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Exercise for the Mobility Impaired

We all know that the health benefits of exercise are numerous, so what happens to those who have impaired mobility such as the elderly, the disabled or those undertaking rehabilitation of some sort? How do we best ensure that everyone, no matter their current physical circumstances, keeps moving? Assuming that exercise is about exerting yourself and not about mobility, anyone can exercise. The three main aims of an exercise regime for those with limited mobility are to improve cardiovascular fitness, improve flexibility and build strength.

When determining suitable exercises for those who are mobility impaired, consider first what the patient cando. Do they have use of their legs or just their arms and hands? If they have paralysis of the arms and legs, can they move their head? Consult a doctor or physical therapist if you need medical guidance or clearance to exercise.

Be creative – there are many low impact exercises that will help increase strength and flexibility. Chair exercises are a good option for those with no or limited use of their legs and can be performed anywhere. Incorporate stretching, arm/and or leg weights and some yoga or Tai Chi movements. Swimming is also ideal because our bodies remain buoyant and the effects of gravity are diminished. Water provides resistance, which means you have to work harder but your body is well supported, and the impact is low. Recreational and everyday activities such as shopping, lawn bowls, fishing and gardening are great ways to perform low impact exercise while benefitting from potential social interaction. Speed is relatively unimportant so even if a person can walk slowly aided by a walking stick or a 4ww walker, they are still exerting themselves. As is a patient in an electric wheelchair who uses their head and neck to control the device. Strengthening the muscles of the neck and diaphragm will enable them to do this more easily and with better control.

Whatever type of exercise a person is able to do, it’s important to ensure they are a) safe and b) not exhausting themselves or experiencing debilitating pain. Some other reminders for exercising – wear comfortable clothing, drink plenty of water, warm up and cool down before and after and don’t exercise using an injured body part.

Exercise is imperative for our mental health as well as our physical well-being. When exercising, our bodies release endorphins (happy hormones) which boost our mood, relieve stress, ease depression and enhance our self-esteem.

Don’t let injury, disability or lack of mobility prevent you or your loved one from exercising. No matter what their physical condition, every individual will benefit from the rewards of exercise.

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