It has been well established that the best way to lower our health care costs is through prevention. Research has proven that exercise plays a major role in preventive medicine.
Even though most individuals know this and many other benefits from exercise, the National Recreation and Park Associahon (NRPA) reports that less than ten percent of the general population exercises three or more times a week at the level necessary to improve cardiovascular fitness. Unfortunately, those over the age of 50 are even less likely to exercise.
With this in mind, the NRPA established the Leisure and Aging Section (LAS) to assist professionals who provide recreation, health and fitness opportunities to mature adults.
Park and Recreation Departments provide a wide variety of fitness opportunities. Programs, exercise classes, activities, and facilities vary from one department to another, but many of the popular activities are available in most of the 4800 agencies nationwide.
Dance classes are very popular. Depending upon your local recreation department, you may find ballroom, tap, folk, jazz, clogging, line, hula, electric slide, belly dance, or several other dance types to fit your interest.
Water exercise classes are always well attended. The popularity of aquabelts has made exercising in deep water popular. Water aerobics and swimming, two old favorites, are available through most park and recreation departments.
Tai Chi builds physical strength and balance without impact or jarring. For these reasons, its popularity is growing and it is becoming available in more locations. Developed in China, Tai Chi is a series of postures and exercises characterized by slow, relaxed, circular movements.
Outdoor activities are popular in many areas. There are walking and bicycling groups available for all fitness and speed levels. Downhill and cross-country skiing, hiking, canoeing, and climbing are available through many recreation and park departments.
Resistance training and weight lifting facilities are widely available. Recent research has shown that the benefits of strength training range from weight control to a greater likelihood of remaining independent. You can start at any age and show improvement in strength.
Park and recreation departments can accommodate all levels of fitness, interest, and conditioning goals. Several individuals reported to TrainBodyandMind.com that a major benefit is the social contacts. For many, being part of a group makes it easier to develop the exercise habit.
We found mature adults of all age ranges participating in fitness activities – the oldest was a 98-year-old gentleman. The programs are open to residents, with many activities being free, although some have a minimal charge to cover the cost of the instruction.