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5 ways baby boomers can bring joy back into exercise through child's play

Tracy Woolrich's picture
Baby boomer exercising

According to the CDC, over 30% of our adult population in the U.S. is now obese. More than 50% of adults do not get the recommended amount of physical activity required to maintain good health. That places a large burden on the already explosive baby boomer healthcare cost with over $50 billion being spent on obesity related health issues. Most people realize that exercise is healthy, however knowing about it and doing something about it is two different things. Face it, exercise is not everyone’s cup of tea. As you age the pleasure of exercise once derived as a child may no longer be there. But does it have to be like that? Let's turn back the hands of time and play like a child again. Perhaps reliving our childhood memories of recess and after school activities can bring a spring back into our step and pounds off the scale.

I am a bit of a couch potato. I admit it. I have to trick myself into exercise by having a good time while doing an activity. I have found that more often than not the things that I do for exercise are also things that I did as a child or young adult. The techniques may not be as pristine and my balance may be off, however the outcome is all that matters. The benefit is of course a loss of weight and sense of well being. So let’s explore how we can play our way back to better health.

I may not be able to dance the night away like I did as a teenager and young adult; however it does not keep me from practicing my moves. You would be amazed at how vigorous a dance session can be. Whether you take country line dance lessons at the YMCA or Fox Trot at the dance studio, it does not matter just as long as you are having a good time. Middle Eastern dance (Belly Dancing) and Latin dance is a very powerful workout that can be healthy for your mind, body and soul. No need to leave the house either. There is nothing wrong with having a dance party in the living room. Your granddaughter's Wii has many dance capabilities. I also play music while doing housework and find myself dancing around the house in complete bliss. Breaking out the old Vinyl or CDs and “breaking a move” can truly make you feel like a kid again.

Swimming is a very safe form of exercise because it is considered to be low impact and easy on the joints. Water aerobics exercises in the water using floats and weights are also a good. According to the CDC, there were approximately 301 million individuals over the age of six that were swimming in 2009 alone. It is the most popular activity for children and the fourth most popular recreational activity for adults (seniors included) in the US. Even a leisure swim can burn 400- 500 calories an hour depending upon your weight. Some gyms and the YMCA have an indoor swimming pool for laps and/or water aerobics. So there goes your excuse regarding the weather.

Roller Skating
Ah, the days of roller skating. That was before the days of in-line, when all skates had 4 wheels and a horrible rubber stopper that kept you from throwing yourself into the boy or girl you were trying to impress that night. It was a great work out then and can be so again. Studies have shown that roller skating provides a complete aerobic workout and involves nearly all of the body's muscles, including the heart. In fact it can be compared to jogging in terms of caloric consumption. The American Heart Association lists it as an aerobic sport with an hour of skating burning up to nearly 600 calories. Why not bring a friend to skate with you at the local rink and double the fun. Couples skate anyone?

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Jump rope
Cinderella, dressed in yellow. Went upstairs to kiss her fellow. Made a mistake and kissed a snake. How many doctors did it take? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. . . .Jump rope during recess was the main physical outlet for a lot of our childhood energies. That is how some of us were exposed to rhythm at an early age. Most would say that jumping rope is for play and not a real exercise activity. It is just something that you left behind in elementary school along with hopscotch and jacks. However, many well known athletes have been using jump rope routines to condition with for years. Don’t assume that it is just for sissies. If you do, you would be offending Kareen Abdul-Jabbar and Arnold Schwarzenegger. That of course would NOT be good for your health! Nothing about them screams out girly men. There are many things that make it an attractive choice. It is inexpensive, can be done anywhere and is very effective. It can burn up to as many calories as jogging 30 minutes if done at 120 turns per minute for 10 minutes. That is impressive.

Hoola Hooping
Here is a twist on exercise activities. Using a hoola hoop is a great way to burn calories and tone up your waist line. Experienced people who hoop faster with heavier hoops can burn more calories than those who do not. However, at the same time, individuals who are just learning burn more than the average experienced hooper. It is thought to be due to the process of readjusting your weight and balance more often. If you can keep up the routine for an hour you can burn up to 600 calories. It was even mentioned by the AARP as a cardiovascular workout that can burn a little over 6 calories per minute. Aloha ʻoe!

Every little bit helps
Here are a few additional ways to help burn an extra calorie here and there without even trying:

  • Get off the bus one stop earlier and walk the extra little bit.
  • Take out the garbage one bag at a time
  • Stand up and walk around the room while making your phone calls.
  • Bring in the grocery bags one at a time..
  • At work, walk over to see a co-worker instead of emailing.
  • Make two trips to take the laundry downstairs instead of one.

Take home message
Choose one of these activities, and do it 4-5 times a week. Stay on track and mark it down on a calendar. Change your routine if you get bored. Variety is the spice of life. Just find a routine that works for you and keep it up. Don’t think of it as exercise. Think of it as play. Of course, as with anything new, check with your healthcare professional before starting any exercise routine.

CDC Facts about Obesity

CDC.gov Facts on Swimming



These are great. I DO have a hula hoop, roller blades a jump rope and I love to swim. I also did my first Zumba video recently!!! I really like yoga - the fun of that is I get to laugh at myself.
That is exactly right. It is wonderful when the activity heals the body and soul. I so love it!!