How do I encourage my mother, who has limited mobility, to exercise?

2 answers | Last updated: Apr 27, 2011
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother is recovering from surgery to remove her bladder (cancer) and has (unrelated) end-stage renal failure. She wasn't much of an exerciser before, she's even less of one now. I'm trying to motivate her to walk and do some basic yoga stretches. I would like to see recommendations for DVDs and such targeting the older beginner-exerciser with limited mobility issues. It is so hard to find information, but it HAS to be a growing segment of the population, wouldn't you think? Where can I find reliable information/products that address this? Thank you.

Expert Answers

You're right; exercise would be great for your mom! But I have to admit, I suspect that what's lacking even more than a DVD is another word you mentioned: motivation. You said she wasn't into exercise before her health problems. I'm sure it's even harder for her to get motivated now. But it's wonderful you're trying, and there are a few things that may help get your mom moving. First, some people are more motivated by exercising with others. Does she have friends or family who might do an exercise DVD with her, gather round the TV together? You didn't mention how mobile she is, but you may want to take a look at classes offered at her local senior or community center. Many senior and community centers have exercise programs for people with physical limitations where she would feel comfortable. Another idea is for your mom to take simple walks with you or other family or friends. Once around the block is probably enough for her right now (or less), but will give her fresh air and exercise.

Now, for the DVD idea -- this might be just the thing she needs, as she can exercise in the privacy on her own home. If you do an internet search on "senior exercise DVDs" or "senior work-out DVDs" you'll find many choices. On-line stores often have rating systems for their products (as well as helpful product descriptions) so you can get a sense of what other people like. Jot down the names of a few choices that look appealing for your mom. You can buy these on-line or check if they're carried at local stores. You may also want to call your mom's senior center to see if there's an exercise instructor who can make recommendations for home DVD's. One more thing: take a look at this blog post on the Wii video game, which many seniors find is a fun, gentle way to exercise. You're on the right track wanting your mom to be more active, this will help her recover and can lift her spirits.

Community Answers

Anneburnell answered...

Hello Karen and Virginia,

Sounds like Mom has mobility issues, a case in which people (not just seniors) are apt to think 'I can't'. There are many exercise options for those with limited mobility.

I developed a chair-based exercise program called 'Stronger Seniors'. It is practiced in hundreds of senior centers and assisted living facilities in North America. You can look it up at

Exercise is a habit that must be developed over time. Habits are borne out of consistency, and done at the set times. Between meals is a good time. So Mom needs to commit to exercising at 10:30 am or 2:30 pm for example. It's called making an appointment for yourself.

Start slowly, with some simple stretches for 10 minutes or so. Make up a progression chart so over the weeks Mom will work up to 30 minutes per day, three times per week. If she has a friend that will come over and participate, that would be very helpful. If you could do the exercises with her, even better.

So how to motivate (or persuade) Mom? People are motivated by fear of loss over hope of gain. Lack of exercise is one of the main causes of disease and injury. She must be convinced that if she does not start moving, chronic illness is pretty much inevitable. Loss of of health, independence, and daily function is a future no one wants to experience.

Virginia, you are absolutely correct in that exercise will lift Mom's spirits. Physical activity can prevent depression in addition to chronic illnesses.

So check out to see over 20 exercise video clips, and email me at if you have any questions.

Stay strong, Anne Burnell