You’d think that the aches and pains of aging would slow down people as they age, but that’s not the case It turns out that the fitness industry’s main customers are 55 and older! And there are interesting differences between the generations on what types of fitness activities they like to do.
Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) produced the 2010 "Tracking the Fitness Movement," which reported that the number of people in the United States who are 55 and older and who joined health clubs increased by more than 500% from 1987-2007. Compare that to the number of health club members who were between the ages of 18-34, which increased by 52 percent during that same time period. And interestingly, 25 percent of all health club members in 2009 were 55 years old.
The study identified the top activities as stationary cycling, stretching and walking; these activities were also ones that were identified as a core part of the participants’ exercise routine. Furthermore, more than 50 percent of the 8.7 million people who exercises in the pool were 45 years old and above.
And the association’s Sports and Fitness Participation Report indicates that more Baby Boomers (those born between 1946-1962) are exercising than those in the Generation X generation (born between 1963-1972). "When it comes to sports and fitness participation, they like activities which are more controlled than aggressive," SGMA’s website said. "Boomers also enjoy their sports and athletic activities on their own time frame plus they enjoy getting together with friends. Led by a double-digit increase in slow-pitch softball, participation in team or group inspired activities is up in the low double digits, while activities like strength training, walking on the treadmill, and the elliptical motion trainer are up a mere 3.3%."
Meanwhile, those in Generation X have decreasing participation in many areas. For instance, their interest in participating in team sports (other than softball and flag/touch football) has decreased, as has their participation in individual fitness activities and sports. This group tends to select activities that are done when convenient.
The researchers suggest that this difference in exercise levels between Baby Boomers and Generation-X members is due to stage of life. "Baby Boomers are watching their children graduate from college and start families of their own while the Gen-Xers are driving their children to soccer and baseball practice," said Brandon Mason, research analyst for SGMA Research. "It is just a matter of where you are in the various stages of your life. The Boomers have a little bit more time on their hands. The Gen-X generation is busy with career and family and that takes up most of their time. Something has to suffer."
It’s not surprising that exercise is really important as we age. Becoming and staying active helps with balance, strength and endurance. Furthermore, exercise can help people stave off diseases that often emerge as we age. The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging recommends that as we age, we should try to incorporate four types of exercise:
- Endurance training, which involves at least 30 minutes of activity in which you breathe hard. You should try to do this exercise as many days as possible during the week. You also can break down this type of exercise into 10-minute intervals.
- Strength training, which builds muscles and helps you keep from falling.
- Balance exercises, which can be as simple as standing on one foot and then the other without holding onto anything for support.
- Flexibility exercises, which can help you remain able move more freely.
Exercise really is part of the proverbial fountain of youth, so be sure to make it part of your daily schedule. Your body will thank you!
Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter at @dorianmartin, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.