Over-70s Use Gyms More Frequently than Younger Age Groups
Further to our post yesterday in which we looked at sarcopenia and discussed the best ways to avoid suffering age related muscle loss, we would like to look in more depth at one possible way of incorporating more exercise into our lives.
While many may associate gyms with the young, Nuffield Health say it’s the over-70s who go to the gym most often. Nuffield’s most frequent gym users are 72-year-olds, who make an average of 8 visits per month, while those aged 70-79 typically visit 7.5 times a month.
In comparison, those in the 25-39 age bracket visit an average of 6 times per month, and those between the ages of 20 and 25 use the gym 6.5 times.
Nuffield Health has 75 gyms across England and Scotland, and the highest number of older gym members can be found in their gyms in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Sheffield and St Albans. In Leicester, 74-year-olds are the most frequent gym users, with an average of 14 visits per month.
Nuffield’s staff say that these figures are encouraging, suggesting that an increasing proportion of the elderly are exercising and are becoming more active about maintaining their health and fitness as they age.
“The sheer number of older gym users in our gyms speaks volumes about the desire of those in the UK to remain fit and healthy,” says Dr Aldric Ratajczak, Nuffield Health’s deputy medical director of well-being. “The fact that our older members are using the facilities more often than any other is hugely encouraging.
“We know that regular exercise reduces the risk of memory decline, muscle loss and heart disease. In fact, exercise is the super pill we’ve been looking for to live happier and healthier through our later decades.”
The same trend is being repeated in the US where the “baby boomers” generation are making up the fastest-growing segment of the fitness population. According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, older adults are hitting gyms and health clubs at a record rate.
What is driving this change?
“I think we could roll up the whole reasoning into just one phrase — Quality of Life— because the feedback we get is that people simply want to be active in their later years, and they now realize that being fit is one of the only ways to do that,” says Dean Witherspoon, president of Health Enhancement Systems, which creates health programmes for corporations and other organisations.
Studies continue to show that we can do something about improving our quality of life in later years. Research published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society found that inactivity doubles the risk of mobility limitations as we age, while moderate activity has the opposite effect. In another study, published in the journal Neurology, doctors found that exercise can slow cognitive decline, meaning our minds can stay sharper for longer.
“No matter what area you look to, be it heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, research shows that being physically fit into your senior years will keep you healthier and active longer,” says Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief exercise physiologist at the American Council on Exercise.
But, a word of caution for those who have not exercised in the past or who have become sedentary in recent years, make sure you follow these guidelines to ensure success:
- Ask questions, particularly if you have a health condition.
- Make sure your trainer or fitness instructor takes a medical history as well as a family history before planning your workout programme.
- Tell your instructors about any health conditions (e.g. asthma or heart disease) or risk factors (e.g. if you smoke or have joint problems) and let them know about all medications you are taking. Some can cause fatigue, muscle aches or other issues that can be confused with workout issues.
- Be clear about your fitness goals and convey them to your instructor. Do you want to lose weight, get more energy, relieve pain, build up your muscle mass or strengthen your joints?
- Don’t try to compete with younger members or with the memory of your former self! Set yourself new, age adjusted goals and compete with yourself only in the here and now.
- Inform your doctor of your fitness plans and discuss any concerns before starting an exercise programme. If you experience any significant discomfort while working out, check in with your doctor again.
- Listen to your body! While it’s OK to push hard and long when you are young, consistency is a better goal after 50.
In conclusion, the benefits of physical activity are so compelling that it could be argued that a bigger threat to our health and quality of life is not exercising!