Immobility of the body is defined as a state of motionlessness, or near motionlessness, in which a person experiences a significant decrease in the ability to move. Immobility is common in the elderly, however it can increase the risk of falls, disease, and general low-quality of life. Physiotherapy has proved advantageous to those who wish to improve their mobility, reduce the risk of falling, and increase their quality of life. Assessments, exercises and adjustments to a person’s immediate environment are all ways to help them in the process. We’ve developed a complete guide to the consequences of immobility and how to increase it.

What causes immobility in the elderly?

Immobility in old age can have a variety of causes, including physical, psychological and environmental. Elderly people often suffer from a number of diseases which worsen their mobility, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, hip fracture, stroke, and Parkinon’s disease. A physician will usually carry out careful history-taking and a thorough physical examination as part of the assessment process to ensure all causes are accounted for.

causes of immobility in the elderly

The adverse effects of immobility

Prolonged immobility is associated with increased fatigue, low self-esteem and loss of confidence. It can increase the risk of falls and the development of pressure ulcers. More importantly, immobility can actually lead to further immobility of other areas of the body if left untreated. Mobility is crucial for maintaining health and the body’s ability to heal and repair. 

Relationship between immobility and falls

Falls are more common in the elderly due to a number of factors, such as poor eyesight, hearing, illnesses and physical conditions. However, immobility plays a big part in this. Lacking proper mobility means your body is put under more stress and strain when moving and this can often result in falls. When it’s difficult to move in general, there’s an increased risk of unexpected falls at any time. 

What are the major complications of prolonged immobility?

  • Immobility leads to skin breakdown
  • Immobility leads to depressed respiratory function
  • Immobility leads to constipation
  • Immobility leads to renal dysfunction
  • Immobility leads to physical deconditioning
  • Immobility leads to electrolyte imbalances
  • Immobility contributes to psychological dysfunction
  • Immobility leads to DVT
  • Immobility leads to impaired glucose metabolism

How to increase mobility

Despite mobility decreasing with age, there are a number of ways to maintain or restore mobility, even when living with health conditions. Regular, gentle exercise has been proven to increase balance, ease arthritis symptoms and enhance coordination. Walking, swimming, and even ballroom dancing have proven effective in this regard. A healthy diet and a healthy weight also help to improve mobility, as obesity is one of the most overlooked causes of immobility.

how to increase mobility

How can immobility be prevented?


There’s a lot you can do throughout your life to ensure immobility, and therefore risk of falls, is prevented. Increasing exercise and activity levels, decreasing the use of certain psychotropic medications and improvement of the general environment have all shown effectiveness in preventing immobility and falling complications. It’s always a good idea to take care of physical, mental and emotional well-being to keep a balanced life and increase well-being, and this is much the same when it comes to mobility. 


Being immobile is dangerous. It puts your well-being at risk in a way that can negatively affect your overall health, especially because lack of mobility hinders the body’s ability to heal and repair itself. Whenever someone is confined to bed rest following an accident or any other type of injury that requires disabling procedures, every single bodily system will be adversely affected – this includes the musculoskeletal as well as the neurological systems! 

Physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists are trained to help patients improve their strength, motor function and balance – all areas of concern for immobile individuals who are at risk of falling. Easy Exercising helps elders regain mobility through specific exercises that are tailor made according to their needs. To book an appointment with our team, contact us anytime!

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