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Jane Fonda's Trainer Reveals Her Top Secrets for Keeping the 86-Year-Old Fit (Exclusive)

Build strength and maintain mobility with her expert tips.

Jane Fonda is herself considered a fitness expert—and perhaps even the first fitness influencer—yet even she can use some help when it comes to staying toned in her mid-80s. For the last decade, the star, now 86, has been working with celebrity fitness trainer Malin Svensson, founder of the walking and fitness club Nordic Body, which caters to people over the age of 50. Together, the pair focuses on building muscle strength and mobility while preventing potential pain and injury—and lately, the actor has been singing her trainer's praises on social media and beyond.

"I'm 86 and have a lot of loose parts. I have to be careful. But with Malin, I feel 100 percent safe and cared for," Fonda recently told The Hollywood Reporter. "Malin is one of the kindest, most caring, forgiving and careful trainers I've ever had."

We caught up with Svensson to find out which pearls of wisdom she wishes all people knew when it comes to fitness and aging powerfully. These are the celebrity trainer's top seven fitness secrets, shared in an exclusive interview with Best Life.

RELATED: 91-Year-Old Fitness Star Shares Her Best Workout Tips to Stay Young.

All safe movement is good movement.

Yoga, exercise and senior woman in studio, class and lesson for wellness, body care and fitness. Sports, balance and elderly female doing downward dog pose for training, pilates and workout in gym

Getting fit in your 80s is about so much more than maintaining your weight or perfecting your physique. That's why Svensson encourages her clients to think about the physiological benefits of exercise beyond changes on the scale or muscle tone.

"Any safe movement of your body will benefit you regardless of your fitness status," Svensson tells Best Life. "Think blood circulation to nourish each cell. Think lubrication to loosen up your stiff joints."

Exercise is better when you set it to music.

elderly couple dancing in a kitchen, ways to feel amazing

The workout you enjoy is the one you're most likely to stick to, which is why Svensson recommends that her clients embrace dance as part of their exercise routine. "Put on some music you enjoy and move your body any way you can do it safely," she recommends.

The trainer notes that this will improve coordination and balance, stimulate your brain, and lift your mood in the process.

In a Feb. 2023 interview with Vanity Fair, Fonda echoed this sentiment: "Do a little bit outside your comfort zone… And find something that you enjoy—because if you don't enjoy it, you're probably not gonna keep it up."

RELATED: 93-Year-Old Athlete Has the Body of a Man 60 Years Younger—Here's How.

Walking is foundational to your fitness.

elderly couple walking through lavender field

Walking is a powerful tool for maintaining health and fitness—especially when you're in your 80s. In fact, Svensson notes that having a regular walking routine can help lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, as well as your risk of slips and falls.

The trainer recommends aiming for a total of 30 minutes of walking per day but says you don't have to do this all at once.

"Walk safely around with good posture for 10 minutes three times a day," she suggests. "Vary the walk with high knee lifts," she adds.

Taking the stairs can give you major gains.

Portrait of a senior African American couple at home, smiling to camera. Family enjoying time at home, lifestyle concept

Svensson says that you won't have to get expensive equipment to complete your workouts in your 80s—your home may provide all the challenges you need. She suggests using your stairs as a way to build muscle strength and cardiovascular health. Going up and down stairs for just minutes after eating can also help your body regulate your blood sugar, staving off diabetes.

Svensson says you should always prioritize safety by holding onto the handrail and taking purposeful steps on the staircase. The Mayo Clinic adds that a simple test can help you evaluate whether stair exercises are safe before you get started.

"If you cannot stand on one leg for 45 seconds without holding onto something, you may not be able to safely perform some of these exercises. If you aren't sure if you should give them a try, ask your healthcare provider if stair exercises are safe for you," their experts suggest.

RELATED: Why Walking Only 3,867 Steps a Day Is All You Need, Science Says.

You can always modify your moves.

Well-built senior man doing push-ups from bench

One of the key tenets of exercising over 80 is to modify your moves so that you still gain the majority of their benefits without placing unnecessary strain on your body. For instance, you may not be able to do a standard ground push-up, but you can still build muscle strength in the back, arms, and upper body by doing a modified push-up against a stable surface.

"Place your hands on a wall or on a counter," Svensson tells Best Life. "Walk your feet away from the wall or counter until you feel your body is straight like a surfboard," she says, adding that it's OK if your heels come off the floor. "Either stay in that position (isometrically) or bend and straighten the elbows. Do 10 push-ups three times with rest in between."

Stretching is essential.

Old woman doing fitness exercises outdoors

Maintaining your flexibility is a prerequisite to most other forms of exercise. That's why Svensson says you should make stretching part of your everyday routine. In particular, she recommends three stretches, which she says you should hold for 30 seconds each while breathing slowly and deeply.

The first is a hamstring stretch. To try it, sit on a chair and straighten one leg. "Place hands on the other leg. Lean forward with a straight back until you feel a nice stretch in the back of the upper thigh," Svensson says.

The second exercise, a hip stretch, also requires a chair. "Cross one leg over the other leg. If possible, lean forward with a straight back until you feel a good stretch in the hip and buttock area," she explains.

For the final stretch, you'll need to stand up, holding onto the chair for support. "Step back with one leg. Make sure all ten toes are looking straight ahead. Front leg is bent. Back leg is straight. Feel a good stretch in the front upper thigh (hip flexor)," Svensson says.

RELATED: A-Rod Just Told Us His 5 Best Stay-Young Secrets: "Eliminate All Excuses."

Squats can save your mobility.

Senior caucasian woman practicing advanced yoga Chair Pose or Utkatasana at home

Svensson says that squats should play a key role in your mobility-building exercise routine. You can begin with the help of a chair, going from a sitting to a standing position.

Whether or not you use a chair as a prop, Svensson notes that it's important to practice "good form to avoid aches and pains and to prevent injuries." Every time you do a squat, your knees and all ten toes should be facing straight ahead, and you should feel the weight "on your heels and buttocks both on the way up and down."

Last year, while addressing a crowd for H&M (via Vanity Fair), Fonda shared how her own focus on mobility has shaped her quality of life.

"Let me just talk from the perspective of someone who's 85," she said. "Every day I thank God that I worked out when I was younger. You've got to stay strong… I have a grandson who's three and a half years old, and I can still pick him up. I mean, I have to bend my knees and it takes a long time to get him up there, but I can still pick him up. You want to be able to stay strong just to live a safe life. You want to be able to carry your own bags. You want to be able to make love."

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Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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