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WORKOUTS FOR OCTOGENARIANS

PERSONAL ANECDOTES AND GENERAL INFORMATION

Not too long ago, I received an urgent message from my bank. I had ordered some fitness equipment and my bank thought the order might be fraudulent. I was 82 and apparently deemed too old to practice fitness. After all, the average life expectancy for men is age 73. Certainly my order of fitness equipment must be a mistake on someone’s part. Not true!

This post will address several issues that older people must face as they continue to pursue a lifestyle of fitness.

Octogenarians must be aware of their physical changes and limitations. This is not the best time to begin a workout routine for the first time ever. But, if we have been active for most of our lives, the transition is quite seamless. In my case, I had stopped playing sports and wanted to continue with physical activity. It only required a recognition of my physical limitations and the willingness to work around them. I had worked out with weights since age 15.

The three people shown below are all 80 years of age. They represent the mantra I often hear – “Age is just a number”. Yes, they are the exceptions.

All of us (octogenarians) need to engage in some form of physical activity to maintain our health and well being. We need to avoid or at least retard the incidence of declines in muscle mass, strength, flexibility and balance.

Given the approval of our healthcare providers, these exercises are generally appropriate for individuals over 80:

  • Walking. Low impact exercise that can be easily incorporated into daily routines. Cardiovascular health, flexibility and muscle strength are improved.
  • Swimming. Gentle on the joints and a full body workout. Water aerobics classes are also good.
  • Yoga. For flexibility, strength and balance. Choose poses that are appropriate for seniors.
  • Tai chi. Focus on slow, flowing movements and deep breathing. Improve balance and mental calmness.
  • Strength training. Lighter resistance training can help us maintain strength and muscle mass – with resistance bands, weights or bodyweight.
  • Chair exercises. Those who have difficulty standing for long periods may do chair exercises. Here is a 10 minute video.
  • Cycling. Stationary bikes or recumbent bikes are good for low impact, gentle cardiovascular workouts.

WHAT WORKS FOR ME

I do a daily workout before breakfast. My basic every day routine is to do:

  • 11 physical therapy sets
  • 9 core sets

I also add one or the other of the following, alternating each day:

  • Treadmill walk, raising speeds for a mile or longer
  • 10 sets of upper torso strength building

I am currently working around bone on bone knees, arthritic fingers, lower back pain and a right shoulder rotator cuff sprain.

My physical therapy sets include:

  • 10 finger exercises, alternating each hand daily. These were given to me by my sports medicine doctor and are easy to do sitting down.
  • I set of 40 reps, holding my six pound medicine ball upward while lying on the floor. Twisting the ball to the right for 20 reps, then to the left for 20.

My core sets are these:

  • I set of a 90 second plank.
  • 30 reps of a standing woodchop exercise with my medicine ball. See below. I don’t like crunches or sit-ups because of back pain. The woodchop exercise while standing is a very effective waist exercise, the best I have ever tried.

  • Next, I do another version of the woodchop for 30 reps. The difference is that I move the medicine ball up and down more vertically, to stress my front abdominal muscles.
  • My final medicine ball exercise is to stand still and move the ball right to left and gradually up and down while resisting the movements. This is for 50 reps.
  • Then I sit down on a wooden chair and do a crunch with my Bullworker Steel Bow, 20 reps to one side, 20 to the other side and 30 to the middle. This is a comfortable crunch, since my back is not strenuously engaged.
  • Next, I lie down on a couch and tense my pelvic floor muscles for 40 reps of 5 second isometric holds.
  • Then I finish by 10 reps of 30 second isometric holds of the same pelvic floor muscles.

My treadmill workout is a matter of raising the speed every 3 minutes and listening to music until I get to at least one mile. The treadmill cardio added to the woodchop cardio can be quite effective.

My 10 sets of upper torso strength training include:

  • 2 sets of back exercises, with the Bullworker Bow Classic and/or resistance bands attached at my door. 30 reps each.
  • 2 chest exercises, 40 reps with the Steel Bow, a chest compression. Then 25 reps of a resistance band movement from the door attachment, facing away from the door and pulling the bands to my chest.
  • 4 biceps exercises, 2 for each arm. I use loop bands, curling one end and holding the other end downward. Biceps curls with bands are better than those with dumbbells for this reason – the tension is greater as we curl to the top, not lighter as with dumbbells.
  • 2 triceps sets. I use a dumbbell with both hands and extend it from behind my head upward for 2 sets of 30 reps.

EQUIPMENT

I work out at home, with equipment that can be moved and hidden away after use. Except for my treadmill.

Amazon has always been a good source for me, for whatever I need. As an Amazon associate, I may be paid for activity on the links I use. This is the essence of affiliate marketing, which is explained in my upper menu – BECOME AN AFFILIATE MARKETER.

Each link has full details, pictures, reviews, prices and suggestions for similar items.

Medicine ball. This is the exact medicine ball I use.

Theraband. Good for curls and other resistances.

Resistance bands with handles. For full body workout.

Treadmill. The one I use, by Nordic Track.

Recumbent exercise bike. For seniors.

Tai Chi bundle. 4 DVDs.

BULLWORKER

See my Bullworker link at the side of my website. Click on the red link for details within their website. I have the Steel Bow and Bow Classic.

Bullworkers give us as much of a strength challenge as we may want, while protecting our joints. They are compact tools, easily transported when we travel and need a workout option. See my prior post on Bullworkers.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Here are a few more personal anecdotes:

  • I do intermittent fasting, beginning breakfast around noon and finishing dinner at around 5:30. This gives me a fast of about 18 hours daily.
  • I drink lots of water – the number of ounces to equal half of my weight. This is 85-90 oz. per day for me.
  • I rely on my habits. I am unable to skip a daily workout, because of a long entrenched habit. See my prior post on habits.

I don’t know of any reason for anyone of any age to forego physical activity, assuming reasonable physical health. Do we have better things to do?

Here is one way to look at it – a half hour workout represents about 2% of a full 24 hour day. We have 98% of the day for other pursuits. Are we too busy?

Let’s move our bodies and not be physically stagnant. It’s productive and can also be lots of fun.

Please leave me any comments or questions in the “Comments” section below.

Richard

4 Comments

  1. Hi. Thanks for this article. Your article is a great eye-opener to how one can live long and still be healthy even at one’s old age.  All the exercises mentioned are great and appropriate for elders.  I couldn’t agree more that physical activity is essential for everyone, regardless of age.  It’s also amazing how a mere half hour of exercise can have such a significant impact on overall well-being.  Let’s keep moving and stay healthy!

    • Hi Tinuke! Thanks for your input. Old age is better than the alternative! Actually, I am enjoying old age. It’s not everyone who has the privilege. Workouts for me are as important as before and I have more time now.

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