Exercise is important regardless of your mobility status. Because the body releases endorphins – the “feel good” hormone – during exercising, people are in a better mood after completing a workout. As a matter-of-fact, studies have shown that an endorphin “high” is just as effective as a prescribed mild anti-depressant.
Regardless if you are injured, disabled, have certain illnesses or a weight problem that affects your mobility, there are exercises everyone can do. In particular, persons with limited mobility should concentrate on three types of exercising:
Cardio exercises raise the heart and respiratory rates, and build endurance. If your mobility issue is with your arms, you may still be able to walk, run, dance and do water aerobics in a shallow swimming pool. If confined to a wheelchair, you can use your arms to move your chair.
If you have access to a swimming pool with a chair lift, you can get in the pool and work your arms using the resistance of the water. Basically do exercises within the physical limitations of your body that will raise your heart rate.
With strength training, you want to build muscle, tone up and improve your balance. If you can’t walk, focus on building upper body strength; if your upper body is disabled, work your lower body. By using resistance bands, free weights or weight machines, focus on strengthening your strongest areas physically, but not overlooking working your weakest area too within the limits of your mobility.
Flexibility exercises work to improve joint range-of-motion, reduce pain and stiffness, and improve balance. One of the best forms of flexibility exercising is yoga. Find a class that specializes in working with limited mobility persons as they will tailor a program to you. Because yoga is a whole body exercise program, even if you can’t do all of the poses (called asanas), you will be able to do some of them and still benefit greatly from the breathing and meditation part of a yoga program.
Of course, before starting any exercise program, talk with your doctor or physical therapist about:
- how long and often you should work out
- what type of exercises you should do
- what exercises you should avoid
- if you need to adjust your medication schedule when exercising
Just because you have limited mobility doesn’t mean you can’t still exercise; it just means you have to work within the limits of your ability.