Exercising in Your 80s


How Older Adults Can Find New Ways to Incorporate Physical Activity into Their Days

As adults reach their eighties, they experience more fatigue, stiffness, and pain than perhaps they did even a decade earlier. It may be unpleasant when your loved one finds that they can’t partake in every activity they used to enjoy. The limitations are even more significant for older adults with chronic illnesses or injuries.

You may already know that it’s essential for all adults to get physical activity, but how a person feels, and their condition may prevent them from knowing the best way to add movement into their life.

The good news is that there are several ways that adults in their eighties can incorporate exercise into their daily routine in ways that are accessible, easy to practice, and won’t cause injuries. The truth is that older adults can thrive in their eighties despite new health obstacles they may be experiencing.

The strategies listed below are tailored to adults in their eighties. They may also help them maintain a healthy weight. Ideas for homebound adults with private caregivers or those in hospice care are also included to ensure that older adults experiencing the many phases of life can reap the continued benefits of physical activity.

Read on to learn effective ways to bring more movement into an older adult’s life.

Senior Citizen Exercise Tips and Statistics

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Harvard Medical School offer practical tips to make physical activity more straightforward and more accessible for older adults.

These tips cut through the sheer volume of information online about exercise, so older adults and their loved ones won’t feel overwhelmed as they try to implement health-related advice.

Remember, however, that if an older adult is considering the adoption of a new routine, they should always check with their physician to ensure that the activity is safe.

Here’s what the CDC recommends in their resource, “How Much Physical Activity Do Older Adults Need?”:

  • 150 minutes a week of “moderate-intensity” physical activity (moderate-intensity physical activity includes activities such as brisk walking, yard work, walking to a shop, or joining an aerobics class, such as water aerobics).
  • Two days a week of muscle-strengthening exercises. Suggested activities include digging in a garden or resistance bands alongside more typical muscle-building activities.
  • Physical activities that improve balance, such as walking backward or standing on one leg.

The Harvard Health Publishing platform focuses on aerobic recommendations for cardiovascular health in their article “The Best Heart Healthy Workouts for your 60s, 70s, and 80s.”

Here’s what this article suggests:

  • Exercise should be intentional to get the full benefits. While housework and other chores indeed count as movement, a measurable effect on health comes from more structured time spent exercising.
  • Consider the available resources: Does the older adult have a local fitness center nearby? Is there an indoor place where they can safely walk in any weather?
  • Adding yoga into a fitness routine is highly effective for many older adults, as it can be performed in a wheelchair or chair and by those with particular movement challenges, including joint disorders.

The suggestion to incorporate yoga is particularly illuminating, as it widens the playing field. Older adults may be experiencing several challenges that don’t lend themselves to more traditional aerobics or strength-related activities.

Accessible Exercising Options for Homebound Adults and Those in Hospice Care

Older adults may be unable to leave the house or meet the exercise recommendations mentioned above. However, physical activity is still beneficial and attainable.

If the older adult in your life has a private caregiver at home, you can plan for your loved one and caregiver to go on walks during the day or even try strength and stretching exercises at home.

Practical exercises for homebound older adults include:

  • Walking
  • Chair yoga
  • A stretching routine
  • Movements recommended by a physical therapist

Although some families may be surprised to learn this, some older adults in home hospice care also have opportunities for movement. Not all patients in hospice care look the same. Hospice care provides the best quality of life after your loved one has elected to stop treatment for a terminal illness, and a better quality of life could sometimes include movement activities, especially related to pain relief.

Your loved one can receive physical therapy during their time in hospice and try exercises like those listed above as necessary based on their individualized care plan.

Find Ways and Opportunities for Movement that Feel Right for the Older Adult in Your Life

While the above suggestions and recommendations are beneficial, how an older adult exercises in their eighties and beyond depends on what feels right. If your loved one feels better due to certain physical activities, it may work for them.

The goal is for older adults to feel as well as they can and experience the quality of life they desire. That looks different for everyone, and while guidelines are indispensable, caring for an older adult is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Consider doing what you and the older adult in your life feel will help them achieve the most total, most independent life possible.

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