Try a Kinder, Gentler Workout
Aging Baby Boomers Fuel Hottest Exercise Trend
June Golden's workout resume reads like a fitness history for our times.
Dance lessons from a series of instructors who subscribed to the "no
pain, no gain" mantra were a rite of passage. Then came high-impact
aerobics classes, where she jumped, shimmied, and rock-and-rolled. After a
timeout for childbirth, it was on to step aerobics and kickboxing. And of
course, there were a few months off here and there for knee injuries, torn
ligaments, sprained ankles, and the like.
Then, as she approached her 60th birthday, Golden says, she finally found
fitness nirvana -- with yoga and Pilates, a kinder, gentler workout that
incorporates fluidity, grace, and focus. It's a routine that she says helps
boost the health of both body and mind through breathing, stretching, and core
"For years, I knew something was missing," says the New York
communications consultant. "But as soon as I started this program, I knew
instinctively that it is what I was searching for all these years."
Women like Golden are fueling the hottest exercise trend: a shift to
routines that pose less stress to our bodies, says Harvey Lauer, who, as
founder and president of American Sports Data Inc. (ASD), has tracked exercise
trends for the past two decades.
The ASD's latest survey of 15,000 adults shows that at a time when gym
membership in the 55-plus crowd has ballooned -- especially among women --
joint-jarring activities like aerobics and kickboxing are giving way to gentler
pursuits such as:
Pilates. Originally designed to give dancers
muscle strength without bulk, Pilates was largely ignored by the general public
for almost a century. Only two years ago, fewer than 10% of gyms offered
classes in mat Pilates, a blend of stretching and calisthenics designed to
enhance alignment, increase flexibility, and firm abdominal and back muscles.
Now 40% do.
Yoga. Americans first turned to the
5,000-year-old stretching and relaxation technique in the 1960s, looking for a
way to get high without drugs. Now, the yoga/tai chi category boasts 11.1
million followers, almost double the 5.7 million in 1998.
Elliptical trainers. More than 10 million
Americans use elliptical trainers, a knee-friendly cross between a stair
climber and a cross-country-ski machine. That's a surge of 177% over the 1998
level of 3.9 million -- and a sign that elliptical trainers have passed the
litmus test of health club acceptance, Lauer says.
Recumbent bikes. More than 10 million Americans
now recline while they pedal, an increase of about 50% since 1998. Not only are
these machines more comfy than ordinary exercise bikes, they take stress off
achy lower backs, Lauer says.
Aging Boomers Drive Exercise Trend
The aging of the exercising population has driven the switch to low-impact
activities, says Richard Cotton, a San Diego, Calif.-based exercise
physiologist who is a spokesman for the American Council on Exercise.