Grandpa Gets Fit

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Health clubs aren't just for Adonises with six-pack abs, and twenty something Jennifer Aniston wannabes. Americans 55 and older are the fastest growing member group at health clubs and fitness centers, according to a recently published study. Over half (55 percent) of the 33 million current club members are adults 40 and older. And many want to get fit for reasons that extend beyond the aesthetic.

“Fitness American Style: A Look at How and Why Americans Exercise,� a survey of 1,200 adult Americans nationwide, was conducted in January and February 2001 by Roper Starch Worldwide for the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), a Boston-based nonprofit trade association. Findings were released in July. The study's purpose was to test whether Americans have a different perception of fitness today than they did 10 or 15 years ago, when the emphasis was on achieving a hard body look, according to Bill Howland, IHRSA director of research. “Within the health club industry, we suspected that Americans today are less interested in the pursuit of some ideal body image and more interested in the health or emotional benefits derived from exercise,� he says. Of the adults surveyed, 9 percent were health club members and 18 percent were current members or had been members in the past five years.

The survey results confirmed their suspicions. Although still struggling to fit more physical activity into their lives, people realize that exercise has improved their well-being, says Howland. Those who exercise regularly cite important physical and psychological payoffs. A majority say exercise has a positive effect on stress levels (54 percent) and “feeling good about oneself� (60 percent).

Findings from the study, which divides Americans into six categories as defined by their attitudes toward exercise, show that the largest club member groups view exercise as a way to enhance overall well-being. Just over half of all health club members are either “Balanced Holistics� (30 percent) who exercise to “get emotionally centered� as much as to stay physically fit or “Conscientious Preventors� (22 percent) who exercise regularly to prevent health problems or alleviate or control medical conditions. Most Balanced Holistics are female (58 percent) and married (69 percent) with a median age of 40. Conscientious Preventors skew slightly older toward a median age of 55. They also tend to be female (60 percent) and married (63 percent).

For more information, contact Margo Faiman at (617) 951-0055.

Never Too Old

Over half (55 percent) of health/fitness club members are 40 or older.



18-29 10% 15%
30-39 33% 23%
40-49 22% 23%
50-59 17% 15%
60-69 9% 9%
70+ 7% 15%
Median age 41 44
Percentages do not add up to 100 because not all those surveyed responded to the question.
Source: IHRSA
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