4 Workouts for People with Limited Mobility

By , SparkPeople Blogger
By Beth Donovan (~INDYGIRL)

Being disabled or having chronic pain or illness makes exercise difficult if not impossible. Some days I wake up and just want to stay under the covers in bed, where the pain is at its best level of control. That's no kind of life and led me to weighing 460 pounds.

After joining SparkPeople, I learned that short bouts of fitness add up. I started my fitness journey by going to my doctor/nurse practitioner, and they set me up with in-home physical therapy. There are plenty of physical therapy options depending on your insurance coverage. I've done pool exercise, mild gym exercise, total gym exercise, and table exercise. You should see your doctor or health-care professional before considering which option might be best for your disability. Together, you can decide whether you might be able to do some of the exercises at home.

If cost is a concern, it would definitely be cheaper to get a gym membership with a pool than to pay physical therapy bills. A few sessions might give you the basics and you could go from there. Some gyms have very well-trained water aerobics instructors, so do some research before signing any papers. Another way to save money is on the mild gym and table exercise area. A few sessions of therapy can give you the basics, and you can continue to exercise at home. Generally, physical therapists use equipment like exercise bands, stability balls, and very light weights. These sessions also use various standing poses and the table exercises use laying poses to help stretch the muscles. Physical therapy helps you gain strength, flexibility and endurance to go to the next level.

There are indeed other ways to get moving without therapy. The little gadget in the photo above (called an arm cycle or arm ergometer) can be used for arms or legs while sitting. When I had physical therapy, it was one of the machines they had me use to reap the benefits of cardio using only my arms. There are machines of various grades out there, so read the reviews. Some are cheaply made pedal machines, while others are made to give very intense aerobic workouts for people who are undergoing rehabilitation. It's a great way to get aerobic exercise without having to stand.

Amazon.com also has DVDs of bed and chair exercise including aerobics, yoga, tai-chi, and other things to keep workouts interesting and off your feet.

At 460 pounds, these are the workouts I created to get stronger and ready to walk again:

(Remember to consult with your health-care provider before starting these or any workout routines.)

  1. Roller Chair Workout: (Great if you can't walk or stand)

    • Find an open area without carpet.
    • Use a chair with wheels or casters on the bottom.
    • Put on music (optional).
    • Propel yourself using arms, legs, or both around the area.
    • Start at one minute and build your endurance.

  2. Bed Dancing/Chair Dancing/Ball Dancing:

    • Turn on some music.
    • Sit in bed, on a chair, or on a stability ball.
    • Now move! Dance, wave your arms, wiggle your hips, make figure eights, bounce, tap your feet and have fun.
    • These movements will strengthen your body to get up and around better. Try some wrist or ankle weights, or resistance bands to work in some resistance if you want. It's your workout, your fun time.

  3. Hula Hands and Hips:

    • Get 2 Frisbee rings or small hula hoops. (They sell Pilates rings at stores.)
    • Put them around your wrists and try to make them spin in circles.
    • Think wrist/hand hula hooping and you will get it.
    • Likewise, sit on a stability ball and make figure eights with your hips.
    • Hula dance! You can even get your arms in on the action.
    • Both are fun and will get your heart rate up even if you can't stand.

  4. Aerobic and Resistance Cleaning

    • Put on some music.
    • Get your vacuum. Heavier sweepers require more resistance, but the lighter ones get some speed going.
    • Now sweep! If you are walking impaired, the sweeper can act as a support. Move as fast and as much as you can COMFORTABLY, without pain. Aim for one room a day. Remember, any object you push or pull is resistance.
    • When I started this, it took me all day to sweep one room. I would have to rest after 1 minute, but now I CAN do a room!
    • Adapt any of your cleaning routines the same way.
    • Move to the music and amp up your pace.
    • Think of the extra time you save from combining cleaning and a workout.

The point is to move any way you can and get creative! Seek physical therapy if chronic pain and illness are too much and don't miss out on life.

For more information on exercising when you have 100 pounds or more to lose, check out this three-part series: Think You're Too Heavy to Exercise?

How did you get started with exercise? What is your best tip for squeezing it in when time is tight? How did you build up your endurance?

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PATRICIAANN46 2/20/2021
Thank You............ Report
BONNIE1552 8/31/2020
You certainly are an example of where there's a will there's a way. Report
PLCHAPPELL 8/21/2020
D9 what you are able to do Report
WILDKAT781 7/19/2020
always helpful Report
AQUAGIRL08 6/25/2020
This was very helpful. Thanks Beth! Report
SUGARSMOM2 4/14/2020
thank you. I needed a place to start. Report
thanks for sharing Report
Thank you so much! It is great when those who are in pain can encourage one another. Report
adapt. Report
good tips for exercise Report
great article Report
Thanks Report
Great info! Report
I love this blog. You are such an inspiration Report
Absolutely great Report
Great information! Report
Great ideas Report
Thanks for the great information! Report
Thank you. Recently felt it was hopeless because of my new physical limitations. You've given me a new perspective & hope again......thank you. Report
Thank you for valuable suggestions. I do bed or chair dancing all the time. Report
Thank you, I will also try a few of these. Report
Great ideas for exercises Report
Thanks! Report
Thank you. Very motivational! Report
I'm at my desk trying ab workout with rolling chair!! great ideas Report
I always forget about hula hoops!! That would be great to incorporate. Report
Always, there is a way. Excellent article. Report
Great ideas! Report
Thanks for sharing.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
committed people can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
- Margaret Mead Report
some great suggestions here. So good to be able to find ways to incorporate fitness when you have limited mobility Report
I love this! I have really bad knees and it is painful to walk or do anything that involves long periods of standing or bending my knees. I have discovered my own option for sitting exercise that I really enjoy. I have a Wii game console and bought the "Walk it Out" game. It is a video game you play while walking. Instead of standing and walking, I sit in a straight back chair and with the sensor attached to my knees, it works just fine. I get about 2 miles in everyday and enjoy the game and music so much that I forget I am exercising! It may not be quite the exercise as walking upright but it sure gets my heart pumping and I feel great when I am done. Report
Very helpful... I'm recovering from ankle surgery so have limited mobility temporarily and these will make me feel more active Report
This was just what I needed to see today. My movement inability has been getting to me lately. Your article was sssoooooo inspiring I'm printing it out and posting it as a reminder. Thanks for sharing. Report
Yay, Beth! Report
great breaks all the excuses to not exercise Report
good job Report
What a great reminder for me. Just because I can't do something for 10 minutes to "count" as exercise, it doesn't mean that it isn't important for me to do something...movement of any kind is still good for the body!! Report
Thanks Beth Report
Excellent article! Report
I am not wheelchair bound, but sometimes I just don't want to be on my feet. These are great tv watching exercises as well! Report
These are very good ideas for those with mobility problems. I had to start out very slow but am in better physical shape now so it's getting easier. Still can't do exercises on the floor but I really like chair exercises. Report
Fantastic! Great job! Report
love this, great ideas! you are very inspirational!! Report
Great ideas! Love your attitude! Report
Great ideals for great workouts. Thank you Report
I'll always read if it's done by Beth. She's terrific. Report
You are inspiring! :) Report
I loved this article and I am going to use some of these ideas. Report