Exercise and physical fitness are important for people of all ages. For seniors however, regular physical fitness is not only essentially for reducing the risk of heart disease but can actually help prevent disability, immobility, and the failure to perform basic activities of daily living such as cooking, cleaning, etc. One of the greatest hardships an elderly person can face is the grim reality that they are losing their independence due to their physical state, even when their mind is sharp. Furthermore, a 2014 study by the Journal of Physical Activity and Health showed that every additional hour a day adults over 60 years old spend sitting-down doubles their risk of being disabled.
So how can boomers and seniors begin to lead a more active and less sedentary lifestyle? At Senior Directory, we believe it all starts with getting into the gym. According to Erin Crane, a trainer at the Jewish Community Center in Denver, Colorado who specializes in both individual senior fitness training sessions and group classes, “The less a senior does in the gym the less they are going to be able to do at home. It’s all about keeping moving! You consequently feel better about yourself, you have more energy, and if you think about what it does for your heart - if you increase your cardiovascular endurance then you can decrease your resting heartrate. The theory behind that is that your heart can last longer and you can live longer.”
For many seniors getting back into the gym after a long hiatus, or even for first timers, can cause gym intimidation. “You may feel like you are not going to fit in, that you are not going to keep up, that you are going to hurt yourself, it’s a valid fear,” Erin explains. “You walk into a gym you and see all the people that look good, all the young people, but what you don’t see is that most are just regular people.”
But how can seniors overcome gym intimidation? “One thing I love about the JCC,” Erin says oozing with excitement, “is that there is such a sense of community for the seniors, which is just as important as the fitness aspect. They start coming into my class and start talking to people and pretty soon I hear they are going out to lunch with other people. That’s the favorite part of my job, when I see people become part of the community.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 26.4 percent of people ages 65-74 live alone, and 39.0 percent at ages 75-84. The combination of living alone compounded by a sedentary lifestyle, is the difference between 9 hours of daily inactivity, for example, versus 8 hours. As stated earlier, that extra hour of sitting-down doubles a senior’s risk of being disabled.
“Most people don’t work out at home alone anyway,” Erin explains, “but for seniors it’s especially important that get out and connect, and they do that by going to exercise classes.”
Interview by Alex Milzer and Peter Gietl with Senior Directory, LLC