As we age, simple tasks can become more difficult, and nagging aches and pains can interfere with activities of daily living. For some older adults, getting out of bed, standing up from the floor — and even getting in and out of the bathtub can become challenging.
That's because getting in and out of the bathtub requires balance, strength and flexibility, which are skills that can dwindle as we get older if we don't take care of our bodies, says Bonnie Strati, yoga instructor and lead flexologist with StretchLab.
"You must be able to stand from a sitting position which requires you to push yourself up from sitting to a half-kneeling position and then stand up from the split squat position. This requires mobility in the ankle, knee, hip joints, as well as strength in the lower and upper body," Strati says.
Not to mention, you might be contending with a wet and slippery surface, so you need to be able to balance on one leg while lifting your other leg out of the tub.
But by doing exercises that strengthen your legs, arms and core, you can improve your balance and overall strength. Here, Strati shares the best exercises to make getting in and out of the bathtub — and other daily movements — easier. Strati recommends doing these exercises two to three times per week.
1. Split Sit and Stand
This exercise is a modified version of a split squat, and it mimics the movement pattern you'll need to get to standing from a kneeling position. It'll help strengthen your quads, glutes, hamstring and calf muscles.
- Sit on a chair sideways, facing left, so your left arm rests on the back of the chair.
- Position your left foot in front of the chair and your right leg off of the chair with your foot on the floor.
- Ensure your right knee is under your right hip.
- Tuck your back toes under in preparation to stand.
- Press your left heel (toes stay on the floor) into the floor and stand straight up.
- You can use your left hand on the back of the chair to help you.
- Lower yourself back down onto the chair and repeat.
If this exercise starts to feel easy, try starting from the standing position and stop about one to two inches above the seat of the chair; pause for a second and stand back up.
2. Wall Push-Up
The wall push-up is a modified version of the push-up in a high plank, but it is just as effective for targeting your pectoral muscles (chest), shoulders and triceps. Strengthening these muscles will be beneficial when pressing from a seated position in the bathtub to kneeling or standing, Strati says.
- Place your hands on a wall (or secure door), level with your chest and move your feet about 12 to 18 inches away from the wall. You can stand closer to the wall until you feel stronger and more confident in moving your feet further away.
- On an inhale, bend your elbows and bring your chest close to the wall, or at a range that feels comfortable for you. Be careful not to bang your nose into the wall.
- Exhale as you press your hands into the wall and push yourself back up to the starting position.
If you are new to exercise, begin with 1 set of 5 to 8 reps and work your way up to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
3. Figure Four Stretch
Getting in and out of the bathtub requires an element of flexibility in the hips and glutes. If you can't flex your hip to an adequate range of motion, it becomes quite precarious to step over the ledge of a bathtub.
This stretch helps increase flexibility and functional range of motion throughout your hip flexors, abductors (small glute muscles) and adductors (inner thigh muscles).
- Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground.
- Lift your right leg; place your right ankle on your left thigh and allow your right knee to drop out to the side.
- If you can, gently use the weight of your right hand to press down on your right knee, deepening the stretch in your hips and glutes.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then switch legs.
- Repeat until you finish 3 sets of 30 seconds on each leg.
4. Cone Step-Over
This balance exercise is the same movement pattern you use to get in and out of the bathtub and will train your legs and core to help you stabilize.
- Stand with a cone or block to the right side of your body.
- Press your left foot into the floor as you lift your right leg up until your thigh is parallel to the floor.
- Lift your right leg up and over the cone or block and stand straddling the cone.
- Slowly lower your leg until your foot touches the floor.
- Then, press your right foot into the ground as you lift your left leg up and over the cone.
- Imagine you are stepping over the edge of the bathtub as you are performing this exercise.