Physical activity is vital to overall health brain and body health. The World Health Organization says limiting time spent being idle and taking advantage of opportunities to get moving – even if it’s just a little bit of exercise – can go a long way toward improving overall health for all ages and abilities.
In November 2020, the WHO released new exercise guidelines for people of all ages. Adults should get between 150 and 300 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity, and that includes older adults and those with chronic conditions or disabilities. Children were observed to experience improved physical, mental and cognitive health outcomes with an average of 60 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Children and adolescents may also benefit from vigorous-intensity aerobic activities in addition to activities that strengthen muscle and bone at least three days per week.
Individuals with limited mobility due to age, disability, or preexisting medical conditions may wonder how they can meet these guidelines for exercise. Those with motor planning issues, chronic pain or illness sometimes find that exercising for more than a few minutes can be challenging. Even brief periods of exercise can pay dividends, and there are various approaches people can take to work around mobility and other issues.
Explore chair exercises
Just because you are seated doesn’t mean you can’t get a workout in. Seated chair exercises can work various muscle groups. Seated arm rows, tummy twists, overhead arm raises, hand squeezes with a tennis ball, inner thigh squeezes, leg lifts and extensions, and many other exercises can be customized to be performed in a chair.
Work out in the water
Exercising in the water can assist with movement and reduce strain on the body. The Arthritis Foundation says the water’s buoyancy supports body weight, which minimizes stress on joints and can alleviate pain. Water provides gentle resistance as well – up to 12 times the resistance of air. That means it’s possible to build strength and muscle even just walking or swimming around a pool.
Use resistance bands
Resistance bands are like giant rubber bands that can be used to build up strength and flexibility. Resistance bands are effective, low-cost gear that can offer high-impact results for building muscle, staying fit and increasing mobility. Resistance bands can be used in lieu of hand weights for many exercises and be ideal for those who find barbells and dumbbells are challenging to maneuver.
Mind-body exercises are an option
Tai Chi and yoga are excellent for those with limited mobility because they can be done while seated. These exercises integrate awareness of body movement with the exercise through coordinated breathing. The exercises encourage people to focus on slow, fluid movements and deep stretching.
In addition to physical benefits on the bones, heart, and more, exercise has direct stress-busting benefits that can promote longevity. The Mayo Clinic says physical activity can increase the production of endorphins, which are the body’s feel-good neurotransmitters. In addition, exercise can imitate the effects of stress, helping the body adjust its flight or fight response accordingly, and help them cope with mildly stressful situations. While engaged in exercise, people may forget about their problems as they are focused on the activity at hand.