Baby Boomer-supreme Jane Fonda started it all with her slinky leotard and goofy leg warmers. The one-time workout fad soon became a way of life for a generation that plans on living longer and better. Aging has its disadvantages, however, including the inability to perform high-impact aerobics or scale mountains in several bounds.
And so was born an entire industry designed to keep Baby Boomers in shape without eliminating precious cartilage or boring us stiff. As added advantages, exercise also reduces our arthritic pain, depression and anxiety.
My personal mantra is “Pain means no gain,” so I’m always looking for low-impact workouts that don’t hurt my wallet. Fortunately, there always seems to be a new exercise trend designed specifically for my generation. Here are a few healthy yet money-saving tips I’ve learned on my journey to physical fitness (which isn’t by any means complete).
1. Go It Alone
It takes discipline to maintain your own workout schedule, but joining an expensive health club isn’t really a necessity. We tell ourselves paying for membership will force us to exercise, but the thinning crowds after January attest to the fallacy of this concept.
2. Bring It Home
More than 10 million Americans use elliptical trainers as they’re a knee-friendly cross between cross-country skiing and stair climbing. An equal number prefer a reclining stationary bike, according to Charlene Laino of WebMD. Both machines reduce stress on joints while eliminating the aching-back syndrome.
Fortunately, a lot of people buy such equipment and then use them as expensive clothes hangers. That means you should never have to buy a new machine. Craigslist is just filled with ads for home exercise equipment and some dealers offer refurbished machines. The key is to give it a whirl before handing over your cash or you, too, might end up with a pricey coat rack.
If you don’t already have an MP3 player, this should be your second investment. Nothing impels you through a home workout like hot tunes or an hour-long podcast of “Car Talk.” You can find free shipping codes for Best Buy and other retailers on such sites as FreeShipping.org, allowing you to skip the stuffy retail outlet and avoid paying for delivery charges.
3. Stay Limber
Stress is not only the province of youth; nor is muscle elasticity. Yoga helps sooth frayed nerves, improves flexibility and, not incidentally, provides a great aerobic workout. Pilates has many of the same advantages, but without all that Nirvana stuff.
There are countless DVDs and CDs to lead you through these exercises at home, but it’s important to be selective. You want an instructor who gives detailed instructions, like “keep your stomach flat,” “push away from the floor,” etc. You don’t want to fall into sloppy habits as this can lead to strained muscles without the desired impact.
4. Get Outside
Recumbent road bikes are fairly expensive, but you can always pick up a traditional bike for cheap at garage sales, thrift stores, FreeCycle.org or the inevitable Craigslist. If you have shoulder or back problems, invest in high-rise handlebars and have a professional adjust the bike to your body shape and size.
Naturally this is a fair-weather exercise, but there’s an added advantage in that you can save on gas by biking to work.
5. Walk It Off
It costs nothing to cruise the neighborhood, checking out houses for sale while listening to music that moves you. Walking regularly with a friend is a great motivator and maintaining a conversation while keeping a steady pace allows you to monitor the amount of exercise youe actually getting. An article in AARP reports overweight people who walk 30 minutes per day, five days per week, can reduce their risk of diabetes by nearly 60 percent.
For bad weather, a second-hand treadmill is a good investment and, according to the Mayo Clinic, exerts about the same force as an elliptical machine.
6. Pump It Up
My girlfriends and I used to play a garage sale game to see who could first spot a set of weights for sale. Even if you just add weights to your arms and legs when walking, you’ll increase your body strength while getting a good cardio workout.
7. Mix and Match
Performing just one form of exercise won’t ensure you stay fit. A full regimen combines strength, flexibility and balance training (the latter provided by yoga and Pilates). Mixing it up each day also keeps the doldrums away.
Kate Forgach is a Baby Boomer consumer specialist for Kinoli Inc. She has written about senior issues for 11 years as a Cooperative Extension specialist and for a wide variety of newspapers and magazines. She has been featured in USA Today, Detroit News, New Orleans Times-Picayune, New Yorker magazine, “ABC World News,” NBC’s “TODAY” show and many other media outlets.