Top exercises for boomers

January is upon us, and with it comes the typical resolutions of getting in shape and staying active.

However, the baby boomer generation was the least active in 2015, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s 2016 Topline Report.

According to the report, 34 percent of boomers reported no participation in physical activity that year, and only 37 percent were involved in high-calorie-burning exercises.

For older adults, the American College of Sports Medicine advises:

  • Moderately intense aerobic exercise for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, or
  • Vigorously intense aerobic exercise for 20 minutes a day, three days a week, and
  • Eight to 10 strength-training exercises with 10-15 repetitions of each exercise two to three times per week

The good news is that, while the highest rates of inactivity remain among those ages 65 and over, this percentage has decreased by 0.8 percent since 2014.

Among those that enjoy fitness activities, 60 percent of boomers are more likely to participate in fitness sports, such as aerobics and yoga, followed by outdoor sports (38.6 percent) and individual sports, such as golf (24.1 percent).

Make 2017 a healthy and vibrant year and get moving by trying one of the top 10 growing activities for baby boomers:


1. Birdwatching/Wildlife Viewing

The Nature Conservancy’s advice for beginners? Buy a pair of binoculars and a bird guide.

Make sure to read through the book before you go, but instead of trying to memorize all of the bird species, try to learn about the bird families, such as swallows, herons, and warblers.

Visit your local nature center’s website to learn about bird walks near you.


2. Swimming

Known for its gentleness on the joints and muscles, swimming is a low-impact activity that gives all of the benefits of a cardio workout without the sweat.

If you’re new to swimming, WebMD suggests starting slowly with five to 10 minutes of laps and working your way up to at least a 30-minute workout.

If you don’t have access to a pool at home, there is likely a community pool, gym, or YMCA/YWCA in your area that offers access to a pool, as well as lessons if you don’t know how to swim or need a refresher.


3. Working Out with Machines

It’s never too late to start building muscle and regaining strength, and according to AARP, experts say most muscle loss comes from not using your muscles enough as you age, rather than aging itself.

The American Council on Exercise suggests weight machines over free weights, as they are “generally safer and easier to use” and are less likely to throw the user off balance.

Not sure where to start? Head over to the elliptical machines or the stationary bikes—these are very low-impact machines that provide an excellent cardio workout.


4. Fishing

If you ask fishermen why they love nothing more than to spend the day on the water with a pole and tackle box, they’ll likely tell you that it is a great stress reliever.

Working a boat (whether you’re using a motor or paddling) and continuously casting a line both involve a lot of movement. Factor in fighting waves and keeping your posture upright, and you have an activity that not only benefits your brain, but your body as well.


5. Hiking

When overnight camping has lost its allure, you can still explore the outdoors by hitting up your local trails for a day hike. Perfect to tie in with birdwatching, hikes can vary from leisurely walks around a lake to more challenging treks up a mountain.

Studies have also shown that a brisk walk can boost the heart and help prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease.


6. Bicycling

The next time you need to run an errand close to home, opt for getting on your bicycle instead of starting the car. Bicycling is a very low-impact activity, is ideal if you suffer from knee injuries, and helps build stronger muscles in this area to help with any discomfort or pain.


7. Fitness Classes

Take a leap and sign up for that Zumba class! From barre and yoga to boxing and Pilates, there are plenty of classes to choose from at your local fitness center that will get you up and moving with a group.

Fitness classes help build a foundation for future workouts, keep you motivated, and provide a structure with warm-ups, a workout, and cool-downs.


8. Working Out with Weights

Studies have shown that seniors who strength train regularly not only build up bone and muscle mass, but are also able to counteract weakness and frailty that can often come with aging.

Weight training can also help with myriad issues, including arthritis, osteoporosis, balance, pulmonary disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and back problems.

Many gyms offer a complimentary introductory personal training session where you can work with a trainer to develop a weight routine that fits your fitness level.


9. Camping

Whether you take an RV or prefer pitching a tent in the woods, take advantage of the cooler temperatures with a camping trip.

With plenty of opportunities for hiking and fishing, camping gives active seniors a chance to break away from everyday life, appreciate nature, and get outside. Spend a weekend at your local national forest or consider taking a road trip to explore new backcountry.


10. Canoeing

A great activity to combine with fishing, canoeing wraps up the list of the top 10 most popular fitness activities for the baby boomer generation.

Paddling is a sport that involves the entire body but is still possible even for those who have disabilities such as back pain, arthritis, or a limited loss of function.

Before heading out and buying a canoe or kayak, the American Canoe Association suggests taking a class first or joining a paddling club.

With increased skill and knowledge comes the ability to appreciate the differences in each model you test out once it’s time to buy. Many shops, local parks, and liveries will also rent you a model to paddle around with for a few hours.


Tom Cove is CEO and president of the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, an organization that seeks to promote sports and fitness participation as well as industry vitality.

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