Richard Simmons Citizen Cane

4/19/2017 1:00 AM PDT

Richard Simmons Goes Out in Public in Disguise with Hat and Cane

EXCLUSIVE

Richard Simmons has been tooling around L.A. in disguises and a cane that are good enough that no one has noticed.

We've learned Simmons DOES leave his Hollywood Hills mansion we thought was his entire universe for the last 3 years. We're told the disguises are not always elaborate ... sometimes a hat and street clothes do the trick.

As for where he goes ... sometimes lots of people see him but don't notice. We know he's been to the Beverly Center, a bustling shopping mall near his home.

We're told Richard is walking with a cane, because he's still dealing with his knee injury. He's gained some weight, but our sources say he sounds "totally normal." 

Richard has been temporarily sidelined ... he checked himself into a hospital Monday for a gastrointestinal problem.