How Health Clubs Can Help Seniors Get Active

Exercise is beneficial for older adults who want to stay healthy as they age, and health clubs provide opportunities to help them meet their fitness goals.

Baby boomers may be nearing retirement age, but they’re not planning to slow down. Unlike previous generations, boomers want to lead healthy, active lifestyles for as long as they can—and health clubs can help them achieve their fitness goals as they age.

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The Physical Effects of Aging

Aging has a number of impacts on the body, including:

  • Bone loss, potentially leading to osteoporosis and increased risk for fractures;
  • Loss of height, as much as up to two inches between ages 40 and 80;
  • Declining joint health, caused when cartilage in joints lose water and making the joint less resistant to normal stress;
  • Decreased muscle mass, as blood flow to muscles decreases, leading to losses in muscle strength, size, and endurance;
  • More frequent digestive issues, including more regular constipation and loss of appetite.

Exercise and Aging

The latest evidence suggests that exercise is beneficial for adults of all ages, and a significant amount of research concludes that exercise can help to prevent, delay and treat many diseases and conditions that affect individuals as they age.

Exercise has been shown to:

  • Help preserve bone mass and strength
  • Strengthen muscles and joints
  • Stimulate appetite
  • Prevent or alleviate symptoms of chronic diseases, like hypertension and diabetes
  • Improve cognition

How Health Clubs Can Engage Seniors

Despite the benefits of exercise, many seniors face barriers to exercising in a health club such as concerns about injury, de-conditioned state, co-existing chronic conditions, feeling intimidated by younger, fitter people at the gym, lack of transportation, or financial challenges due to a fixed income. To help their members and prospective members overcome these challenges, clubs can focus on promoting the welcoming, safe, supportive environment of the club.

A few ideas to encourage more older adults to get active include:

  • Creating workshops that are designed for older members with additional attention
  • Offering lower cost programs at off times of day
  • Planning special events targeted specifically to seniors

Baby boomers may be nearing retirement age, but they’re not planning to slow down. Unlike previous generations, boomers want to lead healthy, active lifestyles for as long as they can—and health clubs can help them achieve their fitness goals as they age.

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Alexandra Black Larcom @ihrsagetactive

Alexandra Black Larcom, MPH, RD, LDN, is the Senior Manager of Health Promotion & Health Policy for IHRSA. She spends her days working on resources and projects that help IHRSA clubs offer effective health programs in their communities, and convincing lawmakers that policies promoting exercise are an excellent idea. Outside the office you'll most likely find Alex at the gym, running on the Charles River, or, in the fall, by a TV cheering on the Florida Gators.