A patient with limited mobility extends free weights out in front of herself while a physical therapist helps them.

Stay Healthy, Active & Safe with Exercises for Limited Mobility


If you have trouble walking, or if you use a wheelchair, you may be concerned about maintaining your overall health and whether exercise is still an option for you.

There are many challenges that may affect your mobility as you age:

  • Injury
  • Disability
  • Weight problems
  • Breathing problems
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Chronic illness

One study estimated that 67% of adults 60 or older were sedentary for 8.5 hours a day. And for individuals with limited mobility, staying active can be an even bigger challenge.

The good news is that there are many exercises you can do while seated, and exercise offers many benefits for people of all ages and abilities, including those with limited mobility:

  • Build and maintain muscle mass
  • Increase range of motion
  • Improve coordination
  • Maintain independence
  • Enjoy more of your favorite hobbies

Let’s take a look at how to start an exercise plan that works for you.

Starting a Senior Exercise Program

Not sure how to start exercising? Follow these tips to get the most out of your workouts:

  • Talk to your doctor. Based on your condition and your fitness needs, your doctor will help you establish a customized fitness plan.
    • How much exercise should you do each day or week?
    • What types of exercise should you do?
    • What exercises should you avoid?
    • When should you take your medication relative to when you exercise?
  • Start slowly. If you’re new to exercise, begin with 2 or 3 days per week, then work up to about 30 minutes at least 5 days a week. Choose activities you like, and go at your own pace. Gradually increase your activity level with the help of a therapist or personal trainer.
  • Make time for exercise. It takes about a month for exercise to feel like a natural part of your routine, so stick with it until it becomes a habit. Choose a variety of exercises to prevent boredom. Set some short-term goals, exercise with friends and listen to your favorite music to make workout time more fun.
  • Expect ups and downs. Remember, nobody’s perfect! It’s okay if you miss a few days here and there. Just exercise again the next day to get back into your routine.

Cardio Exercise for Limited Mobility

If you use a wheelchair or have difficulty walking, cardiovascular exercise can help you avoid some of the problems that come with a sedentary lifestyle. Cardio raises your heart rate, increases oxygen intake and improves your physical endurance.

  • Chair aerobics incorporate energizing dance moves that can be performed while seated.
  • Rowing machines can get your heart rate up and strengthen your upper body.
  • Exercise bikes give you a great workout using arm or leg power, or sometimes both!
  • Aquatic training such as water aerobics can give you a safe, full body workout that’s easier on your joints and improves strength, balance and stability.

Strength Exercises for Limited Mobility

Strength training builds muscle and bone mass, which offers a number of benefits:

  • Improves your balance
  • Reduces the risk of falls
  • Helps you perform more daily activities independently

If you have limited lower body function or use a wheelchair, it’s a great way to improve upper body strength and boost your overall health.

You can use either dumbbells at a weight you’re comfortable with, or lightweight resistance bands which are easy to store and take with you when traveling:

  • Shoulder presses
  • Chest presses
  • Bicep curls
  • Tricep extensions

Flexibility for Limited Mobility

Flexibility exercise helps you maintain a healthy range of motion, and it can prevent or delay muscle atrophy for those who are unable to walk. This improves your well-being in a number of ways:

  • Reduces risk of injury
  • Relieves pain
  • Reduces muscle stiffness

Flexibility training can include your arms, chest, back, core and legs.

  • Always begin with a few minutes of light cardio to warm up your muscles
  • Breathe normally during a stretch
  • You should feel light pulling while stretching, but never pain
  • Use smooth, steady movements. Never bounce or jerk while stretching

Safety Is Key to a Good Workout

It is essential that you perform each exercise correctly and safely to get the most benefit out of your fitness plan.

Here are a few general safety rules to follow every time you work out:

  • Always begin with a warm-up to reduce the risk of injury.
  • Don’t exercise an injured body part. If you have an arm injury, focus on cardio and lower body exercises. Likewise, if you have a leg injury, do upper body exercises.
  • If you’re getting back into exercise after an illness or injury, go slowly. It may take time to rebuild your fitness level if you haven’t exercised in a while.
  • Hydration is essential. Drink lots of water before, during and after your workout.
  • Wear comfortable clothing and footwear.
  • Never hold your breath while exercising. Inhale and exhale smoothly while lifting weights or stretching.
  • Stop if you feel pain or experience any other negative symptoms such as dizziness or nausea.


At Culpepper Place, we understand the importance of staying fit at any age. That’s why we offer exercise programs for all residents of our assisted living communities. Contact us to learn more about how we help residents to enjoy a healthy lifestyle.


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