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Christian Living

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5 Benefits Of Intergenerational Fitness For Adults

Look around your local gym, whether you’ve been going for years or just started going again, you’ll quickly notice something if you pay attention.

It’s the segregation of the gym into ages and stages.

The ‘soccer’ moms arrive around 9:30am after dropping kids off at school. The older adults arrive around 11. Many of them do group exercise in the pool or tai chi classes. The young professionals and twenty somethings come in the evenings.

Are these generalizations? Yes, to some extent, and yet no, not at all. For more than 25 years I’ve been in the fitness business and running clubs. I’ve seen this pattern develop.

Is this a problem or merely a schedule preference based on life stages?

INTERGENERATE

There is a movement among a growing number of churches toward the integration and development of relationships with people of different ages, stages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. They have discovered that there is incredible value in bringing people together for the purpose of stronger communities and building up the church body [members and those who simply attend]. By more regularly including all ages in activities they are changing the makeup of their social groups.

Many people naturally gravitate toward those in a similar life stage. It’s the people they tend to be around. It takes purposeful effort in a church, fitness business or recreational activity to bring those from different backgrounds together. When people are exposed to and experience the value of that integration and realize how much they actually share in common, the concept spreads.

THE ROLE OF FITNESS AND THE GYM

Working with adults over 50 in my personal business I’ve seen this mix happen naturally and realized this is something the fitness industry could foster to benefit their members and communities.

At Renu Health And Fitness we offer both a semi-private and team environment. In any session we’ll have people of different stages, ethnicities and economic standing all working together. Age wise, we see those in their 40’s working with others in their 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s. Also, their children, often in their late 20’s to 30’s, will periodically join them. Sometimes even the grandkids are there on a weekend workout.

I asked our members about this type of intergenerational experience and what it means to them. I got some interesting feedback.

“I get to be seen as an individual and what I can personally do instead of being lumped into an “old peoples” class. Being around those a few years to decades younger has an energy to the mix and there have been times I’m stronger in certain areas than those many years younger…that makes me feel good, empowered.”   – Gregory 74 yrs.

“I like the personal attention working in a small group environment but it’s also inspiring to see older adults doing the same things I’m doing. Its definitely shattered some of my misconceptions about seniors and actually is encouraging to see what’s possible for myself as I age.” Kathy 45 yrs.

I honestly never thought much about the diversity of our membership. However, now having observed more closely I can attest to the value and community that’s been created quite organically. This contributes to their well-being and meets the needs of our members in at least five ways beyond just the physical.

5 BENEFITS OF INTERGENERATIONAL FITNESS FOR ADULTS

  1. Socialization and friendship: Older adults who struggle with isolation and loneliness gain the benefit of socialization and friendship.
     
  2. Encouragement: New parents are encouraged by those who have already raised their own.
     
  3. Wisdom and networking: Younger members get to ask advice of someone who has decades of experience in a profession they wouldn’t ever have access to. Many times, gaining connections and introductions.
     
  4. Technology transfer: Younger more tech savvy adults assist those who are less inclined with technology.
     
  5. Expanding experiences: Those of different ethnicities expanding their circle of friends through the gym, instead of always being around those just like them.

Often members will grab lunch after a session with someone in a life stage they normally wouldn’t interact with. The gym is a great equalizer and fosters intermingling inherently in a way even purposeful endeavors struggle to.


From Faith & Fitness Magazine February/March 2019. Reprinted with permission. Copyright © Faith & Fitness Magazine and Lifestyle Media Group. Faith & Fitness Magazine is a lifestyle resource to build physical and spiritual strength. It helps readers make connections between the Christian faith and the fitness lifestyle. To contact the publisher of Faith & Fitness Magazine, Brad Bloom, for reprint permission, e-mail brad@faithandfitness.net.

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