Staying fit with limited mobility doesn’t have to be a boring chore. Whether standing or seated, different exercises using a cane can help you maintain fitness, balance, and flexibility. Remember to check with your doctor or physical therapist before you attempt any of these.
Seated Exercises With a Cane
For balance, learn to focus on an object as you try to balance it. It looks like an old circus trick: use your dominant hand and see if you can keep your cane standing upright in your palm. If it falls, carefully pick it up for a mild stretch (or your helper can retrieve it for you). Then switch hands and see if you can do it on your opposite side.
Canes and walking sticks work as lightweight barbells. Seated in an armless chair, hold your cane out in front of you, parallel to the floor, with your palms under the cane facing up. Bend your elbows and curl your arms toward your chest slowly, then unfold them back to the starting position. When you get good at this, you can try adding a little bit of weight to the ends of the cane; use household objects like a shopping bag with a can of soup in it hung from either end of the cane. You could even spring for some light wrist weights and Velcro them around the ends of your cane to turn it into a barbell. Just don’t add too much weight—you might break your cane!
If your balance is good, or you have a helper who can spot you, try an exercise to improve your range of motion in your shoulders. Hold the cane at both ends between your hands, palms facing each other, with the cane parallel to the floor. Push the cane with your left arm to raise your right arm as high above your shoulder as you can, straight up on your right side. Bring it slowly down and repeat using the opposite side.
Another exercise you can do with a cane is simply to hold the cane between your hands, again parallel to the floor, and raise it up in front of you, all the way up above your head and back again. For flexibility and strength in your core, try a side stretch. Hold the cane out in front of you, parallel to the floor, palms facing down. Lift it above your head, then bend gently to the right, as far as you can go without feeling unsteady on your feet. Return to center, then repeat toward the left.
Use Your Cane as a Dance Partner
While you may not be ready to add the top hat and tails or the Ginger Rogers gown, you can still put on your favorite music and dance, either seated or standing, using your cane as a kind of dance partner, or just to give you support and balance as you move your feet. You can “dance” while seated and still get a good workout, with a combination of leg and arm movements that get your heart pumping a bit.
As with any new activity, don’t start any exercises without your doctor’s approval, especially if you have underlying health conditions, difficulty with balance, impaired hearing or vision, or problems with joints and bones. If you don’t feel steady on your feet, remain seated and ask a physical therapist for help adapting the exercises to your comfort level.