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Fitness at home: How to stay fit without leaving the house

The key to staying mobile is not to stop moving. It seems simple, but it is easy to underestimate how much harder it is to get active after a period of inactivity. For many people getting active and mobile is a simple question of finding the time and motivation to do so. But for many others, getting active can mean facing pain and discomfort caused by our bodies. For those who struggle with mobility getting out to a gym or going for a jog in the park may not be an option. However, by starting with small exercises at home, we can slowly build up our muscles, balance and fitness to a point where getting mobile becomes easier. In this week’s blog, I’d like to look at what exercises are suitable for those who struggle with mobility and what we can do to help get ourselves active without leaving the house

Understanding mobility challenges

Changes as we age can greatly impact how easy it is to get mobile. There is a wide range of conditions that can make mobility harder. Some of these things we have control over, such as our weight or diet, but other conditions can occur due to genetics or just bad luck. Conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis or fibromyalgia can make regular movement difficult and although the best thing you can do in these situations is to stay active, commonly, people will avoid exercise for fear of pain. It’s important to recognise how your body may restrict your movement and develop an exercise routine that not only doesn’t damage your body but helps to support your body’s natural function. 

Setting up your space

If you intend to work out from home or even in your place of work, it’s important to create a clean and safe environment for you to exercise in. Find an area of open space where your movement isn’t restricted by furniture or clutter. Ensure the space you are exercising in has non-stick floors and is devoid of mess. Safety should be your primary concern when creating an environment to work out in, so be mindful of potential trip hazards. Studies have suggested that it is better to exercise in natural light, due to the mood-raising effect of sunlight so make sure your indoor space is brightly lit with natural light and well-ventilated. 

Warming up

Our primary goal while working out should always be to ensure that we exercise safely, which is why a proper warm-up is so important. Start each warm-up by gently mobilising your joints to improve flexibility. This is particularly important for anyone who suffers from arthritis or other conditions that may restrict joint movement. A recent study found that dynamic stretching is better and safer than more traditional static stretching. Dynamic stretching involves replicating movements we make every day to warm up. Here are some dynamic warm-ups to get your joints lubricated and ready to exercise. 

  • Ankles– Warming up our ankles can help prevent falls during exercise and improve our balance. Start by standing opposite a wall and place your hand against it for balance. Once balanced, rock gently forward onto your toes achieving a tip-toe position or as close as feels comfortable. From her rock back onto your heels and raise your toes. Repeat at least ten times, being careful not to overstrain yourself.

  • Hips – Our hips are necessary to help us achieve balance and support our torso during exercise. Stand up straight with your feet at hip width from you, with a wall or support to the opposite side of the leg you intend on stretching first. From this position raise your knee towards your chest. Make a circle with your knee, bringing it up and across your body and then out to the side and down. Switch sides and repeat 5 times on each side. 
  • Shoulders – Stand with a straight back with your arms by your side. Engage your core and raise your arms upwards from your body as high as they can go without raising your shoulders. Once raised lower your arms back to the resting position and repeat ten times. 
  • Wrists – warming up wrists are particularly important for those with limited mobility or strength in their hands. Start by slowly rotating your wrists in a circular motion a few times. From here place your hands together in a prayer position, with your elbows to the side of your body and press down until you feel a gentle stretch in your wrists for five seconds at a time. 

Flexibility, strength and breathing

When exercising at home we are limited in what activities we can do by how much space we have or our access to equipment. When we exercise we focus on either flexibility, strength or cardiovascular exercise. Flexibility is usually one of the most pertinent concerns for those with limited mobility and doesn’t require a lot of space to engage your joints and muscles. Stretching exercises such as yoga can offer a gentle way of increasing your range of motion without risking harm to yourself. Yoga also offers variations for those with limited mobility, for example, chair-based yoga for those who may struggle to exercise standing, or even for those stuck in an office for the day. 

It is also possible to engage in strength training without leaving your home or needing specialised gym equipment. Here are some easy strength exercises you can engage with from the comfort of your open home. 

  • Wall Push-ups – Engaging the same muscles as regular push-ups but without placing the weight of your entire body on your arms. Stand facing about 2 to 3 feet away from the wall, with your feet shoulders width apart. Lean against the wall with your hands with your back straight and lower yourself into the wall like a regular push-up and repeat up to ten times. 
  • Pelvic tilts – Kneel on the floor with one leg with your other knee raised. Tighten your buttocks and move your pelvis as far forward as is comfortable and then back. Repeat between 10 to 15 times
  • Abdominal contractions – Lie flat on your back with your knees raises. From here tighten the muscles around your abdominal area until you feel a light strain, then release. Repeat between 10 to 15 times.
  • Shoulder Squeeze – Sit up straight or stand with your palms on your hips, and squeeze your shoulders in towards each other. Try and keep your shoulders as flat as possible without raising them, and hold for around 3 seconds. Repeat this up to ten times.
  • Knee lifts – From sitting with your arms resting, but not pressing on the chair, contract your quadriceps (the muscles in your knee and hip area) and lift your leg. Your knee and the back of your thigh should be 2 or 3 inches off the seat. Hold this position for up to three seconds before releasing. Swap legs over and repeat between 10 to 15 times

Conclusion

For many of us, finding time and space is one of the biggest impediments to exercise. Being able to work out even in a small capacity from home allows us to stay mobile even when the weather, life or our bodies try to make it difficult. Exercise should be accessible to everyone no matter your skill level or ability, so think if you could find a spare five minutes a day to turn your home into your personal gym. We will be publishing more blogs with help and advice on exercises from home for those with limited mobility, so watch this space for more ways to get active and move more. 

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