HEALTHIER AGING: Keeping an older adult on her toes with exercise

January 2005 
Volume 35  Number 1
Pages 24 - 24
  PDF Version Available!


  • Motivating your patient

  • Keep it interesting



    FOR AN OLDER ADULT, mobility—particularly walking—is a key to maintaining good health. Here, I'll discuss the role of exercise in preserving mobility and suggest ways to encourage your patient to participate in regular exercise appropriate for her age and condition.

    Motivating your patient

    Like most of us, older adults are motivated to learn something new when they believe it's relevant to their lives. So teach your patient about the benefits she'll reap from regular exercise, emphasizing how it can help her maintain her health, independence, and quality of life.

    For example, gait exercises can improve balance and walking function in even very frail elderly people, though at least one study indicated that frail elderly women benefited more from a formal supervised exercise program than from a home exercise program. Another study showed that adults over age 80 can increase their aerobic capacity and lower their systolic blood pressure with community-based exercise programs. So you can assure your patient that she can benefit from an exercise program tailored to her abilities.

    If she has arthritis, remind her that exercise can help her maintain range of motion (ROM) in joints and improve circulation. She can perform many upper-extremity exercises in a chair, so she can benefit from ROM exercise even if she's in a wheelchair.

    To exercise hands and arms, teach her arm circles, wrist flexion and extension, reaching above the head, and using light weights to work major muscle groups. Start with a small number of repetitions in sets and increase the number of repetitions according to her ability. Warn her not to exercise to the point of pain and tell her to rest when she's tired.

    Lower-extremity exercises include leg lifts, tightening ...

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