Exercise for the over 50s
When I started up a small chain of ladies-only circuit training gyms in Norway in 2004, I had to admit that my primary motivation was to get my own self into shape. As an “Over 50,” I know first-hand how difficult it can be to make time for an exercise regimen – and stick with it. This Girl Can reported recently on exercise inequality for women, and this appears to be even more pronounced for women of middle age. Many of us suffer from joint pain or low energy. We may feel uncomfortable about our expanding waistlines and dread working out in traditional gyms, surrounded by muscle-bound men and perky women who look like they were born to wear spandex. This may be why women like me prefer attending exercise-to-music classes, which are more social and accessible to beginners. In fact, EMD UK’s 2018 National Fitness Survey also showed that the over-45 market was by far the fastest growing age group for group exercise, with an additional 1.1 million weekly participants between 2016 and 2018.
A Formula for Results
The formula to a great class for older women? A friendly atmosphere, an inspiring workout and motivating results. A great instructor knows how to make their clients feel welcome and creates a sense of camaraderie. Equipment that appeals to their sense of aesthetics and fun is also an absolute must. Although my gym members loved my staff, the real spark began when I introduced an exciting new piece of equipment to the circuit – namely, a weighted fitness hoop with bright colours and an appealing design. The shape and weight lent itself to a surprisingly wide range of moves, and was easy to incorporate into a standard class format. At first, it seemed that baby boomers liked the hoop for nostalgic reasons – exercise that was play! Even beginners lit up when they found they could set the hoop in motion – it seemed impossible for them to pick up their hoops without smiling. However, we soon began to notice some unexpected gains in core strength and stability. I lost two inches from my waist by hooping for just a few minutes per day. Now, that’s what I call motivation.
Fitness for a growing demographic
People ask me why I love my job so much. The answer is simple: Exercise changes women’s lives. Exercise-to-music classes that are fun and easy master are a gateway for women who don’t move their bodies – which can literally be a lifesaver to over-50s like me. Many of our customers who struggled with back pain or obesity report that they have gained health and vigour, and that the strength and stamina they achieved through our beginner classes enabled them to take on additional challenges. Those who struggle with low self-esteem tell us they have blossomed and gained confidence.
One of our devoted class members, aged 69, recently told me that her granddaughter called Powerhoop “an old-lady class.” I could refute that by citing the number of men and teens who attend, but the fact is that Powerhoop primarily attracts and caters to underserved members of our society – and I’m proud to say it does it well. Older women are often the pillars of support for their families and communities, but don’t devote enough time to their own well-being. I am so inspired by the role we play in turning them on to the joys of exercise, and the vitality that it brings to their daily lives. I love watching 25 women walk onto the the training floor with hoops in hand, laughing and greeting each other like old friends, letting go of their inhibitions and just having fun. The feedback from our instructors, many of whom have been teaching Powerhoop for several years, is unanimous: A 45 minute Powerhoop class leaves people healthy, happy, sweaty and ready for more.