While regular exercise should be an integral part of everyone’s daily life, it’s particularly important as we age. According to the National Institutes of Heath (NIH) National Institute on Aging, staying fit and active can help you:
- Maintain and improve strength
- Give you more energy to accomplish the things you want to do
- Help your balance
- Help to prevent or delay diseases including diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart disease
- Improve your mood and reduce the chance of depression
Experts say there are four key areas of physical activity to focus on: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. Research suggests that if you can manage to stay fit in these four areas you’ll lead a longer, healthier life. Endurance, or aerobic or cardio activities like walking, biking, or swimming boost your heart rate and help improve your heart, lungs, and circulation. These activities can make it easier for you to work in the garden, rake leaves and sweep, or play a sport like tennis.
Working out with weights and resistance bands and doing squats and lunges can assist you in climbing stairs, lifting, or carrying groceries. Balance is key in preventing falls and can help you go up and down stairs and walk or hike on uneven sidewalks or trails. Finally, maintaining flexibility will keep your body limber with a better range of motion so you can do everyday tasks with ease, like reaching for something on a high shelf.
So, other than walking, which is a great aerobic activity that anyone can do, what are some other workouts for baby boomers that won’t strain joints and ligaments?
According to a survey by American Sports Data, taking yoga or mat Pilates classes is becoming more and more popular among women over 50. Both of these workouts build your strength and flexibility, are weight-bearing exercises that help keep bones strong and can be found at almost any gym in the City. For cardio workouts, elliptical trainers and recumbent stationary bikes are favorites because they get your heart pumping and provide a good cardio workout without jarring the joints or the lower back the way jogging can.
At the Presidio YMCA, the group exercise schedule boasts an entire section of classes under the heading “On the Lighter Side” geared toward those over 50. This includes a total-body conditioning class; a “lite” circuit training class that combines resistance and cardio training that focuses on balance, coordination, and functional fitness; and a chair-based stretch class for less mobile members. The Y also offers personal training for all ages, and their skilled staff works with individuals to craft custom workouts to increase or maintain muscle mass while burning calories.
The San Francisco Jewish Community Center (SFJCC) also has a range of group exercise classes geared toward older adults, including gentle yoga, aqua fit, t’ai chi, and water running. The SFJCC has onsite personal trainers who specialize in meeting the needs of older members.
If the gym isn’t your thing, and you’ve got a hankering to exercise to the music of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and good old-fashioned Motown, give Marcie Judelson’s Boomercize class a try.
Judelson didn’t like the gym and wanted something to motivate her to exercise. With a background in dance-everything from ballet, ballroom and tap, she decided to create a class that incorporated some of the dance moves she learned as a child, like the pony and the twist, along with music from the same era. “As I got older,” says Judelson, “I hated the loud pop music they played for the cardio classes at the gym. And I never thought the movements were dance-oriented enough.”
So she put together her own hour-long class, designed to provide a thorough cardio workout for people over 50 that was fun and where nobody felt self-conscious or couldn’t pick up the steps. Judelson is celebrating her eighth anniversary teaching Boomerize every Saturday morning, now in a brand-new studio in the Presidio Performing Arts Center in the Main Post. The studio is well lit with windows and plenty of free parking, and Boomercize draws a crowd of regulars, but plenty of newbies as well.
For folks to enjoy exercise and do it on a regular basis, she says, “it has to become a habit. I show a couple of the steps, and then I keep an up-tempo beat going for 50 minutes of nonstop dancing; you definitely break a sweat and get your heart rate up.” Judelson stresses that you need not have studied dance, nor do you have to be older than 50 to take a class. “I get people of all ages,” she says. “One woman brings her daughter, and sometimes she dances, and we get a few men, too.”
Whether it’s in a dance studio, a pool, or gym, fit in some time for fitness into your busy life. It’s never too late to start exercising.
Presidio Community YMCA: 63 Funston Avenue (at Lincoln), 415-447-9622, www.ymcasf.org
San Francisco Jewish Community Center: 3200 California Street (at Presidio), 415-292-1200, www.jccsf.org
Boomercize: Presidio Performing Arts Center, 386 Arguello Boulevard (at Moraga), 415-608-4503, www.boomercize.com