Many seniors find themselves either homebound or wheelchair bound. This limiting condition often makes people feel as if their movement and exercising days are over. But, take heart, Ask Granny says that’s not true!
The benefits of exercise are not only for the young. Fitness and improved health is for everyone. The key is to learn how to safely set goals, get more active and then let the fun begin. Did you know that when you exercise your body releases endorphins, the hormones that improve your mood, relieve stress and boost your self-esteem?
No doubt you’ve felt the opposite effects—a bit of depression, a feeling of life passing you by. Now is the time to change all that and look forward to each and every new day.
How to Start
First you’ll need to speak with your doctor or medical advisor. He or she will help you set reasonable goals and explain ways to stay safe as you exercise. A fitness director or someone at your medical office can help you select exercises and let you know how much to do at a time.
You’ll want to begin slowly and work up to more strenuous exercise routines. You’ll want to choose exercises that boost your heart rate, the cardiovascular exercises. Chair aerobics are exercises done in a seated position and repeated to increase heart rate. Air punching with or without weights is another seated cardio exercise. To make it more fun it can be done with a Nintendo class. Some gyms offer machines that make arm cycling possible.
Strength training is the second kind of exercise needed to maintain bone and muscle mass. You may use dumbbells, resistant bands or anything that fits your hand such as soup cans. Perform shoulder presses, bicep curls and triceps extensions to several sets. Setting exercise times to music makes it even more enjoyable. Or how about doing your exercises with a friend or two? You can enjoy some company and get healthier at the same time.
Flexibility exercises will reduce pain for the wheelchair bound. Many yoga poses can be adapted for a seated position. Stretches done throughout the day will improve flexibility and range of motion. With one on one help some in wheel chairs can participate in water exercises which are very soothing to muscles and help to relax and restore.
You, yes, you, can have a perkier attitude and enjoy getting some exercise into your daily routine. You might even think back to the way parents of young children use sticker charts to encourage behaviours. Give yourself a pretty flower or bird sticker each day when you accomplish your goal of ten or fifteen minutes of safe, healthy and fun exercise.
For great wheelchair exercises see Sit and Be Fit.
For a handy printable booklet with pictures and diagrams of seated exercises see Chair Exercises for Older Adults