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Exercise for Reduced Mobility

Exercise for Reduced Mobility

When someone thinks about exercise and activity, it’s not uncommon to initially think about going to the gym and walking. However, for many, this may feel really unobtainable. Especially when we factor in medical conditions like arthritis, back injuries, or the need for another surgery into the equation.  

For individuals with limited mobility, whatever the cause, it’s important to find ways to be active that work for your unique self. For some, that may involve working with a physical therapist. For others, that may involve modifying exercises. 

Below, we will explore some adaptive devices and resources for chair workouts and upper body workouts for those with physical limitations. 

Seated Cardio Workouts

Modified cardio workouts are a great option for individuals that cannot stand for long periods of time. Cardio exercises, whether in a standing or seated position, helps to improve your stamina, heart health, lung strength, acts as a stress reliever, improves mood, and generally helps with weight loss.

If you are unsure how to begin, start with a simple 5 minute workout. If you feel you can increase the duration, listen to your body. Here is a “talk test” to determine the intensity of your exercise!

The goal is to perform at least moderate intensity for a cardio workout. However, it is always best to speak with your medical provider prior to beginning any exercise if you have any cardiovascular (heart/lung) medical conditions.

Take a look at this workout video to help get you started!

Seated Upper Body Workout

Even if you experience lower leg pain, upper body exercises can be a great way to incorporate activity into your day! Strengthening your upper body helps improve posture, increase your metabolism, improves your heart health, and helps to prevent future injuries. 

Now, this might not be an activity that results in a lot of sweat or gets you out of breath really quickly, but that doesn’t mean the benefits are not there.

Take a look at this YouTube video for an example of what a seated upper body workout could look like. There are many more videos available to follow on YouTube that will give you great workouts as well!  

Some workout equipment that you may find helpful to use includes resistance bands, light weights, or even household items like laundry detergent bottles.

Seated Stretching and Gentle Yoga

It is also important to stretch the tendons and muscles in your body. Yoga can be a great way to stretch and strengthen your body with minimal to no impact. I love this YouTube video for gentle yoga for bigger bodies. It offers great modifications for individuals that aren’t as flexible as well.

Here is another great YouTube video for seated yoga that focuses on stretching and lengthening your muscles as well.

Water Aerobics and Swimming

For those that have access to a swimming pool either at home or at their local gym, water aerobics and swimming is a great option! It allows individuals to increase their heart rate and strengthen their body with less weight on their joints. This is especially helpful for individuals with back and leg pain or those struggling with mobility. 

I love this water workout video, because it shows an above and underwater view of each exercise! Since it is on YouTube, you can place your phone in a ziplock bag poolside and follow along!

Equipment Suggestions


Resistance bands

Light Weights

Yoga Mat


Katie Ott, MS, RD

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