I've just returned from my health club. My NIA teacher didn't show up (a rare occurrence) so I headed for the weight room where I flipped through magazines and chatted with one of my fellow NIA classmates, while zipping along on the recumbent bike for 20 minutes, scooted through the weight machines, and then headed to the pool for a swim. For some reason, I started noticing that 99% of the people in the room were leading-edge Boomers. Then I began to think about how weight rooms had changed. No more Nordic Track machines. Only one stair-climbing machine and one stationary bike. Now, there are stretching machines, rows of recumbent bikes (great for weak or injured knees), elliptical motion training machines (also good on knees), and big orange and green plastic balls for Pilates and yoga stretches. And of course, many more weight machines. Only one young woman was running on one of the old treadmills.
It turns out my observations are on the money. The research folks at American Sports Data inform me that "older Americans are transforming the landscape of physical fitness." It turns out that the number of people who are 55 belonging to health clubs surged by 33% from 1999-2004 whereas the 18-34 crowd had zero growth in memberships.
". . .the compound measurement of Yoga/Tai Chi has grown by 118% . . . . At 11.2 million participants, Recumbent Cycling, a particularly back-friendly exercise. . . has grown 66%. . . . surpassed only by Fitness Walking and Aquatics." And the conclusion? "Mature exercise enthusiasts are not merely playing havoc with abstract fitness statistics; they are rocking the foundations of fitness facilities across the U.S. "
Interesting facts: Pilates participation has increased 506% during the period of the research report, elliptical training machines, 306%, Yoga, 118%, Nordic ski machines, -40%, aerobic rider exercise, -58%, stair-climbing machines, -29%.
These are great trends to contemplate. Boomers as a group are continuing to value physical exercise and fitness as one important key to a vibrant, active life. And, if we need to find new exercises that put less strain on our joints and backs, then we find them and we continue to stay fit. Boomers may yet succeed at making the concept of wellness and prevention a perfectly natural part of our culture and thinking.