Living with mobility issues can present many challenges, including when it comes to physical activity and exercise. However, limited mobility, whether long-term or short-term, doesn’t have to mean that you can’t reap the numerous health benefits of exercise.
The NHS recognises the importance of exercise for people of all abilities including wheelchair users and people with reduced mobility. According to their recommendations, regardless of mobility status, adults should aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week. Additionally, engaging in strength exercises for at least two or more days each week is advised.
In this article, we suggest some activities which may suit people with mobility issues and offer some tips on getting started. But we recommend that everyone with specific issues or concerns seek professional advice from a healthcare professional before starting new physical activity.
For anyone embarking on any new exercise routine, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional if you have specific issues, queries, or limitations. They can provide personalised guidance, help identify suitable activities and help you create a plan. Their expertise ensures that you can exercise safely and maximise the benefits, while minimising the risk of injury. Joining classes also offers the benefit of professional oversight too.
Remember that even small achievements are great for your physical and mental health. Achieving even a few minutes of activity each day will have real benefits and help you to stay motivated.
Try to build activity into your daily habits. Find forms of activity you enjoy and mix things up if you get bored. If you have a few days off, don’t be hard on yourself, just try to start up again.
Warming up is really important and will help you to prevent injury. The main objective of a warmup is to increase blood flow throughout the body and raise your body temperature, which in turn helps to loosen the muscles. An effective warm up should involve a few minutes of active movements that specifically engage the muscles that will be used during your activity.
Make sure that you listen to your body too. If you ever feel uncomfortable with your activity, or especially fatigued, then stop exercising. Don’t exercise parts of your body which are suffering from an injury unless a medical professional has advised you specifically to do so.
Activities such as swimming or water aerobics provide excellent low-impact options. The buoyancy of the water reduces stress on joints and offers a supportive environment for movement. People with accessibility requirements can search the Swimming.org Poolfinder and filter by your need.
Chair-based exercises are specifically designed to cater to those with limited mobility. These workouts focus on improving strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness while remaining seated. These NHS chair exercises may be a good place to start.
Flexibility exercises help increase your range of motion, prevent injury, and reduce pain and stiffness. The gentle yet effective exercises involved in Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates can be adapted to accommodate individuals with mobility challenges. Both Tai Chi and yoga enhance balance, flexibility, and overall well-being.
Resistance bands or light weights can target specific muscle groups and be performed while seated or lying down.
Do what you can. If you have limited mobility in your legs, you can focus on upper body strength training. If you have a shoulder injury, for example, you can focus on strength training your legs and core for example. This is a useful guide on resistance training for people with physical disabilities from the US based National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD).
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