Aging adults active alongside younger counterparts

There are 70 million baby boomers in America and many of them are using physical activity to combat chronic pain, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol. Exercise is being used more commonly as a significant disease solution.

Kirk Emry, owner of Boulder-based Kirk Emry Fitness, caters to people in their 50s to early 70s. A personal fitness, sport and strength trainer in Boulder, he focuses on flexibility, balance, cardiovascular and strength training in older adults.

A boomer himself, Emry has lived an active lifestyle for many years. He understands the challenges of an aging body.

“We have issues as we age,” he said. “We don’t stay in balance as much as we’d like.”

Boomers commonly face hip and knee replacements as well, Emry said. Upper body strength weakens. That doesn’t mean, though, that this demographic is just sitting on the couch.

“Boulder boomers are very active,” Emry said. “There’s a large market for fitness training opportunities here.”

In addition to structured gym workouts, baby boomers in Boulder do a lot of hiking and skiing. Emry helps people prepare for those activities.

Boomers want to get fit for many reasons – mostly to maintain optimum health as they age. One woman, though, had an unusual motive for seeking Emry’s fitness coaching: She wanted to get in shape to meet her high school sweetheart, whom she hadn’t seen in 50 years.

Developing a consistent fitness regimen during aging that targets the cardiovascular system and muscle endurance helps in preventing osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease, Emry said.

Kate Wrightson, a certified yoga instructor in Fort Collins, and owner of Live Beyond Limit, LLC, offers specialized yoga programs for older adults. Wrightson suffered a debilitating spine injury and found yoga to be an effective treatment for the physical pain.

About half of her clients are baby boomers dealing with chronic pain, inflammation and limited range of motion.

“We use yoga to help minimize the pain first,” Wrightson said. “Chronic pain can be crippling mentally and physically and emotionally.”

Other benefits of practicing yoga while aging include increased mobility and balance control. Wrightson said many of her clients are more flexible and moving around better than when they were younger.

“Some boomers are very active and do yoga as a cross training exercise for activities like bicycling,” Wrightson said, “or just to maintain wellness.”

Wrightson’s goal is to always enhance mobility and functionality – working the shoulder muscles so that aging boomers can pick up their grandkids, for example.

Yoga for aging adults includes gentle stretching with weights and the use of props for resistance. Breathing techniques are useful as well.

“The nervous system resets itself to relieve some of the consequences from physical trauma,” Wrightson said. “We target those protection mechanisms that developed from the initial injury to allow fluid to flow more naturally around the compromised area, like a knee or hip joint.”

Wrightson finds that many older adults who practice yoga over time can start using stairs again or get back on a mountain bike.

“Yoga can help aging adults avoid surgeries and invasive western medicine, too,” she said.

Kris Laine, Miramont Lifestyle Fitness Group fitness manager, said this demographic is a lot more active than people think.

Based in Fort Collins, Miramont offers the Silver Sneakers program for adults 60 years and older. It’s covered by most insurance plans as a preventive health initiative. Laine said older adults can be found participating in the regularly scheduled classes as well – spinning, weight training or step, for example.

She teaches a weightlifting class called Group Power.

“At least 10 percent of my participants are in their 50s and 60s,” Laine said. “ It’s amazing how fit that demographic is. These people run races. It’s awesome.”

Laine says there are many reasons why boomers can be found in the gym.

“The kids are off at college,” she says. “They are empty nesters. They have the time. They have friends that come here. Or maybe the doctor told them they need to lose 15 pounds.”

Colorado is the fittest stat in the nation, Laine said, adding that it’s no surprise that older adults can be found in the gym.


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