A major U.S study has found that less than an extra hour of moderate exercise a week can make a big difference in helping the elderly to reduce their risk of developing serious mobility problems.
1,635 men and women aged between 70 and 89 were studied as part of The Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) study. While improvements were seen in all participants who added some physical activity to their weekly routines, those who got more exercise saw even greater changes.
Researchers did in fact find that those with the most activity were 77% less likely to develop a major mobility disability compared to those completing the least weekly activity.
Lead author of the study, Roger Fielding explained that exercise can help to prevent as well as improve conditions such as hip fractures, heart disease, diabetes and often, underlying mobility disabilities.
While those who struggle to get around may be concerned that exercise isn’t safe for them, Fielding explained:
“Walking was part of our intervention and almost all older people, even those with mobility problems, can begin a walking programme.”
He does however recommend starting slowly, with about five minutes per session, at least five times a week and then building this up over time. He also advises that while people should inform their doctor or physician that they’re starting to exercise, they don’t necessarily need to wait for their okay – unless they have previously been advised to avoid exercise.
Dorothy Dunlop, a researcher at Northwestern University in Chicago also advises that weight control is an important part of preventing mobility problems. She warned:
“Statistics tell us almost two out of three adults with obesity will develop knee osteoarthritis, a condition which interferes with mobility. Overweight people who lose weight will not only find it easier to be active, it will also help them avoid developing serious conditions like heart disease and diabetes.”
How to exercise with mobility problems
If your mobility is limited, it will naturally be more difficult to exercise. The good news is however that it’s certainly not impossible which means that you get to enjoy the many benefits of being more active.
If you have some mobility and can move around, cardiovascular exercise is great for raising your heart rate and increasing endurance. Walking outside is a great way to improve your fitness as well as get some vitamin D. If you’re worried about being unstable on your feet, cycling on a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill can offer extra support.
Swimming is also great because it supports the body and reduces this risk of muscle or joint discomfort. The NHS has some great information about swimming and why it’s good for you: https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/keeping-active/activities/swimming
This involves using weights, resistance bands or bodyweight to build muscle and bone mass as well as improve balance and prevent falls. If you have limited mobility in your legs, you can focus on your upper body.
Anything like yoga which involves stretching your muscles can greatly help to enhance your range of motion and reduce pain and stiffness.
Before starting any new exercise regime, please don’t forget to contact your doctor, physical therapist or other health care provider for advice.
For more information follow this link on how to exercise safely if you have limited mobility: To find out more follow this link: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/chair-exercises-and-limited-mobility-fitness.htm
As you build up your strength and flexibility you may feel more able to get around. Rather than trying to do too much too soon, why not look into buying a mobility scooter so that you can have the best of both worlds. There are a number of Scooter retailers like Newbury Mobility who have a range of scooters to help you increase your mobility.