5 Exercises to Improve Mobility for Seniors

By Jillesa Anderson

Here are five exercises to help prevent immobility and maintain proper muscle and joint function in the body.

5 Exercises to Improve Mobility for Seniors

Mobility is key to maintaining independence, especially as people age — and for seniors, the loss of mobility has profound social, psychological, and physical consequences. If joints and muscles aren’t properly maintained, basic movements may cause pain or even injury. But the cascade of negative effects that comes with immobility can often be prevented or limited by physical activity and exercise.

5 Exercises to Help Maintain Proper Muscle and Joint Function

Here are five exercises to help prevent immobility - especially in seniors - and help maintain proper muscle and joint function in the body:

Upper Body Clam Shell

This exercise promotes scapular retraction and will help increase shoulder flexibility and stability, as well as give your back, chest, and arms a small workout.

  1. Start sitting on your chair in an upright position with your feet flat on the floor (you can also do this exercise standing up).
  2. Form a goalpost with your arms (90 degree angle with the upper arms parallel to the floor).
  3. Bring your forearms together in front of your face.
  4. Return your arms to starting position (squeezing your shoulder blades together).

To make this exercise slightly more challenging, you can hold weights or small items in your hands.

Semi-Sits

Also known as chair squats, semi-sits are a safe way to build strength. The bending and stretching of your knees will strengthen your knee muscles and allow more oxygen and blood to flow around the joints, helping to keep them supple and strong.

  1. Stand in front of a chair with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Engage your core abdominal muscles.
  3. Slowly lower your body to the chair and bend your knees like you’re going to sit.
  4. Touch the chair seat lightly, then return to a standing position.

Make sure to keep your chest and head up and don’t let your knees go past your toes. Push up through your heels.

Seated Abdominal Press

Seated abdominal exercises allow you to strengthen your core. Maintaining your core strength is key to maintaining stability, and thus, your overall mobility.

  1. Start by sitting on your chair in an upright position with your feet flat on the floor
  2. Place your hands on your knees with elbows locked
  3. Press your palms into your knees, engaging the core
  4. Hold 3-5 seconds
  5. Repeat

Side Bends

This is another great core exercise you can do anywhere.

  1. Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor
  2. Place one hand behind your head and the other arm outstretched to one side
  3. Lean over to the side as if reaching toward the floor
  4. Contract your oblique abdominal muscles and return to the starting position

Don’t allow your chest to fall forward and try to keep both feet flat on the floor.

Low-back Rotation Stretch

Your spine is your control center and a source of strength for many activities, and the lower lumbar region of the spine is the powerhouse of all movement. The benefits of stretching your lower back on a regular basis include improving your range of motion, reducing back pain, and increasing the flexibility of tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Stretching exercises that focus on the lower back help to relieve tension and morning stiffness.

  1. Start by sitting on your chair in an upright position with your feet flat on the floor
  2. Twist your upper body so your shoulders rotate to your left side (use the chair or your leg for support if you need to get a deeper stretch)
  3. Hold for 20-30 seconds
  4. Return to starting position
  5. Repeat on the right side

Loss of mobility is a real problem, but it’s often preventable and treatable. There are many opportunities to move throughout the day and you can even practice many upper- and lower-body mobility exercises from a chair.

Join a local exercise class, take daily walks, or find something that works for you and make it a habit. I want you to live your healthiest life possible. Take steps now to make sure you can take the steps you need in the years ahead.