How we're responding to the COVID-19 virus Read More >
Senior Exercise Tips

Exercise Tips For Seniors With Limited Mobility And Chronic Ailments

Exercise and diet are the foundations of a healthy lifestyle — whether you’re younger or more mature. But if you’re older and require the use of a wheelchair or suffer from chronic ailments such as arthritis or osteoporosis, a consistent fitness routine may fall at the bottom of your priority list.

“Immobility is detrimental because you’re going to get weaker, less flexible and deconditioned, and exercise essentially is the antidote to that,” said Kyle Larsen, a Physical Therapist and Clinic Manager at 3D Physical Therapy based in Dallas, Texas. The outpatient physical therapy clinic specializes in evaluating, treating and rehabilitating patients of all ages with musculoskeletal and movement disorders.

There’s no denying the physical and mental benefits of exercising, especially in a world where there are myriad advertisements, doctors and trainers preaching its advantages. And Capital Senior Living communities across the country recognize this fact as well. We challenge our residents by offering wellness, walking, balance and exercise classes on a regular basis.

With guidance from Larsen, we’ve compiled a few tips and exercises that can help you lead a healthier life.


Put On Exercise Clothes: This seems like a no-brainer, but think about it. When contemplating whether to work out, you’re most likely wearing normal clothes. If you block out those unmotivated thoughts and push yourself to slip on a running shirt and lace up some tennis shoes, you’ll enter a completely different state of mind. It’ll give you an extra boost of inspiration to maintain your routine and perform more effectively during workouts.

Warm Up: No matter what age you are, stretching should be the first thing you do when starting any workout. It warms up the muscles, improves flexibility and makes it easier to carry out everyday movements such as reaching for a dropped item on the floor.

“As a physical therapist, the thing I focus on, particularly for seniors who require the use of a wheelchair, is flexibility,” Larsen said. “You want to be able to stand up right and gain strength in the hips, so stretching as often as possible will help.”

Stretch slowly and gently for 10 to 30 seconds and be sure you’re always breathing.

Listen To Your Body: Whenever it comes to exercise, seniors with limited mobility run into a few mental barriers.

“A big concern I have seen among the elderly is a fear of falling,” Larsen said. “But getting stronger, more flexible and improving balance can decrease this risk.”

Begin a fitness routine gradually, limiting exercises to 5 to 10 minutes. Aching and soreness can occur, but if you encounter any kind of pain in any region of your body, stop immediately.

Work Around Problem Areas: This goes hand in hand with the previous tip. Nevertheless, you can still exercise while avoiding those trouble areas.

“Any exercises that causes pain need to be modified in some way,” Larsen said. “There might be pain because that certain tissue may not be ready for a specific movement or the body mechanics aren’t right.”

Seniors with upper body arthritis can focus on leg exercises if irritation arises — and vice versa. If you’re a wheelchair user experiencing discomfort while training your arms, simply cool down and perform deep breathing.


Air Punching: A fantastic exercise for wheelchair and non-wheelchair users, air punching is exactly what it sounds like. Clinch your fists and extend your arms forward in a reciprocating motion. Try doing 15 punches on each side to start out, taking 30-second breaks in between each set. This can be achieved with or without light weights.

Squats With A Chair: For seniors who have full range of motion in their legs, the squat is the king of all exercises. It increases total-body strength in one motion. To ensure stability, grab a dining chair, stand behind it and place your hands on top. Keep your back straight and chin up. Lightly bend your knees to squat down as far as you can, then return to the starting position. Try performing 2 sets of 12 reps. Remember to breathe in while going down and exhale when coming up.

Pillow Squeezes: This is also great exercise that anyone can execute. Grab a thick pillow or two and sit in a chair with the pillow placed right on your chest. Wrap your arms around the pillow and squeeze like your hugging your grandchildren. Return to the starting position and repeat. Seniors with full leg mobility can perform this exercise between their thighs as well. Try doing 3 sets of 15 reps.

Front And Lateral Raises: The arms and shoulders are the main focal points for this exercise. Light weights, resistance bands and even household items such as soup cans are ideal equipment to use. Sit in a chair and start with your arms by your side. Raise your arms parallel to the floor, then extend your arms out to form a T. Bring your arms to the front of your body again and lower them to your sides. Try 3 sets of 10 reps.

Chair Yoga: Not only is yoga an excellent method to increase flexibility, muscle strength and cardio health, it also boasts ample mental benefits with its incorporation of mediation and breathing. Yoga doesn’t have to be an hour long, either. A 10-minute session is a perfect way to enhance your physical health and well-being.

Before starting any kind of regular exercise routine, schedule a consultation with your doctor to make sure your medical condition or mobility issue is suitable for the type of workout you are trying to accomplish.

Sources: Daily Mail, Eldergym Senior Fitness,

This website contains information, facts, opinions and recommendations of various individuals and organizations regarding senior care, health, nutrition and exercise. Capital Senior Living and its affiliates, agents and licensors cannot, and do not, guarantee the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose of, or otherwise endorse, any opinions or recommendations, nor does Capital Senior Living constitute the giving of medical, health or fitness advice. Users of the website must consult their physicians regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to their conditions.