Practical Tips for Caregivers: Excercise for folks with low mobility

Immobility has myriad root causes. Stroke. Multiple Sclerosis. Arthritis. Balance issues. Some strike quickly. Some are so gradual you hardly notice. Then one day Mom has to hang onto the furniture just to cross the room. That spells trouble.

Why exercise is important

There are many issues with low mobility, chief among them the risk of weight gain and the loss of muscle tone, both of which can be gateways to a host of chronic health problems. Looking on the positive side, exercise:

  • Helps prevent chronic illness: Regular exercise can help stave off major illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. It also builds bone mass and improves balance, reducing the risk of injuries from falling.
  • Helps your health: Exercise makes your heart and lungs work more efficiently, as well as reducing cholesterol levels and blood pressure—all of which makes you less susceptible to minor illnesses, too.
  • Helps your looks: Staying fit keeps your weight down and your muscles toned; it even improves your posture.
  • Helps your attitude: When you exercise, you sleep better and have more energy; you experience less stress and have greater emotional resilience; you also stay mentally sharper.
  • Helps your brain: Recent studies show that keeping the flow of oxygen-rich blood traveling to the brain can help it stay sharp.

Exercise options for people with mobility issues

The good news is that there are lots of choices even when mobility is a problem. And even 10 minutes of exercise a day can make a demonstrable difference in health and outlook.

  • Swimming and aquatic workouts: Because water lightens the load and supports the entire body, pool exercises top the list for people with mobility issues.
  • Walking: A trip to the mailbox. A lap around the mall. Even an afternoon in a museum. Walking may be the most pleasant and convivial exercise option…and you can do it anywhere, no special equipment needed.
  • Stationary bike: Your loved one can go at their own pace. Watch television to stay entertained. And never have to worry about hitting a pothole.
  • Adaptive aerobics and yoga: Joining an exercise class can be incredibly motivating, as well as effective. But if that seems overwhelming, start slowly: Simple stretches—from toe touching to just reaching for the sky—can help maintain flexibility and build core strength.

How you can help

For someone who finds movement difficult, the thought of exercise may be utterly overwhelming. Here are some ways you can help them not just face, but embrace this new challenge.

  • Make it fun: Pick an activity that they enjoy and find an exercise partner (that also helps guilt them into sticking with the program).
  • Set achievable goals: A new routine can be hard, and if your loved one gets discouraged they may quit before they reap any benefits. Make sure the goal meets their fitness level, and that any increase in activity is gradual.
  • Check with the doctor: As with anything, be sure to get the doctor’s approval before starting a new regimen—and to stop immediately if they get dizzy, feel faint or have trouble breathing.