Try a Kinder, Gentler Workout
Aging Baby Boomers Fuel Hottest Exercise Trend
Aging Boomers Drive Exercise Trend continued...
People 55 and older are the fastest-growing population in the nation's
health clubs, up by 380% since 1987, according to a recent report from the
International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). About 1 in 4
health club members is at least 55, up from only 9% in 1987.
As the country's 77 million baby boomers have begun aging, "there is a
trend toward activities that are moderate in intensity and not so pounding on
the body," Cotton says. "Comfort and lower injury risk are the two big
Social acceptance plays a role too, Lauer says. "Forty years ago, it was
unseemly for women to grow muscles. Now it's OK, even a source of sexual
attraction. And the same is now true for older people."
While aging boomers are fueling the exercise trend toward kinder, gentler
workouts, experts say that anyone who wants to stay fit -- particularly
beginning exercisers -- should consider incorporating low-intensity activities
into their routine.
Finding A Balance
"Because older adults are more prone to musculoskeletal injury,
low-impact exercises are ideal for them," Cotton says. "But all men and
women can benefit."
Studies show that low-intensity activities provide all the health benefits
one needs, he says. "You don't have to train for the Olympics to optimize
your health. Just modest activity lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease
and maintains muscle mass."
These same studies, he says, show that people are more likely to stick with
a less grueling routine over the long haul.
Finding a Balance
A word of caution: By itself, any one of these low-impact exercises is not
enough to stay fit, the experts warn.
The ideal routine combines the strength, flexibility, and balance training
of yoga and Pilates with an aerobic activity such as brisk walking, Cooper
says. "Or try recumbent cycling: You can push real hard and get your heart
going," but there is less impact, and thus lower risk of injury, than with
a treadmill or jogging.
So, how can you incorporate these gentler, kinder exercises into your
If you don't already belong to a gym, start by calling health clubs in your
area and requesting specific information about the equipment and classes they
offer, advises Jamy McGee, fitness director at the Wellness Center at
Meadowmont, part of the University of North Carolina Healthcare System in
If a club seems to meet your needs, pay a visit, she says: "Take a walk
through the place, look around. Are there enough elliptical trainers and
recumbent bicycles to meet the needs of members during peak times?
"The club should offer a free equipment orientation or a free session
with a personal trainer so you can become familiar with the equipment," she