One of the greatest risks for injury to seniors is the risk of falls. As people age, muscles and bones become weaker. Because balance and coordination are affected, many seniors are faced with needing a mobility aid, such as a walker.
It’s important to understand that the need for an assistive device does not have to restrict mobility or decrease an individual’s fitness level.
Staying active, even with the use of a mobility device, such as a walker, can be as simple as finding the right exercise. In fact, there are several exercises that seniors can do with a walker that will help improve balance and coordination and increase strength in major muscle groups.
Exercises for Seniors While using Mobility Walker
If you need a walker to help you with balance and walking, don’t fret! You can still exercise (and should). There are several exercises that help strengthen and help with a balance that you can do while using your walker for assistance.
Exercises using a Walker: Walking
I know; it sounds a little “too common sense,” right? Walking is a great exercise that promotes blood flow and helps to strengthen the arms and legs and improves mobility and balance. Use your walker to help you balance and to lean on if you get tired. Just walk. You don’t have to move at a fast pace. As long as you are moving your body, you are progressing.
Exercises using a Walker: Sit-Stands
Yes, they are exactly what they sound like. Sit-Stands help keep an individual mobile and increase the ability to transfer from a sitting to a standing position (and vice versa). Simply sit down in a chair and use your walker to help balance as you stand up.
Because this seems like a simple exercise, it can be easy to want to move too fast. Remember, take your time. Moving from a sitting to a standing position too quickly can cause dizziness which may result in a fall. Stand slowly, make sure you have your balance, and then sit back down. This exercise will help strengthen your arms, legs, and back.
Exercises using a Walker: Water-Walks
If you have a waterproof walker, water-walks are an awesome exercise for seniors who suffer from arthritis or other joint issues. You can get the same benefit that walking provides, with the added resistance provided by the weight of the water.
Exercises using a Walker: Squats
Performing squats with your walker help to increase heart rate while strengthening the joints, bones, and muscles. Simply hold onto your walker for support keep your back straight, bend at your hips and knees, and squat away. Do this exercise with your back near a wall for added safety.
Exercises using a Walker: Lifts
Lifts can help improve core strength and balance. Before doing lifts, it’s important to make sure your balance is good enough to stand without holding onto your walker. A simple way to do this is to step away from your walker for a few seconds.
If you are unsure, ask someone to “spot” you. With lifts, also known as “walker lifts,” rather than using weights, you can use your walker. Once you’ve established that you have good enough balance, hold your walker with one hand on each side and raise the walker off the floor about 2 or 3 inches.
Safety Measures While Exercising with Walker
Because the risk of falls is increased among seniors, it is important to understand what safety measures may help prevent falls and injuries. Some of the simplest safety measures have the greatest impact.
● Wear shoes that fit properly and have non-skid soles. Do not wear slippers or slides.
● Always exercise on a flat surface. Uneven flooring can cause imbalance and may result in a fall or other injury.
● Remove any throw rugs, as these commonly cause slips and falls.
● If you are tired, STOP! One of the major causes of injury during exercise is when an individual ignores what his/her body is saying. Fatigue from exercise can make muscles feel weak and can result in a fall or other injury. So, listen to what your body says and take breaks when you need to.
Why Exercise is Important for Seniors
Exercise offers benefits to people of all age groups. Some of the major benefits include a healthier heart and vascular system, improved flexibility and stronger bones. For seniors, additional benefits, such as reducing the risk of chronic diseases, lowers the chance of injury and helps to improve overall mood.
With age, muscle mass begins to decrease. Because muscles are crucial contributors to bone strength and balance, decreased muscle mass can compromise one’s mobility and independence.
In addition to the physical benefits of exercise, cognitive functioning is also affected. Research has shown that neurons in the brain that help perform bodily functions increase with exercise. These neurons help a person think and can improve memory.
There are several key benefits of exercise for senior adults.
● Prevention of disease and/or chronic conditions: According to the National Institute of Aging, exercising can delay or prevent diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
● Improved healing and functioning: Regular exercise can help decrease the time it takes for a wound to heal by up to 30%. When a body is healthy and strong, it can fight infection and make recovery easier.
● Increased balance and stability: Falls are the number one source of injury among seniors. A healthy exercise regimen can increase a senior’s balance and physical stability, thus decreasing the risk of falls.
Start Simple and Stay Strong
Exercise is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. In the race to get active and fit, some people get overwhelmed with the idea of doing the most exercises with high numbers of repetition. However, bodies need time to adjust to the physical demands.
Overexertion of muscles can cause fatigue, which can result in falls or other injuries. Because of this, it is best to start with the simplest exercises, such as walking or sit-stands a few days a week and slowly add additional exercises or increased exercise sessions.
It takes time to build strength and endurance. The end result, however, is well worth the journey.