It’s time to (carefully) jump on the senior fitness bandwagon
“My exercise routine consists of doing diddly squats.”
“I just burned 1,200 calories. I forgot the pizza in the oven.”
If you’re a senior citizen and these quotes describe your attitude concerning physical fitness, then maybe it’s time to change and be more like me. My attitude about aging and exercise is very upbeat — I believe that 70 is the new 69.
In some ways, getting old was easier in my parents’ time. Senior citizens in the previous generation weren’t constantly being pushed to “stay in shape.” If publications 50 years ago contained articles at all about senior activities, they typically covered topics like ‘Five ways to prepare rhubarb’ or ‘Crocheting is good for you.’
Today, a guy can’t even take a relaxing trip during his retirement without coming across magazine articles like “Senior workouts in motel exercise rooms.” Heck, I get a workout just trying to figure out how to work the waffle maker in the motel breakfast nook.
It’s like, instead of facing peer pressure as seniors to get better at checkers, we feel compelled to do more pushups than our fellow golden agers.
Today the push for my age group to get in shape or stay in shape is intense. Fitness advice is coming at us from all directions. As one recent ad expressed it, “Being over 50 isn’t about slowing down, it’s about revving up for your next phase in life.” Sooo, how “over 50” are we talking about?
One physician introduces the topic of senior fitness by asking his older patients, “Does anything keep you from your normal activities?” To which I would respond that nothing keeps me from my normal activities, it’s the abnormal activities that I’m struggling with nowadays.
The push for senior fitness is so ubiquitous that there are now fitness clubs around the country exclusively for adults fifty-five and over. With an estimated 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day, the demand for such clubs is growing.
As one fitness expert observed, “The gym can be an intimidating place for seniors.” Senior health clubs provide a whole host of modifications, even offering personalized training plans.
Senior fitness gyms have trainers and instructors specifically trained to work with seniors which I guess means that the instructors speak real loud. Another perk at senior clubs is that Instead of doing squat-thrusts to hip-hop songs like ‘Butt Naked Nasty’ by Da Pretty Boyz, seniors can groove on the stationary bike to Perry Como’s ‘Hot Diggity’.
One offering that is unique to such clubs is a computer simulated driving skills machine for seniors. Sounds like it could be fun, though I’m afraid that my wife and I would still find lots of things to point out that the other person is doing wrong.
One factor in the big push for senior physical fitness is that insurance companies appear to have finally wised up to the fact that it’s cheaper for them to help customers stay healthy than it is to help them recover from the effects of an unhealthy lifestyle.
My wife and I recently joined a regular local health club using our insurance provider’s discount program which is a real bargain. I admit that I had some serious qualms about joining since my idea of heavy lifting is whether to tackle an entire apple fritter with my morning coffee or just half.
Plus, I suffer from gymphobia as a result of four years of high school PE classes when I was a kid; an experience from which I only have a few memories, none of which are good. Things like getting beaned in dodge ball, getting snapped with wet towels in the locker room, and getting whacked on the butt with a yardstick by the PE instructor for screwing around — more like physical abuse than physical education.
But I have to say that my initial impression of the new gym we have joined is quite positive. So far everyone at the gym has been nice. However, I suspect that could be because when people there see me the first time they are thinking, “Oh well, at least he probably won’t be around for very long.”
It soon dawned on me that if you want to fit in with the young crowd at the gym these days you need to carry around three items while there: a phone that you constantly check, a water bottle to take a sip from every few seconds, and a small towel to wipe off perspiration.
I must confess that, up to now, I have only used my small towel for a napkin while sitting at the gym’s snack bar slurping a chocolate powerhouse smoothie.
Walking through the free-weights area does make me a bit nervous. Every time someone drops 300 lbs. on the floor with a loud “Boom!” I jump — or maybe it’s just that I’m bouncing off the floor a few inches.
The only equipment I have used during my first few club visits is the treadmill. Running inside is nice on cold, wet days, but I find the treadmill a bit scary when it gets going too fast.
My plan is if I lose my balance and fly off the machine, I’ll just calmly get up off the floor, wipe my face with my little towel, take a sip from my water bottle, check my phone, and act like it’s all part of my personalized senior workout.
Mike Murphy of Pocatello is an award-winning columnist whose articles are syndicated by Senior Wire. He recently published a book titled “Tortoise Crossing – Expect Long Delays,” which is a collection of 100 of his favorite columns. It is available on Amazon.com.