An abundance of research points to the tremendous value of exercise for people of all ages and abilities. Unfortunately, today’s gyms can be intimidating places — particularly for older adults who are looking for something simpler than a “scene.” With 10,000 people turning 65 every day for the next two decades or so, it makes smart sense that a new breed of fitness center has emerged aimed at attracting the business of the senior set.
Let’s take a closer look at the age-friendly fitness phenomenon, along with how to find a facility or program near you.
What is a Senior Gym?
What makes a senior-only fitness facility different than one for the general public? For starters, they feature equipment suitable for older adults. This can mean everything from low-impact cardio machines to air-powered resistance training.
Programming is also designed with older adults in mind, and may include a variety of senior-friendly classes, such as balance training and even classes which can be taken sitting down.
Instructors and trainers, too, may have expertise in working with this particular demographic. In fact, many staff members at senior gyms may be seniors themselves. According to ACE director of credentialing Todd Galati, “People in their early 60’s are becoming personal trainers and group fitness instructors.” He continues, “Every year I talk to newly certified personal trainers, retired from their career in another field, who want to help people their age become more fit.”
Not only does this specialized training and background give them unique knowledge and insight into senior fitness, but their enthusiasm, support, and understanding can be uniquely motivating to people within their same age group.
But the allures of senior-only fitness centers may go beyond the exercise itself. From the freedom to work out in the company of peers to background music geared for their generation, many older adults find the atmosphere of senior gyms to be both more manageable and comfortable — factors which can keep them coming back for more.
According to Nifty after Fifty founder Dr. Sheldon S. Zinberg, the movement is of paramount importance to senior health and wellness. “There is a big bad myth about the boomer generation being more fit,” he says. “In fact, the boomer generation is less fit than their parents were at same age.”
With more than 30 locations — and more on the way — Nifty after Fifty and others like it seek to prevent and reverse this trend through comprehensive programming targeting muscle strength, reaction time, balance and even cognitive skills.
Putting Senior Fitness First
While the senior-only gym trend is coming on strong, it may not yet be in a town near you. But this doesn’t mean you’re without options when it comes to taking control of your fitness after 50, thanks to a joint effort of AARP and the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA).
The two organizations have joined forces to help older adults find age-friendly exercise facilities in their area through a searchable database. While these may not be dedicated senior-only gyms, they are fitness, community and recreation centers featuring age-appropriate equipment and programs for seniors.
Says AARP senior vice president of health strategies Cheryl Matheis, “Many older adults want to find community programs or facilities that can help them be more active, but they don’t know how to find them. By teaming up with ICAA to promote a locator tool, AARP hopes to reduce a potential barrier to exercise.”
So whether you’re looking to find a Silver Sneakers chapter, AARP Walking program, or other age-friendly fitness programming near you, it’s right at your fingertips. The best part? It’s never too late! Any time is a great time to start taking control of your health and wellness. For more great senior-centric content on everything from senior discounts to legal and financial help for seniors, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.