Surprising Fitness Trends for Seniors

Senior Couple Wearing Backpacks Hiking In Countryside Together
April 14th, 2014

Remember when you were in grammar school and the high point of your day was recess? Kids relished outdoor exercise as a time to play. Then along with adulthood came exercise: Fitness trends and equipment hawked through TV infomercials replaced good old-fashioned outdoor play. Although deemed “good for you,” exercise gadgets’ appeal may not have been as strong as “play.”

As a senior, you’ve watched trends come and go. You know that if you wait long enough, everything comes back into fashion. Two surprising fitness theories are reemerging: “Play is exercise” and “less is more.” Capitalizing on these trends can lead to a brighter tomorrow.

Back to the Future with Stephen Jepson’s Playground

Meet 72-year-old Stephen Jepson: Some might call him eccentric, but it’s clear that Jepson is no crackpot. He’s a former University of Florida professor and business owner who’s living by his philosophy — a philosophy that also happens to be one of the most appealing fitness trends for fit seniors.

It’s a lifetime fitness trend that he calls “Never Leave the Playground,” and he’s spent several years researching it. It’s based on the premise that lifetime fitness is achieved through the mantra “just keep moving” rather than through formal exercise programs. Some of his “activities” include knife throwing, tightrope walking, unicycle riding, and swimming. But is “play” actually an effective fitness trend?

Jepson reports that, since his 65th birthday, he’s won over 80 gold medals in swimming. You’ll find many videos of Jepson “at play” on his website, as well as some fun activities you can do at home. Jepson believes that no matter what your age or physical condition, play can enhance your life and your mind. If your doctor agrees, there’s no reason you can’t join the fun!

Mark Sisson, Former Triathlete and Senior Player

Sixty-year-old former triathlete and blogger Mark Sisson says he’s more fit today than he ever was during his days as an athlete when he worked out for hours on end. These days, he stays fit mostly through play and “moving slowly.” In addition to working out as little as 10 minutes a day, he enjoys play — snowboarding, hiking, surfing, and walks along the beach. He’s living proof that less exercise and more play is one of the emerging fitness trends that may enhance general wellness. When asked about the best exercise, Sisson responded by saying, “The single best exercise there is, hands down, is the one you’ll do.”

What Does the Science Say?

Scientists have told us repeatedly that we need to keep moving, and a recent study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, and reported by Time magazine, confirms that “moving” seniors are healthier than their sedentary peers. It also cites a greater incidence of disabilities in those over 60 with a sedentary lifestyle. The study further confirms that a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to a host of medical problems, such as:

  • Being overweight and obesity
  • Heart attack
  • Poor mental health
  • Chronic disease
  • Shorter life expectancy
  • Kidney disease
  • Colorectal cancer

Take your pick: Both science and anecdotal proof point toward movement as one of the most effective emerging fitness trends of interest to seniors who want to live a healthy life to the fullest. The catch? You’ve got to be committed and motivated. If you wish to preserve your health and increase your energy, you should consider joining your fellow seniors on the playground.