Ask the experts
I am 70 years old. In 2000, I fell and broke both ankles and my leg. I also have severe back problems. I would like to know what kind of exercises I could do at home, as I can't walk.
I immediately thought of chair exercise videos for you. You'll get a terrific aerobic and resistance exercise workout with them while sitting in the comfort of your own home. Collage Video (www.CollageVideo.com) and Armchair Fitness (www.armchairfitness.com/) are excellent resources, and I encourage you to check them out.
You might also consider exercise tubing. Exercise tubing is inexpensive and versatile (you can do lots of exercises with them) and a great way to get started with resistance exercise. You'll get stronger if you use the tubing, and best of all, you can use the tubes while sitting down. You can start by buying a set of four for about $20. They come in colors to denote the tension (yellow, green, red, and blue are standard colors, increasing in tension from yellow to blue, with yellow being easiest). Make sure to order the door strap too so that you can attach the tubes to a door. The door setup creates a veritable home gym since you can do more than a dozen exercises this way, and even do them sitting down. And if your doctor allows you to use your legs for exercise, ask for leg straps to work the muscles in your thighs and hips. You can search online for "exercise tubing" to find vendors that sell them, and I've included below for your convenience two reputable vendors. As for your back, I recommend The Back Pain Helpbook, by James E. Moore.
Finally, I suggest that you discuss with your doctor the possibility of starting physical therapy (PT). You may not be physically ready for PT at this moment, but your doctor will know when it would be a good idea to start. A physical therapist can help rehabilitate you, build up the strength in your legs, and work on your balance. You'll feel confident knowing you're getting the right advice from a physical therapist, plus you'll learn lots of exercises to keep you strong once you heal. I encourage you to discuss this treatment option with your doctor.
Medically reviewed by Robert Bargar, MD; Board Certification in Public Health & General Preventive Medicine
"Physical activity and exercise in older adults"