The 5 Best Exercises You Can Do if You Use a Cane or Walker

By Elizabeth Millard |

These moves can help you build lower-body strength and improve your mobility.

Best exercises you can do if you use a cane or walker

It’s not unusual for older adults to use a mobility device like a cane, walker, scooter, or wheelchair. According to research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, almost one-quarter of adults over age 65 use a device like that. The two most common ones are canes and walkers.   

The researchers found that using a mobility device doesn’t make you more likely to fall. But relying on one does affect a person’s confidence. They found that people who need a cane were most likely to worry about falling. Because of that, they often limit their physical activity.  

But not moving around enough can actually increase your risk of falling, says Scott Kaiser, M.D., a geriatrician and director of geriatric cognitive health for Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California.  

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“You lose muscle mass as you get older, and if you have limitations to your mobility, it becomes even more important to do some type of activity to counteract that loss,” Dr. Kaiser says. Doing less activity and becoming more sedentary can make you less able to move about freely.    

There are other problems that can happen when you don’t move regularly, he adds. “Cutting back on movement can also increase your pain response, and even make you more sensitive to adverse effects of medications,” he says.   

If you use a mobility device, it’s important to figure out how to be as active as possible. That starts with strengthening your lower body, says Carol Mack, DPT, CSCS, a doctor of physical therapy and strength coach at CLE Sports & Performance in Cleveland.  

Mack says you can do the following five exercises even if you need a cane or walker. Stand in front of a countertop or a sturdy table for support. Aim to do all five of these moves in one session.  

As always, safety is key. Get your doctor’s OK before beginning a new exercise program. Ask them about how you can exercise safely.   

1. Calf Raises

Hold on to the counter or table. Lift your heels so you’re on the balls of your feet, then slowly lower them back down so your feet are flat on the floor again. That’s one repetition. We’ll talk about how many repetitions, or reps, you should do, below. 

2. Supported Squats

Hold on to the counter or table and keep your feet at least hip-distance apart. Now bend both knees, keeping your back straight, and push your hips back as if you’re about to sit in a chair. Only go down as far as you feel comfortable. Rise back up and that’s one rep. 

Here’s what the move looks like — remember to hold on to a counter or table: 

3. Standing Hamstring Curls

Place your feet hip-width apart, put one hand on the counter or table and the other on your hip. Slowly bend one knee to bring your heel upward toward your butt. Slowly lower your foot back to the floor, then repeat the move with the other leg. That’s one rep. 

Here’s what the move looks like — remember to hold on to a counter or table: 


4. Hip Abduction

Face the counter or table and hold on gently with both hands. Kick your left leg out to the side slowly, then bring it back down. That’s one rep. Do all your reps with the left leg before switching to the right leg. 

Here’s what the move looks like — remember to hold on to a counter or table: 


5. Side Stepping

Face the counter or table and hold on gently with both hands. Take three steps to one side, pause, then go back the other way. Three steps out and three steps back count as one rep. 

How to Get Started With These Exercises 

Aim to do this series of moves three to four times a week. Start with five to 10 repetitions of each exercise — or as many as you can do comfortably with good form. It’s OK if you’re not able to do the same number of reps or sets with each exercise.  

As you become stronger, you should increase the number of repetitions you do. “Try to increase by five reps each week, or two reps if you find the exercise is very challenging,” Mack says. “To build endurance, the goal is to gradually work up to three sets.”   

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You can increase your reps and sets in the way that works best for you. Maybe at first you do two sets of five repetitions. Then the next week, you’re ready to try two sets of 10 repetitions.  

The week after that, consider adding a third set. If that’s too hard, drop back to two sets but increase to 12 repetitions for each.   

It’s not important how you add movement. What matters is that you do.      

Tips to Progress 

If you get tired of doing the same exercises, think about working with a physical therapist or an occupational therapist. They can give you suggestions for other exercises to build your lower-body strength. They also can monitor your progress and help you stay on track.  

SilverSneakers LIVE offers several seated classes that can help you build confidence and strength from head to toe. A few to consider: 

View the complete schedule and RSVP here.    

If you feel intimidated to try these exercises, just remember that any movement is beneficial, says Mack. When you have mobility limitations, even mild ones, it’s essential to keep your muscles and joints functioning as much as possible.   

See our sources:
Facts about mobility device use among older adults: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 

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