As membership demographics in fitness facilities swell with older adults, the rage in mind/body programming couldn't have happened at a more opportune time.
In 1997, while participating in the Portland Marathon, I was awed when race officials announced that the race would begin two hours early for one 90-year-old woman. Apparently, she had been walking this marathon for years, and her age wasn't about to stop her. So, walking with a cane and assisted by others to assure her safety, she walked to the finish line some hours later, having accomplished another 26.2-mile walk. You might say that this woman is fortunate that her body hadn't failed her up to that point. But, reality is, her body hadn't failed her, most likely, because of her commitment to keep strong and fit. Unfortunately, this has not been an all-too-common scenario among the older generation, but it is changing. And, as membership demographics in fitness facilities swell with older adults due to the aging of the baby boomer generation and the increased awareness of the benefits of fitness for all populations - young and old, abled and disabled - the rage in mind/body programming couldn't have happened at a more opportune time. Yoga, tai chi, Pilates and Qi Gong are just the tip of the iceberg in the mind/body arena these days. The group exercise schedule has evolved from one that appealed to the woman in her 20s and 30s to one that appeals to all genders, cultures and ages. Perhaps the best example of this is a news story that appeared on the ABC evening news on May 10. Footage of older, Korean women in their 70s and 80s taking part in a tae kwon do class was inspiring, to say the least. During the two-hour class, the women performed martial arts moves, and grunted and chopped through blocks of wood with their fists. The kicker is, most had only been practicing tae kwon do for about five years, having never been routinely active in fitness. Today, not only have most earned the highest ranking in the sport - a black belt - but many have managed to reverse the ails of aging that they suffered before joining the group. If that's not enough, they're tough. One 80-year-old participant who was crippled with arthritis and diabetes now moves comfortably during her tae kwon do sessions. Another, a 74-year-old, said she'd "slug a would-be attacker and kick him, sending him running off in tears before he has the chance to steal any of her belongings." Are you laughing? You should be - sheerly from the happiness it makes you feel that mind/body classes could so immensely improve the quality of life for these women. Mind/body classes are the focus in this issue. The types of classes and their origins vary greatly, and we've strived to show you the types of offerings available, as well as the ways in which you can combine these forms to offer truly unique classes that will appeal to the demographics at your facility. We've also explored the types of training required for teaching these forms of mind/body classes, so that you can be sure that what you offer is both true to form and safe for your members. You may know a 90-year-old individual who can still walk 26.2 miles. But, it's more likely you know someone, perhaps a parent or grandparent, who was once healthy, but who has succumbed to afflictions of older age. If so, you have the opportunity to provide them with mind/body classes that can change their lives, just as tae kwon do has for these Korean women.