Physical Activity

Seniors Staying Active

Older woman exercizing their arms

When it hurts to move, it may seem like a good idea to stop moving to protect our joints from pain. Unfortunately, research suggests quite the opposite. The less we move our joints, the stiffer and more painful they become, and the muscles that protect and surround them become weaker, making us more prone to injury. Older adults living with arthritis face a greater challenge if they don’t stay active.

Jane Fonda’s journey

Actress Jane Fonda is known for her fitness career in the 1980s just as much as her decades on screens big and small. Now in her 80s, she stays active as much as possible while living with osteoarthritis and multiple joint replacements. Here are some of the strategies that have worked for her:

  • Taking long walks every day, but moving slowly to stay safe
  • Practicing resistance training, yoga, and lifting lighter waits to allow her to work on her flexibility and strength
  • Being intentional about plans to stay active and sticking to an exercise routine
  • Building relationships – in-person or virtually – to get active together or at the same time

In interviews, Fonda has talked about her desire to stay independent, play with her grandchildren, carry her own luggage and maintain other activities of daily living. Her mantra is to keep moving, stay active and change up exercise if it becomes too difficult or unsafe. She suggests that anyone can start being active with little things, like moving their arms while sitting.  “The mistake that so many people make is that if they can’t do what they once did, then they don’t do anything. Big mistake,” Fonda remarks.  “There are a lot of things that I can’t do that I used to do. So I do things that are safer when you’re older…I walk. I lift lighter weights. I move more slowly. But keep moving. Keeping your body active is absolutely critical”

Active tips for seniors

No matter your age, physical activity includes a whole range of household, workplace and lifestyle activities that can help you increase your strength, your energy and your flexibility. Physical activity can include exercise, such as yoga or strength training, but it also includes day-to-day activities such as gardening, walking, and housework.

Exercise is only one way to be physically active. Increasing the amount of movement in your day can take the form of many little things, such as:

  • Turning on the radio and dancing. You can even remain seated and just move your upper body.
  • Taking frequent “stretch” breaks by getting up or taking a short walk, even indoors. inside
  • Getting in the garden or caring for your potted plants by digging, pruning, raking and/or weeding.
  • Walking “laps” in hallways – how many laps can you do each day?
  • Standing or moving when talking on the phone.

If you want to try some new exercises or stretches, follow along with our Osteoarthritis Exercise videos or Yoga for Rheumatoid Arthritis. You can try each exercise at your own pace and stick with the ones that work for you.

When you are exercising, think like Jane Fonda and move slowly, safely and intentionally. Make time for staying active every day and connecting with friends and family to stay accountable. If you want to learn more about getting active every day, visit our Staying Active online learning module.