Improving Mobility in the Elderly; Tips to stay Healthy & Agile for the Elderly

We are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. It’s a triumph for each family and wider society that we should celebrate. However, we haven’t yet eradicated some of the physical and health issues that challenge us at any stage of life. Whether reduced mobility comes through disability, chronic pain or illness, exercising can prove an almost impossible task.

Of course we try our best to follow the three pillars of good living including diet, lifestyle and fitness, but it is this last point that can prove the most difficult to achieve with limited mobility.

It is important that we find ways to overcome the obstacles because staying active will stave off the health risks that we are more prone to if we lead a more sedentary life, such as obesity and heart disease, while also helping us to live as independent a life as possible, for as long as possible. Not to mention the positive effect movement has on our general mood and emotional wellbeing.

But that can be easier said than done. So exactly how do you support an elderly relative or someone your care for who experiences sustained reduced mobility, to achieve these fitness goals and experience the benefits they bring?

While it might be a difficult task, it certainly is not impossible. In fact, we thought of five ways of keeping fit with reduced mobility:

Think Activity Rather Than Exercise

One of the main obstacles to keeping fit with reduced mobility comes before we even make the decision to do it. That’s because we immediately think of traditional exercises when we think of physical fitness. Clearly, a long walk outdoors or a gym session is beyond the abilities of someone living with mobility issues. In fact, it would be downright dangerous. 

Instead, we should shift their focus away from those images, back to the basics of fitness. Physical activity is really as simple as anything which gets any part of your body moving. Ordinarily, for younger, fitter people, housework wouldn’t count towards movement because it doesn’t increase their heart rate high enough. However, for someone with reduced mobility, encouraging them to try the stairs together, or to walk into the next room and assist you in small ways to cook a meal or dress themselves, are all good ways to encourage movement. It stretches the muscles, the lungs and – if they succeed – there’s a real feeling of achievement at the end.

Use The Water 

One of the reasons many elderly people enjoy the public swimming pool is because of the way water works with our bodies. It supports us as we float and if warmed, it can ease aches and pains. It also has additional benefits when we move in it, because the water creates friction which makes our muscles work a little harder with each movement. And of course if we’re mobile enough to swim, it is one of the few exercises which works all parts of the body while also being quite enjoyable to do.

Of course a person with more severe mobility issues can find the whole experience too physically demanding – not just the exercise itself, but getting there, getting changed and so on. But many public pools now offer hoist swing lifts for disabled access into the water, as well as disabled changing areas that are wheelchair friendly. It is also a good idea to check with local GPs and Physiotherapists to see if there are aquatic training options available for using local therapy pools who will have not only hoists and lifts, but dedicated staff to guide you in the ideal movements to help each person’s individual needs.

Stretching And Dancing For Balance 

If your cared-for person experiences “good days” where they can move a little more than others, it can be tempting to use these days to do moderate level exercise. However, this could leave them with more aches and pains the following day than necessary and that will only serve to dissuade them from doing it again.

For people at risk of falls, perhaps with weak legs, or poor coordination, a much better alternative on good movement days is to enjoy some light exercise activity that specifically targets balance and coordination. The gentle breathing and stretching of Tai Chi for example, or even just some gentle dancing in the living room can really boost your mood as well as brain function. Yoga in particular comes in many varieties, including self-teach chair based routines that you can access on DVD or through online streaming on YouTube, and practice comfortably at home. 

Accessorise

When trying to improve strength and stamina through limited mobility exercises, it can be hard to achieve the same resistance and weight that you would in a gym without any tools. Investing in a few small pieces of therapy-style exercise equipment though can greatly increase the benefits of whatever small, irregular movement sessions you can achieve at home.

So for example, arm movements while sitting in a chair will have more impact if you wrist weights or resistance bands are used. Seated punching is a particularly good cardiovascular movement here which will work the heart and the muscles. Similarly, if people can stand to stretch or dance, an old-fashioned hula hoop is a cheap yet effective tool for helping to really push the boundaries of the hip flexing while having good fun, too. An inflatable exercise ball is another good accessory. It can be held between the hands to keep arms straight while stretching overhead, or held between the feet while lying on the floor and raising legs. It is also a great tool for improving balance while sitting or bouncing on it on the floor.

Eat Well To Move Well

Diet isn’t just an accompanying pillar to fitness when it comes to health, it’s actually a prerequisite. Without the proper fuel and vitamin/mineral intake, any kind of physical activity will prove harder to begin and certainly more difficult to maintain for longer than a few minutes without fatigue setting in. This is important for people with reduced mobility because their lack of regular movement will often leave them with a severely reduced appetite. It can be difficult to eat when you don’t feel hungry so make the most of what meals or snacks they can stomach before any exercise, sticking to high protein and good fats like meat and nuts. 

The other major component is hydration. Lack of fluid intake before, during and after a physical exertion can leave us feeling dehydrated, tired and with cramps and pains. Remind the person you’re caring for who is beginning a plan of more movement that they should also increase the amount of water they’re drinking, even if they don’t feel they are sweating or losing body fluids.  

Content provided by Olympic Stairlifts

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