Two seniors practice tai chi for senior mobility

Mobility refers to our physical ability to move. To be fully mobile means we need full range of motion in our individual joints, or groups of joints such as shoulders or hips. Mobility can also refer to how our whole body moves and how the different parts of our body work together, so we can do the things we want to do and go where we want to go.

Why is Senior Mobility Important?

Having good mobility as we age means it’s easier for us to carry out specific daily tasks, run errands, or participate in activities we find meaningful. Healthy joints allow us to walk, run, stretch, and move our body without pain. Mobility often decreases as we age, impeded by conditions such as arthritis that affect our muscle strength and flexibility, or poor vision or hearing that affect how physically active we are. It’s common for seniors to adapt to decreased mobility by making changes in the way they accomplish things or frequency of what they do. As they move less and less, they become vulnerable to the risks of a sedentary lifestyle.

How do we maintain mobility as we age?

Senior mobility is a “use it or lose it” proposition. The good news is that it doesn’t take much for us to maintain mobility at a good level. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends healthy adults ages 65 and over incorporate around 150 minutes of moderate activity into their week or about 20 minutes a day. Including senior mobility exercises in your exercise program will help to maintain the strength and flexibility of your joints, lessen the risk of falls, and reduce the impact of diseases such as osteoporosis.

Get Ready: Easy-to-Do Senior Mobility Exercises

Clear a floor space where you can place an exercise mat and a chair for balance. Do each exercise for a minute or two. You could include a few of these exercises in your regular routine or do them all together to achieve your 20-minute goal for the day.

You’ll get plenty of benefits without having to overdo it. Make sure to stop if you feel pain or tightness in your chest or throat, get dizzy, or have trouble breathing. Always consult your physician before starting a new exercise program to make sure you can do the movements safely.

Warm-Up Exercises

Perform these movements slowly while your body is warming up. Repeat the whole sequence a few times for about five minutes.

  • Sit straight and relaxed in your chair and gently roll your head from side to side, front and back, and around in a circle. 
  • Roll your shoulders in circles; up and down, and forward and backwards.
  • Placing your hands on hips and keeping your torso straight, slowly turn to look to the right and left.
  • Slowly bend forward at the waist to touch your toes and sit back up.
  • First with your right leg then your left, raise a leg until it’s parallel with the floor.
  • Flex and point your toes, rolling your ankle in a circle, then return your foot to the floor.
  • Stand and hold on to the back of a chair with one hand.
  • Lift your right foot up and balance on your left. Hold for 15 seconds and switch feet.  

Stretching Exercises

Now that you’ve warmed up, these stretches will be far more beneficial. Repeat each move three to four times.

  • Use the chair for balance with your right hand. Grasp your left foot with your left hand and pull it toward your buttock until you feel a stretch in the thigh. Hold for a count of 10.
  • Place your right heel on the seat of your chair. Keeping your right leg straight out in front of you, bend toward your foot until you feel a stretch in the back of your leg. Hold for a count of 10. Repeat on the other side. If you can’t stand well on one leg, lie on your back on the floor. Lift one leg up and grasp underneath the knee with both hands. Pull the leg toward your body, keeping the knee slightly bent. Repeat on the other side.
  • Stand relaxed with your arms at your sides. Stretch your arms over your head. Holding your arms there, gently bend to the right and hold the position for a count of 10. Return to center and pause for a second while keeping your arms overhead. Bend to the left and hold for a count of 10.
  • Remain standing or sit in your chair. Reach your right arm across your body. Place your right elbow in the crook of your left arm and gently pull your right arm closer. Hold for a count of 10.


Mobility Exercises for Seniors: Improving Balance and Coordination

  1. Walking in Place. Walking in place is a little like marching in place, but softer. As you step, lower each foot to the floor toe first and roll back to the heel. Let your arms swing naturally and breathe comfortably through your nose. Pay attention to how your feet and toes feel as you walk.
  2. Single Leg Raises. Lying on your back, place your hands under the small of your back just above the buttocks. Keeping the other leg straight on the ground, raise one leg about 10 inches from the ground and hold for a count of 10.  
  3. Cactus Arms. Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms at your sides. Inhale and reach arms up and overhead. Exhale and bring your arms to your sides with palms facing forward, and elbows to the side like a cactus. Inhale and reach your arms up and overhead.
  4. Cactus Flower. Stand with your arms in the open cactus position, with palms forward and elbows out to the side. Inhale and bring your elbows together with your arms still bent. As you do so, round your back and tuck your chin to your chest. Hold for about five seconds. Exhale, spread out your arms and straighten your chest.
  5. Flamingo. Hold onto a chair for stability. Bend both knees. Raise one leg off the ground keeping the knee slightly bent. Hold for a count of 10. This exercise strengthens the thigh muscles and works your core. As you get stronger, try taking your hands off the chair and balancing by yourself.
  6. Bird Dog. Start in a tabletop position, with your hands and knees on the ground. Engage your core and keep your spine neutral, keeping your gaze slightly ahead of your hands. Extend your right arm forward and left leg back at the same time, in line with the rest of your body. Pause for a few seconds, and then lower both limbs back down. Repeat on the opposite side with left arm and right leg extended.


Mobility Exercises for Seniors: Improving Strength and Coordination

  1. Air Squat. Stand with your feet hip-width apart with knees and feet facing forward. Engage your core and lower your hips as if you were going to sit down in a chair. Keep your weight in your heels as you reach your arms forward to keep balanced. Pause for a few seconds, and then slowly return to the starting position. You can also place an actual chair behind you for safety, but hover above it rather than sit.
  2. Cossack Squat. Stand with your feet apart, wider than your hips. Hold your hands comfortably in front of you and engage your core. Shift your weight over your left foot, bend your left knee and sit back, keeping your right leg straight. Shift your weight back to the center and pause. Repeat on the right side. You can place both hands on the back of a chair if you need more stability.
  3. Bridge. Lie on your back with your hands at your side. Keep your feet firmly planted on the ground, just within reach of your fingertips. Raise your hips into the air, keeping your shoulders on the ground. Your knees, hips and torso should be in a straight line. Hold for a count of 10.
  4. Wall Pushups. Stand arm’s length from a wall. Place your palms on the wall at shoulder height. Keep feet flat on the ground as you bring your body forward by bending your elbows. Gently push yourself up until your arms are straight. Remember to keep your midsection tight.
  5. Wall Finger Walks. Stand arm’s length from a wall, with palms flat on the wall and fingers facing up. Keep your arms straight and walk your fingers up as far as they can go. Walk them back down. Repeat a few times. Return to the starting position with fingers facing down. Press gently into your palms for a count of 10. Finally, move away from the wall and touch your hands behind your back. Try to hold your right elbow with your left hand and pull your shoulders back slightly. Repeat on the other side.

Use these two sets of exercises as a framework for your daily workout program. You can alternate them, mix and match, or do both sets in one go. As you get stronger and more confident, look for more mobility exercises for seniors online. YouTube videos can be a great source of inspiration for adding more variety to your workout.

Enjoy a Full Range of Activities at The Marshes

Staying active and mobile is simply easier at The Marshes of Skidaway Island. You’ll never be bored with our range of daily fitness and wellness programs. We’ll help you set achievable goals, stick with your plan, and keep motivated. Speak with us by calling 1-866-306-5529 and learn how to get started.