How to Exercise With Limited Mobility

How to Exercise With Limited Mobility

If you typed “How to exercise with limited mobility” into your preferred search engine, then you’re probably reading this blog for one of two reasons:

  1. You have dealt with limited mobility your entire life, and you have been told (whether explicitly or subliminally) that fitness isn’t for you.
  2. You have recently developed limited mobility due to an accident, an illness, or old age and need to learn new ways to stay active and healthy.
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To the first point: We’re glad you’re here! Because it also means that you know now that what people have told you isn’t true. Fitness IS for you. It’s for everyone, regardless of their differing abilities.

To the second point: We understand this must be a confusing transitional period for you, and we’re here to help!

Here’s how to exercise with limited mobility:

Step 1: Get into the Right Mindset

If you’re reading this, then you’re already off to a good start. Because you wouldn’t be reading a blog about exercising with limited mobility if you didn’t believe you could do it! Not to sound completely cliche, but believing you can do something is absolutely the first step to accomplishing any goal.

Here are some things you can do to get into the right mindset and motivate yourself to workout:

  • Say affirmations. Try telling yourself out loud that you can do it, that you’re strong and capable. You’re going to feel silly, but trust us, it really helps!
  • Change into workout clothes. If you’re sitting around in your jeans, thinking about maybe working out, there’s at least a 50% chance that you won’t do it. If you change into workout clothes, then you increase your chances. By a lot, we’d say.
  • Make a playlist. The best way to start a new habit (like working out regularly) is to find a trigger that signals when you should act on the new habit. A specific playlist can do just that for you.

Step 2: Warm Up

It’s really easy to injure yourself during a workout if you’re not properly warmed up, especially if you have limited mobility. You want to make sure your muscles and joints are warm and limber, so you don’t pull anything or put any strain on your body. Here are some limited mobility warm-up exercises to try:

Arm Stretches

  • Put one arm out straight across your body, with your bicep pressing against your chest. Gently pull on your extended wrist with the other hand. Repeat with the other arm.
  • Reach one arm above your head, then bend it at the elbow, so that your hand is dangling behind your head. Gently push on your elbow with the other hand. Repeat with the other arm.
  • Grab onto your toes and pull against them. Your legs don’t have to be straight out. The important thing is that you’re grabbing onto something stable and pulling against it to stretch your shoulders.

Leg Stretches

  • Sit in a chair or stay in your wheelchair, if you’re in one. Using your hands, lift one thigh off of the seat of your chair and pull your knee as close to your chest as possible. Repeat with the other leg.
  • While sitting in a chair (or your wheelchair), reach for your toes again, but this time do stretch your legs out as much as you can first.

Step 3: Try These Exercises

Now that you’re motivated and warmed up, you’re ready to rock and roll! These are some limited mobility exercises that our clients love:

Thigh Presses

If you’re able, press your thighs together as tightly as you can for three full counts, then release them. Repeat this exercise for a set of eight to help build your endurance. You can add more reps later if you’re feeling up to it!

If you’re not able to move your legs, use your hands to press your thighs together. This not only works out your arms, but also helps strengthen the muscles in your legs to keep them from becoming atrophied.

Dumbbell Workouts

You can do a lot of things with dumbbells!

  • Air punches
  • Arm raises
  • Overhead pumps
  • Arm curls
  • Arm holds

Seated Twists

Stay seated and get the ab workout you’ve been looking for! You can try this with or without a medicine ball. If you choose, you can hold a medicine ball with both hands around your diaphragm (roughly between your chest and your stomach) and twist at the waist slowly from right to left. If you choose to opt out of using the medicine ball, you can just clasp your hands at your diaphragm.

Lift Ups

In a chair with arms or using the arms of your wheelchair, grasp the arms and lift yourself up! Repeat for a set of eight reps to build endurance.

Step 4: Be Gentle With Yourself

It’s always healthy to recognize and appreciate your determination and discipline as you embark on your fitness journey. We fully acknowledge that you have the drive and attitude of a workout warrior who doesn’t need to prove their worth to anyone else, and that includes even proving it to yourself.

Primarily, it’s crucial to stay attentive to your body during your exercise routines. Listening to your body means recognizing when you’re pushing too hard and when your body’s signaling you to take a break. This could be due to muscle fatigue, dehydration, excessive feelings of exhaustion, or even minor injuries.

Ensuring that you rest adequately is essential, as lack of sufficient rest could lead to a higher risk of injury and would also delay the recovery process. It’s a common misconception that continuous, rigorous exercise will serve you better in speeding up your fitness progress. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Initially, starting a fitness routine can be challenging — both physically and mentally. You might desire immediate results like extraordinary endurance or defined abs, which are typical fitness goals for many. But what’s important to remember is that fitness growth takes time. It is not an overnight transformation; instead, it’s a gradual process that needs patience to yield visible results.

Step 5: Cool Down

Very similar to the warm up, take some time to engage in deep stretching to wind down your workout. Not only does this help protect you from injury after the workout (even making your muscles less sore the next day), but it’s also a restful time that gives your body space to release Dopamine.

You probably got a rush of Endorphins in between workouts, and they can make you feel pretty good. But Dopamine is a pleasure receptor that gives your body positive feedback. It’s the thing that will make you want to work out again! Do yourself and your body a favor and enjoy the cool down time.

Want to Go Further?

Check out some of our related blogs (and related blogs from our partners!) on exercising for those who are in wheelchairs or have gait issues:

Are you ready to take your fitness to the next level? Sign up for personal training with Special Strong. We’re an organization that believes fitness should be accessible to all, and we’re passionate about making that happen for you. Work with a personal trainer who is uniquely certified to work with those who are differently-abled, both physically and intellectually. We set up a workout plan that’s fitted to your special needs.

Importance of Exercise With Limited Mobility

Living with limited mobility doesn’t diminish the significance of regular exercise; in fact, it becomes even more crucial for maintaining overall health and well-being. While the approach may need to be adapted, incorporating physical activity into a routine offers a range of benefits for individuals facing mobility challenges.

Enhancing Physical Health

Exercise, tailored to accommodate limited mobility, contributes to improved cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and flexibility. Even gentle movements can enhance circulation, reduce the risk of complications, and alleviate stiffness associated with restricted mobility.

Boosting Mental Well-being

Engaging in regular exercise is a powerful mood enhancer. For those with limited mobility, activities like seated exercises, chair yoga, or water aerobics can provide not only physical benefits but also contribute to mental and emotional well-being.

Improving Independence

Maintaining mobility, even within limitations, supports daily functioning and independence. Targeted exercises can enhance balance, stability, and coordination, enabling individuals to navigate their environment with greater confidence.

Social Connection

Participating in group exercises or adapted fitness classes fosters social interaction, reducing feelings of isolation. Shared activities create a sense of community, providing emotional support and motivation.

Consultation with Healthcare Professionals

Before initiating any exercise regimen, individuals with limited mobility should consult with healthcare professionals or physical therapists to develop a safe and effective plan tailored to their specific needs. Regular physical activity, even in modified forms, is a key ally in preserving health and vitality for those with limited mobility.

Special Strong provides adaptive fitness for children, adolescents, and adults with mental, physical and cognitive challenges. Start your own Special Strong gym franchise today and create a lasting impact on your community.