blades.
- Slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 to 15 times.
Benefits of Performing Mobility Exercises for Seniors
Mobility in the elderly is vital to improving their quality of life. Staying active and mobile makes seniors confident and independent, thus giving them a fulfilling old age. Mobility benefits older adults in the following ways:
- Physical activity improves cognition and boosts mental health.
- Cardio workouts or even spending an hour gardening can make the heart healthy and keep the blood pressure in control.
- Regular physical exercises help in keeping the weight in check and avoid obesity-related conditions.
- Hiking, cycling, and group exercises make for great opportunities for social interactions.
- A well-planned mobility routine makes the bones and muscles stronger, thus offering better resistance to falls and injuries.
- Improved flexibility due to regular exercise helps the elderly to pursue their favorite activities.
- With unassisted movement comes the confidence for self-care and a feeling of independence.
- Better balance and spatial awareness are natural outcomes of improved mobility.
- Mobility encourages seniors to take an interest in an active lifestyle.
Any physical activity is better than none. Numerous studies have proved the benefits of regular exercise and improved mobility. Seniors will significantly benefit from a well-planned and monitored mobility workout to improve their overall health. If you are facing any mobility issues and struggle to get in and out of your bed, here is the next step for you – Choose the Best Bed Step Stool for Seniors with this Ultimate Guide.
1. What are mobility exercises?
Mobility exercises are workouts that help improve day-to-day activities like climbing stairs, maintaining balance, improve ease of getting in and out of bed, etc.
2. How do you program a mobility workout?
You should design a mobility workout program that suits your level of mobility in consultation with a geriatric expert and a medical practitioner.
3. Why are mobility exercises essential in your daily routine?
Carrying out day-to-day tasks such as gardening, stepping in and out of the bath, driving, and body balance while walking become much easier when you have mobility exercises included in your daily routine.
4. How can I improve mobility?
You can improve mobility by introducing specific exercises that will enhance joint flexibility, strengthen muscles and boost body balance.
5. Why is mobility training important now more than ever?
As an aging population, we are leading more and more independent lives today than before. On the other hand, lifestyle diseases are rising, and global issues like the pandemic have brought health back in focus. To face these problems more confidently, seniors require mobility training to maintain an active lifestyle.