Exercises for Common Aging Mobility Concerns

Mobility is a complex aspect of one’s physical makeup and can vary from one person to another.  The key components of mobility are flexibility, strength, tissue pliability, balance, proprioception, and our mind’s ability to perceive our body position and orientation.  As we age, our body changes in many ways that will affect mobility.  For example, past injuries can produce scar tissue affecting muscle performance and leading to weakness and compensation.  Compounded over time, these injuries can create imbalances in the body that can lead to under or overuse of a certain area, impacting that area’s mobility.

Furthermore, the sports we play can also lead to increased mobilization of one area of the body and potentially reduced mobilization of another.  For example, swinging a golf club will tend to favor one side of the body with regard to the hip, shoulder, and back.  Daily movement patterns that we ingrain (i.e., how we go up or down stairs, how we sit, how we open doors etc.) can all contribute to mobility changes in our body that are simply compounded with age. However, we can offset some of these mobility issues through a balanced program and simple daily movement patterns.

In this article, I will highlight the more common mobility issues I’ve witnessed in my aged clients and give some basic exercises to build into your daily regimen.  Please keep in mind these may or may not be appropriate for you depending on your medical and training history, so please consult with your therapist or physician to be sure! Make sure to perform the movements slowly and controlled, focusing on deep breathing throughout and specifically exhaling through any of the more strenuous points.  Specific sets and reps are not included; instead, listen to your body and work to where you are comfortable and feel some increased mobility without pain. 

Let’s Start With The Head and Neck

A common theme is the anterior head carriage, which usually results from sitting, slouching, and lurching our heads forward while looking at screens, etc.  Compound this over years, and we have the result of the head being displaced and possibly a bump in our upper back and cervical area.  Mobilizing the posterior neck muscle that retracts the head and brings awareness to our posture can be achieved through chin tucks.  Keep your gaze forward and try to lengthen the back of the neck while drawing the chin in and down (you can use your finger to assist). Performing this movement with your back against a wall can also be helpful for good technique.  Move gently back and forth to strengthen and activate the proper head and neck musculature.

Thoracic or Midback

Another common postural change as a result of slouching is mid-back roundedness. Unlocking this area is key to keeping the spine flexing and extending properly, allowing for greater ease in bending over, turning around, reducing over usage and potential injury of the lower back.

A simple mobility exercise addressing this is the chair/bench thoracic spine extensions, as shown below. Make sure to kneel on a soft surface and try and flatten out the curved upper back as safely as possible.  Make sure the shoulders don’t feel strained or pinched in this movement. Gently pulse in and out of this posture to mobilize the proper thoracic and scapular musculature.

Shoulder and Scapulae

The shoulder is one of our most prone-to-injury joints due to its incredible ability to move in many directions. With injury and age, we start to lose range of motion and tend to protect it by avoiding reaching behind and overhead. This ‘reach back and around’ movement helps to reacquaint us with some of this mobility again. Be careful not to push through painful areas but instead work around them. 

As you initially lift your arm up and subsequently circle your arm back, try and resist through the ranges by pushing your shoulder blade down back throughout both phases. If done regularly, you will notice less pain and a better range over time. 

Hip and Low Back

Regular sitting in cars and at desks and not challenging our bodies with rotational movements can lead to stiff and immobile hip and back musculature.  Moreover, when we are suddenly called to use these rotators (i.e., a pick-up golf game or box lifting/twisting when helping a friend move), we get ourselves in trouble with back pain.  A great mobilizer is the open book movement

This can be done with a bolster between the legs and a pillow under your head to make it more comfortable.  Try not to force the movement but instead listen to your body and test the range safely. Gently ‘open and close’ through this movement pattern so as not to jar your back or strain your shoulders

Ankle and Foot

Last but certainly not least, our ankle mobility can really make or break everything, as it is the foundation of our support and movement.  If our ankle gets stuck in certain spots and won’t move well, it can lead to instability, poor balance, and potentially devastating falls.  A simple ankle mobilizer is the ankle alphabet exercise.Find a comfortable spot with your leg extended out beneath you (i.e., on your bed), and spell out the alphabet (All CAPS 😄) using your big toe.


There you have it! Try and build some or all of these into your daily movement regimen, and you’ll start to notice the benefits. Keep in mind it took years to create some of the dysfunction in our bodies, so it will take time to undo it! Be patient and persistent, but don’t work through the pain. If you would like further insight into your mobility and a more customized mobility regimen, please consult your Preventous health practitioner. Keep moving and stay mobile!

Colin Davis
Certified Personal Trainer

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