Today’s blog is the second and concluding part of our look at a range of gentle ‘sitting exercises’ designed especially for people with restricted mobility.
Whatever mobility issues you’re facing, it’s important to keep exercising regularly in whatever way you can manage. Giving in to immobility can lead to various medical problems, while exercising regularly can help improve your balance, core strength and mobility, reducing the risk of falls.
These exercises, taken from the NHS Choices website, can be done at home or in groups while sitting down on a chair. We featured the first three in our previous blog, with the final four described below. You’ll need a solid stable chair that doesn’t have wheels and ideally doesn’t have arms, as they will restrict your movement. You should be able to sit on the chair with your feet flat on the floor and your legs bent at the knee to form right angles.
Ankle stretch: This simple stretch exercise will improve flexibility in your ankles and lower the risk of developing a blood clot. First, sit upright in the chair and hold onto the sides of the seat for stability. Now straighten your left leg with your foot raised off the floor (fig. A). Keeping your leg straight and raised, point your toes away from you (fig. B). Slowly bring your foot back up as far as is comfortable so that your toes point back towards you (fig. C). Try to perform the stretch five times before repeating the exercise with your right foot. Aim to complete two sets of five stretches for each foot.
Arm raises: This exercise will gradually build up strength and improve flexibility in your shoulders. First, sit upright in the chair with your arms down by your sides (fig. A). Now, with your palms facing forwards, slowly raise both arms, making sure to keep them straight (fig. B). Keep going as far as you can, aiming to finish with your arms pointing straight upwards (fig. C), but only go as far as is comfortable for you. Slowly return your arms to the starting position and repeat the exercise five times. You should find it easier if you breathe out as you raise your arms and breathe in as you lower them again.
Neck rotation: This gentle exercise is good for maintaining and improving mobility and flexibility in your neck. Sitting upright with your shoulders relaxed, look straight ahead (fig. A). Now slowly turn your head towards your left shoulder, going only as far as is comfortable for you (fig. B), and hold this position for five seconds before returning to the starting position. Now repeat the exercise by turning your head towards your right shoulder and holding for five seconds (fig. C). Aim to do three rotations on each side.
Neck stretch: Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds! This exercise will help loosen tight muscles in your neck and improve flexibility. Sitting upright, look straight ahead and place your right hand onto your left shoulder, exerting a little pressure to hold your shoulder down (fig. A). Now slowly tilt your head to the right while continuing to hold your shoulder down so that you feel a stretching sensation in your neck muscles on that side (fig. B). Hold the stretch for five seconds before returning to your relaxed start position. Repeat the exercise on the opposite side (with your left hand on your right shoulder) and try to do the exercise three times on each side. You should find that you can stretch a little further each time as the muscles loosen.
Aim to do these exercises (including the three featured in the previous blog) at least twice a week. You can increase the regularity (and the number of repetitions for each exercise) as you feel able. They will get easier the more you do them and could quickly become an enjoyable daily exercise routine. If any of the exercises cause you a problem because of your specific mobility issue, either avoid that particular exercise or try to modify it to suit you.
Remember, don’t overdo it; if something is painful or leaves you out of breath, stop and rest, but don’t give up altogether. The important thing with exercise is ‘a little and often’ rather than pushing yourself too far and getting worn out.
If you haven’t exercised for a while or have an underlying medical issue, speak to your GP or other health professional before embarking on any new exercise programme, but almost everyone can find exercises which will benefit their general physical and mental wellbeing. Exercising with other people can provide extra encouragement and fun!
● All the exercises in this two-part blog can be downloaded from the NHS Choices website by clicking here and then printed off in paper form for easy reference.