How to exercise with limited mobility

Don’t let injury, disability, illness, or weight problems stop you from staying active.
Published 22 November, 2021

What types of exercise are possible with limited mobility?

You don't have to train for a marathon to get fit. Any type of movement, no matter how gentle, will offer great health benefits. Issues with mobility inevitably make some types of exercise easier than others, but no matter your physical situation, you should aim to incorporate three different types of exercise into your routine:

Cardiovascular exercises

These are activities that raise your heart rate and increase your endurance, such as walking, running, cycling, dancing, tennis, swimming, water aerobics. Exercising in water is especially beneficial as it supports the body and reduces the risk of muscle or joint discomfort. Even if you’re confined to a chair or wheelchair, it’s still possible to perform cardiovascular exercise.

Strength training exercises

This type of exercise involves using weights or other resistance to build muscle and bone mass, improve balance, and prevent falls. If you have limited mobility in your legs, your focus will be on upper body strength training. Similarly, if you have a neck injury, for example, your focus will be more on strength training your legs and core.

Flexibility exercises

Flexibility exercises such as yoga can help enhance your range of motion, prevent injury, and reduce pain and stiffness. Even if you have limited mobility in your legs, for instance, you may still benefit from stretches and flexibility exercises to prevent or delay further muscle atrophy.

How can I stay safe when exercising?

Listening to your body is the best way to avoid injury when working out. Stop exercising if you experience pain, discomfort, nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness, chest pain, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, or clammy hands. Also, keep in mind these tips:

Warm up and cool down properly

Warm up with a few minutes of light activity such as walking, arm swinging, and shoulder rolls, followed by some light stretching (avoid deep stretches when your muscles are cold). After your exercise routine, whether it’s cardiovascular, strength training, or flexibility exercise, cool down with a few more minutes of light activity and deeper stretching.

Drink plenty of water

Your body performs best when it’s properly hydrated. Aim to drink eight glasses of water a day, and keep a drink to hand while you're working out.

Wear appropriate clothing

Make sure you have supportive footwear and comfortable clothes that won’t restrict your movement.