by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
Baby boomers ages 50+ are paving the way to better health well into older decades. They’re exercising, watching their diet, enjoying friendships, and getting their share of romance. Let’s try to keep up with this exemplary group …
Having lived through the introduction of fast and processed food, large portion sizes, and the realities of casual sex and hard drugs—some boomers have their share of obstacles to overcome. This group often has the added responsibility of their parents and children, as well. Complete with their own set of anxieties, stress, and overbooked schedules, today’s “older folks” aren’t what they used to be.
You find boomers on playgrounds, in business meetings, on the town, and on the playing field. They’re feeding bottles to grandbabies and distributing weekly medication to help their parents stay well. Whatever happened to a night of bingo and those variety TV shows? “That’s so yesterday,” says one 65+ boomer on his way to the Center.
How do baby boomers maintain the stamina for this youthful lifestyle?
A Commitment to Fitness
The fastest growing segment of the fitness population consists of individuals over 50 years old. According to a Humana-sponsored survey, 75 percent of 4,500 respondents in the over-50 crowd exercise no less than three times a week. A third of the respondents work out five times a week or more. Approximately half have actively committed to exercise for the past five years. Impressive!
This age segment is considered a “sandwich generation” who juggle children they had older in life and parents who are living longer. Despite the added stress, the situation seems to be a motivating factor. It’s a period of life considered productive and rewarding, filled with opportunities previous generations didn’t have. Baby boomers are ready to seize the joys, along with the tasks. To do that, they recognize the need to pursue a healthy lifestyle.
Many cite improved health as the primary reason for their fitness endeavors. They want to be around not only to see their grandchildren, but to scoop them up into big hugs, play on the floor, and run to the ice cream truck without getting winded. Of course, this is all after a long day at work. Many baby boomers don’t have the pension plans or retirement savings of their parents’ generation. (A side-effect of Woodstock mentality?) This results in working well into later years.
Appearance is also cited as a key factor, specifically the desire for a flatter tummy. The wish to appear younger is a huge priority in a world where older folks are mingling with younger in careers, childcare, and on the social scene. The president of the American Geriatrics Society, Dr. Sharon Brangman, advises, “Instead of focusing on superficial cosmetic things, boomers’ best bet for positive aging is exercise.” Skip the miracle creams, fad diets, and trendy clothes. Lace up your sneaks and get moving.
Turn Back Time
With just 30 to 40 minutes of exercise on most days of the week, you have the power to turn back the clock against age-related issues. Here are several top benefits:
- Lower blood pressure
- Decrease blood sugar levels
- Improve bone density
- Improve strength
- Enhance memory and cognitive functioning
- Decrease risk for depression
- Cut risk in half of mobility limitations due to aging (according to research published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society)
With flashbacks of elementary school gym uniforms and stereotypical athletes, many boomers bring preconceived baggage to the Exercise Floor. Today, fitness is more than weightlifting, jogging, or preparing for sports. It’s recognized as an essential means to a healthy life—regardless of age, gender, athletic ability, or body type.
As a society, we recognize the need for exercise beyond weight control. It’s not just for the overweight and varsity jocks. It’s for those such as the 29.8 percent who reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis (according to 2010 CDC data), who can become more functional through exercise.
GPS along the Fitness Path, Boomer Route
The trend of getting fit in later years is certainly strong. However, many boomers don’t know where to start, especially if they are coming from a sedentary lifestyle. Some are struggling with aches and pains common to aging, as well as the increased risk for health hazards like heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity.
Experts emphasize the importance of connecting with fitness instructors and trainers who can guide older adults into the right exercise program. Unique factors need to be considered with every age group. With that said, much of what previously was blamed on aging—a kink here, a stiff joint there—is now being recognized as misuse of the body.
You don’t have to feel a certain way because of the year on your birth certificate. It’s all how you condition your body and treat yourself. Boomers know it and they’re going for it—with the 50+ crowd flooding the fitness scene.
“No matter what area you look to, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, or osteoporosis, research shows being physically fit into your senior years will keep you healthier and active longer,” attests Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief exercise physiologist at the American Council on Exercise.
Consider reviewing the personal trainer biographies on the Center’s Web site. Many specialize in senior populations and functional training to improve daily activities. For so long, others have relied on older generations for direction. Now, it’s time for them to rely on others.
The desire exists to stay active late in life, and defy traditional aging and age-related stereotypes. What is this generation, which spans almost two decades, doing to stay fit? And, how are they accomplishing their goals? Check back next week for Part 2 of “Booming Baby Boomers.” You’re never too young, or too old, to learn how it’s done.
“Boomers: Sex, Drugs and Rocky Road,” by Madison Park at www.cnn.com.
“Boomers Will Redefine Notions of Age,” by Emanuella Grinberg at www.cnn.com.
“Fitness After 50: They Gym Goes Gray,” by Colette Bouchez at www.webmd.com.
“Over-50 Baby Boomers Serious About Exercise and Health Habits,” by associated content at www.associatedcontent.com.