Why The Boom in Baby Boomers Working Out?

BlogHer Original Post

Baby boomers are commonly defined as those born between 1946 and 1964 or those between their early 40's and early 60's in age. Do you belong to a gym? Can you toss a wet towel without hitting a boomer when you are there?

When did the boomer generation become gym rats? What turned us on to working out and lured us into the gym? Was it the Jane Fonda workout? Was it Susan Powter (Who, by the way, is back and is a BlogHer!) stopping the insanity? Was it Suzanne Sommers working the Thighmaster? The invention of flattering workout wear? Perhaps Title IX helped change things for boomers as well as the younger women who followed? Certainly all of these examples and others helped create a recognition that the gym is not just for muscle-bound, body building men.

In addition to examples leading the way I think there are some other key realizations. One is that in many ways we don't want to grow up and act our age. In other words, people of all ages are increasingly liberated from previous expectations of the proper ways to behave at different life stages. Another realization is that we are living longer. The possibility of spending years at the late stages of life feeling poorer than necessary can possibly be reduced by taking care of ourselves now.

I'm sure there are a myriad of reasons why. And, behold, I've joined the club.

Maria doing a plank on a bosu ball

When I was younger, I did gymnastics and figure skating and worked out up to two or three hours a day. Now my days are composed of sitting at a computer for about 12 hours every day. When I don't move my body increasingly screams at me - "get off your butt and do something!" Yes, body! And, I have exercised off and on over the past several years (Pilates, Curves) but in the last six months my body has begged me to commit to something challenging on a regular basis. I did some research and found a local gym that is a little bit different (check out those pictures). Working out there is a bit like playing on the playground. We play with balls and jump rope and pretend we're rowing a boat and play on the monkey bars. It is fun and extraordinarily challenging. I usually finish a half-hour session with a trainer feeling like I will burst into tears and puke. And I love it!

Who else is working out?

E.A. Adams is exercising through dancing:

For my own dancing and exercise story (in my younger days - remember I'm a baby boomer), I learned to clog and then taught clogging for a couple of years. ... Anyway, I got hooked on clogging and danced probably for 5 years, losing a good 20 pounds without even thinking about it in the first few months of dancing. AND there were cloggers in our group who were still clogging in their 70's

Ann Fry, the "head boomer" (she was born 1/1/1946) is working out:

Two nights ago, I declared in front of several other people that I would really take charge of my health and fitness. I further reiterated that I meant, I will eat healthier foods AND work out.
Well, yesterday, I worked out, with a friend.

Why are boomers working out? Check out all these benefits for baby boomers (and everyone else, really).

Or as Lina Ko at boomerwatch.ca notes:

Ageing baby boomers are realizing that time is ticking and they can no longer just talk about getting fit and healthy. They have to walk, run, dance, practise yoga or whatever the talk is. According to fitness guru Marjorie O’Connor, boomers are not satisfied with activities that simply make them sweat. They want to have the three Fs - Fun, Functional exercise that allows them to keep on truckin’ and Freedom from the diet cycle.

Once you're motivated take a look at boomer fitness trends like:

1. Out of the Box Workouts -- Gyms are not for all. The popularity of TV shows like, ABC's Dancing with Stars has dance studios popping up all around the country. Hip hop, ballroom, Latin and country line dancing combine high energy and motivating music with unique moves and combinations that allow participants to get fit while dancing away their worries. Outdoor boot camps are gaining in popularity and local boxing clubs have crowded rings and classes filled with people of all ages. For some, these fun, recreational activities hide the fact that they really are exercising.

So if you haven't already joined the boomer fitness craze, how can you get started?

Our very own Debra Roby took advantage of a promotion with 24-hour fitness and TV show The Biggest Loser and joined a gym and started working out with a trainer.

Find a boot camp. The gym I'm working out in has a boot camp that appeals to me because it isn't focused on turning you into a paramilitary mercenary but, hey, if that motivates you go for it, Ramba!

If you have Comcast On Demand you can find a wide variety of workout routines available to you 24 hours a day.

Get a dog, preferably a big dog that needs lots of exercise. But high energy small dogs can help, too. Yesterday my 13-year old Chihuahua broke into a run, uphill. I was winded after a block.

Walk at home.  Leslie Sansone has a popular programs with a myriad of DVDs you can walk along to at different levels and distances.  Check out a one mile walk on her website.

Dance!  In the privacy of your home just let loose or take lessons in belly, ballroom, salsa, swing or hip-hop.  I know boomer women who do each of these and love how dance makes them feel.

Whatever you do, do it safely. The mania boomers have for sports and fitness means that "sports injuries have become the No. 2 reason for visits to a doctor's office nationwide, behind the common cold."

According to The New York Times:

"Boomers are the first generation that grew up exercising, and the first that expects, indeed demands, that they be able to exercise into their 70's," said Dr. Nicholas A. DiNubile, a Philadelphia-area orthopedic surgeon, who coined and trademarked the term boomeritis.

"But evolution doesn't work that quick. Physically, you can't necessarily do at 50 what you did at 25. We've worn out the warranty on some body parts. That's why so many boomers are breaking down. It ought to be called Generation Ouch."

It is important to "find the right balance, and use common sense about matching your activities to your body's changing capabilities as you mature."

And, as this ABC News piece points out:

"Things start happening around the 40th birthday," DiNubile said. "Things you were [once] able to do when you were 20 or 30, now your body is different and you have to change you mindset."

If you click through the previous two links you'll find some tips and resources for exercising smart as your body ages.

Women, in particular, need to pay attention to our knees. Because of the way women are built we injure our knees at a rate many times higher than do men.

Read:

ACL Injury Prevention Training Program
Knee Pain Exercises Especially for Women
"Knee Pain" from The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Women

And finally, a recent article in The New York Times titled "Preserving a Fundamental Sense: Balance" covers another very important aspect of fitness as we age which is often overlooked.

“Remember, balance is a motor skill,” Dr. Moffat, professor of physical therapy at New York University, said in an interview. “To enhance it, you have to train your balance in the same way you would have to train your muscles for strength and your heart for aerobic capacity.”

The article describes how you can test your relative balance strength and contains some relatively simple exercises you can do to work on improving your balance.

Are you a baby boomer who works out? Please share your story with us in the comments below!

More embarrassing photos of Maria working out can be found at Beyond Help

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