Exercise keeps older adults fit in more ways than one.
Each week, a group of seniors on skis gather at the top of Mount Timpanogos. After hugs and handshakes are exchanged, one member of the group clips on his helmet, pushes off and woo-hoos his way to the bottom. The rest follow in rapid succession, sometimes blowing past their much-younger compatriots on the mountain powder.
“It helps to keep us fit—mentally, physically and spiritually. Fresh air, sunshine, and sharing this with friends is a lifetime activity,” says Jerry Warren, Snowsports Director at Sundance Mountain Resort. Each year, more than 150 seniors participate in the resort’s Senior Ski Program, which offers steep discounts and weekly social gatherings on the slopes for the 60-and-better crowd.
The Sundance Senior Ski Program is one of many opportunities for today’s older adults to flex their muscles. For the Baby Boomer generation, rocking chairs have been replaced by road bikes and cross-stitch for CrossFit.
“Exercise is a magic pill,” says Liza MacDonald, health educator for Salt Lake County’s Active Aging Program. “Staying active, or even beginning activity later in life, can have so many benefits, from lowering blood pressure to improving arthritis.”
While almost any exercise space can be used at any age, some prefer gyms and classes specifically designed for older adults. The University of Utah’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offers weekly fitness classes to fit every interest, from indoor rock climbing to flamenco dance. The SilverSneakers website lists more than 100 cardio, strength and stability classes statewide for active adults. Most county-operated senior centers in Utah have dedicated fitness spaces, where clients like 73-year-old Mary Alice Weber can be found pumping iron almost every day.
“I started working out at the Riverton Senior Center about seven years ago, and found the exercises have kept me stronger and with much greater balance,” says Weber. “I have faithfully followed the program and feel it has contributed to good health.”
Not too old for the fast lane: Since 1987, the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George have attracted up to 11,000 aging athletes from 34 countries.
“There is no reason a generally healthy older adult cannot be active and meet the requirements of 30 minutes, 5 days a week,” says Liza MacDonald. Her tips:
1. Sidestep arthritis pain with low-impact activities, such as biking, swimming and water aerobics.
2. If bone density is a concern, running and jumping should be limited; to replicate the intensity of those activities, try walking on a steep incline or climbing stairs.
3. Try something new! Take to the pickleball court, snowshoe in the moonlight, or try a yoga class.
4. Fuel your fire by entering a competition like the Huntsman World Senior Games, an annual 50-plus sports competition in St. George with more than 30 team and individual events.
written by: Susan Lacke