Getting Fit In 2022 With Even More Exercise Options

Cover of 55 Plus, a Cape Gazette publication. Rehoboth Beach Yoga instructor Terry Gardner leads two students, Karen Ferguson and Ginny Daly, in mediation. DAN COOK / CAPE GAZETTE PHOTO

What works for me

Last week I blogged about the fun I have staying in shape thanks to Fit Body Boot Camp at Five Points Plaza. I described why its 30-minute workout, featuring a mix of cardio and strength training done to music, works so well for me.

Find something enjoyable and rewarding

But what if you’re looking for something different? If you’re 50 or older that might be a gentler way to ease into a fitness routine, especially if you’ve sat behind a desk for years. Or you might be dealing with disappointment after past attempts to get into shape that stopped because of boredom, or because you were intimidated by all of those perfectly muscled 30-somethings in a mega-gym.

Either way, I think the first step to getting into shape is finding the exercise routine that’s both enjoyable and rewarding. And fortunately there are lots of options in our communities along the coast, many of which were recently profiled in a fitness feature for the winter issue of Delaware Beach Life magazine, and in the Cape Gazette’s 2021 55 Plus Guide.

Consider a personal trainer

If it’s been a while since you went to a gym you might be surprised at the large number of people who work out with guidance from a pro. Some are probably highly athletic people who want to boost their fitness, but others are simply getting sound advice to maximize results and reduce the possibility of injuries. This is a smart way to go if you’re over 50. As noted by longtime personal trainer Dave Kergaard, who’s now retired:

“When I took on clients, I sat down and asked them to fill me in on their medical history, and whether or not they’d had specific back or shoulder problems or other injuries, and then I asked what their goals were. Some wanted to get rid of flabby stomachs but others just wanted more energy to play with their grandkids. Once we figured out which exercises were best, I demonstrated them and watched to make sure their form was right.”

Retired trainer Dave Kergaard

That kind of advice is especially important, Kergaard says, for people who aren’t familiar with modern gym equipment.

“I used to ask people, ‘If you’d never skied, snorkeled or played golf, wouldn’t you want to take some lessons first?”

Rediscover the joy of bicycling

Since you’re more apt to stick with a fitness plan if it’s fun, think about joining Sussex Cyclists. But don’t be surprised if only a handful of your fellow riders are clad in those sleek outfits and riding state-of-the-art bikes, since many members are simply looking for leisurely exercise.

Some of the most popular rides are taken at a leisurely 12-to-14 mph pace, and almost all organized rides capitalize on the spectacular views of nature along the area’s vast array of biking trails. The rides are open to members and non-members, with a variety of different routes posted every month. And frequent riders shouldn’t be surprised to see how fast they get into shape without injury.

“Bicycling is certainly about movement but it’s also social,” says Sussex Cyclists President John Kurpjuweit “… Sometimes it feels like we’re just a bunch of kids out having a good time, except the kids are over 50.”

Take long walks – with friends

Walking is another good way to build cardiovascular strength, tone muscles, and boost your mood. And for many locals there’s no better place for it than the Rehoboth and Bethany Boardwalks, where you can enjoy vast vistas of ocean and sky on one side and colorful local life on the other.

If you think you’ll enjoy it more – and perhaps stick with it longer – if you walk in an organized group, you can also join Delaware Easy Striders via Facebook. Its members tend to be 50+ and typically take part for the easy exercise and camaraderie. The walks are organized at local parks and other naturally beautiful places, and are usually charted over a three-mile stretch and a leisurely group pace.

Work out by working in

While almost all kinds of exercises tend to help people feel better emotionally and mentally, people who practice yoga and Pilates are especially forthright about those benefits.  As noted by Terry Gardner of Rehoboth Beach Yoga:

“Our bodies change with aging, and even though we may have been athletes when we were younger, our joints and muscles can’t withstand the same impact. Modern science agrees that the ancient practice of yoga deepens awareness and expands consciousness. We can all age gracefully by practicing it, so think of it as a lifestyle and a lifesaver.”

Terry Gardner, Rehoboth Beach Yoga

The practice of Pilates also emphasizes stretching, body alignment, and strengthening the part of the body between the pelvic floor and diaphragm, commonly known as the “core.” It’s carried out on exercise mats and using special equipment known as “reformers” that incorporate pulleys and weights for stretching and strengthening with minimal stress on joints.

For Stacey Chandler, a practitioner of yoga and a trainer at Right Balance Pilates, one of the greatest benefits of both is an increase in the neurotransmitters that regulate communication between brain cells. “When this happens, activity in the amygdala gland – which is what throws us into ‘fight or flight’ stress – decreases. That means you’re less apt to react from a place of fear and more likely to remain calm and collected when you respond to stressful situations.”

Another benefit, she says, is a more upbeat attitude toward life: “A lot of people have experienced how a good stretch brings on a sense of calm and how, if you’re anxious, slowing down and smoothing out your breath can help you feel better. But I also often refer to ‘emotion as ‘energy in motion,’ which is why one of the best things for a low mood is a good, strong workout to get that energy.”

Stacey Chandler, Right Balance Pilates

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