How to Increase Mobility in Older Adults Through Exercise

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Is your loved one suddenly in need of assistance standing up? Is it getting difficult to walk down the street or up a flight of stairs? These could be the earliest signs of elderly mobility issues, a prevalent disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. What begins as "a little difficulty getting up" escalates, necessitating the use of mobility aids such as a walking cane or a wheelchair.

Mobility in Older Adults

Loss of mobility is one of the most prevalent age-related problems. According to a survey based on the U.S. Census data, two out of every five Americans aged 65 and above have difficulty walking and/or climbing. In addition, several serious issues, such as isolation, depression, or injuries from falls, occur as a result of being unable to walk, climb, or move at all.

However, it's never too late to fight back if you or a loved one's mobility becomes increasingly challenging. There are several steps you can take to improve and increase mobility. One of them is exercise. According to research from the University of Florida Health, physical activity can help maintain seniors’ mobility.

Exercising is the most effective approach to combat seniors’ immobility. Although it is beneficial to have a physical therapist specializing in mobility solutions for seniors, there are many exercises that one can learn and practice without professional assistance to know how to increase mobility.

Read more on why is mobility important for the elderly

why is mobility important for the elderly

Content Table

How to Increase Mobility in Seniors

Here are 5 exercises for the elderly with limited mobility that can help older adults preserve good muscle and joint function:

SEMI-SITS

Semi-sits or chair squats are a terrific technique to strengthen your leg muscles. As you engage your glutes, hamstrings, and quads, the chair gives additional support and confidence to balance and improve mobility. Bending and extending your knees strengthens the muscles in your lower body and allows more oxygen and blood to flow around the joints, keeping them flexible and sturdy. Here's how to do a perfect semi-sit!

SEMI-SITS

UPPER BODY CLAMS

This exercise encourages scapular flexion, which improves shoulder flexibility and stability while also providing a light workout for your back, chest, and arms.

  1. Begin by laying sideways on the ground, with your knees together slightly bent forward and your arms stretched ahead (you can also do this exercise standing up or sitting in a chair).
  2. Take your upper arm and stretch it to the other side, making a goalpost without moving your hips and legs.
  3. Then, bring your arm back to its initial position.
  4. Turn the other side and repeat.

Placing weights or small items in your hands can make this workout slightly more challenging.

Upper Body Clams

SEATED ABDOMINAL PRESS

You can strengthen your core by performing seated abdominal movements. Maintaining core strength is necessary for keeping balance and, as a result, increased mobility.

  1. Begin by sitting up straight in your chair with your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Cross your hands on your shoulders as you lean back in the chair.
  3. Slowly engage your core and bring your body forward while maintaining your feet flat on the ground.
  4. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds 

Depending on your capacity, you can repeat for 10-15 repetitions and do 2-3 sets. You can also variate by touching your elbows to your knees.

Seated Abdominal Press

LOW BACK ROTATION STRETCH

Regularly warming up your lower back has several advantages, including improving range of motion, lessening back pain, and strengthening tendons, ligaments, and muscle flexibility. In addition, stretching exercises that target the lower back might help reduce tension and stiffness in the morning.

  1. Begin by sitting upright in your chair, with your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Twist your upper body to the left, rotating your shoulders (use the chair or your leg for support if you need to get a deeper stretch)
  3. Hold the position for 20-30 seconds.
  4. Return to your original position and do the same thing on the other side.

Low Back Rotation Stretch

SIDE BENDS

This exercise effectively isolates the obliques while also strengthening the shoulders and surrounding core muscles.

One hand should either be behind your head or left loose as you stretch out the other to the side. Lean towards one side as though reaching for the ground. Return to the beginning posture by contracting your obliques and maintaining your chest from going forward. Remember to keep your feet flat on the floor.

Side Bends

Read more: Exercises to Improve Balance in Seniors.

To exercise, you don’t have to join a gym or download the latest fitness app. When it comes to being active, a little goes a long way. Improving mobility in the elderly is as simple as regularly using the stairs, parking further away from your location for a quick stroll, walking to local shops or neighbors’ houses instead of driving, and engaging in simple fun exercises.

We advise you to consult your doctor before beginning any exercise routine. Then, start slowly and gradually increase your pace. You will reap many benefits in the long run and remain active and independent.

FAQs

How can mobility promote a healthy lifestyle in older adults?

Consistent mobility and activity might help elders avoid losing the strength and stamina that aging saps. Seniors who stay active are not only more fit than their sedentary peers, but they also have improved brain health. Even little physical activity enhances mood and efficiently manages stress in seniors. Regular exercise also promotes various forms of cognitive performance in seniors, such as memory, agility, and strategic thinking. Take a look at some of the best mobility workout for seniors.

How can senior mobility be improved?

There are a few activities for seniors with limited mobility that can help in their daily living.

  1. Exercising is essential.

For increasing mobility in older adults, exercise should be a part of their daily routine. Seniors can engage in simple exercises at home, such as chair yoga, low-impact cardio exercises, or stretches. To make it motivational and fun, seniors can also choose the right kind of exercising equipment that offers additional support based on their specific needs.

  1. Become a member of an assisted living community

These facilities not only assist with daily tasks such as hygiene, nourishment, and medical care but also frequently offer mobility-enhancing programs. Moving into an assisted living community can help stimulate more mobility among the elderly - from dance lessons to nature walks and group outings to neighboring destinations.

  1. Maintain a healthy body weight

Having strong legs is essential for mobility. Obesity, for example, is one of the mobility problems in the elderly that can make your legs weak to the point of paralysis. As a result, maintaining a healthy weight is critical for retaining mobility as you become older. For those of you who aren't sure what weight is appropriate for your age, gender, or body type, here’s where you can check.

  1. Take extra precautions.

For the elderly, icy roadways, wet and slippery floors, or rugs can be dangerous. A single misstep can result in a fall that severely limits movement. Sustained injuries to body areas critical to mobility, such as the hips, backs, legs, and feet, are serious issues for people over 65. Often, a simple fall is the initial cause toward immobility. Make your home and surrounding areas safe by investing in mobility devices such as a bed step stool, bathtub stool, and grab bars that help prevent falling.

Why is mobility important for older adults?

Staying active and independent benefits seniors in various ways, helping them live longer and healthier lives. Mobility is crucial for seniors to maintain mental and cardiovascular health, improve flexibility, gain confidence, participate in social engagements, prevent falls and fall-related injuries, and control weight. Learn more.

What affects mobility in the elderly?

Age-related issues can impair a person's capacity to move around effortlessly. Unsteadiness while walking, trouble getting in and out of the bed, bathtub or chair, and falls are all examples of mobility issues. Muscle weakness, joint problems, discomfort, disease, and neurological issues can cause mobility problems in the elderly.

How does mobility affect the quality of life?

Mobility is a crucial factor affecting older adults’ health and quality of life. Physical inactivity has been linked to lower cognitive function, less independence, and an increased risk of fractures, falls, and mortality. Furthermore, studies have shown that aged people who lose their mobility have a greater rate of morbidity, deaths, disability, hospitalizations, health-care consumption, and expenses.

How does mobility improve health?

Mobility aids the repair of muscular imbalances, restoration of posture, prevention of injuries, ability to move more effectively, and the improvement of range of motion during exercises and everyday activities.

Daily physical activity, combined with a nutritious, well-balanced diet, can help maintain your muscles, bones, and joints healthy and active at any age.

Vince Baiera

Vince Baiera is the founder of step2health, a mobility aids and wellness company for older adults. He is a former ICU Nurse of the Cleveland Clinic and Duke University Hospital in the Cardiac ICU. With years of working on the frontlines, Vince noticed the struggles of older adults and people with mobility issues that became an impediment for both patients and their caretakers. He then designed and created the patented product, Step2Bed (and its variants) that helps seniors and those with mobility issues safely get in and out of bed. His philosophy concerning aging is to plan ahead and start with simple home and life modifications to avoid being overwhelmed at retirement.

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