Fitness for Life

Featured Article, Fitness, Motivation
on July 20, 2011

QUESTION: I am an 86-year-old who loves activity. What are your suggestions for exciting summer activities? I am not overweight and move about quite freely, but most of my friends are pretty sedentary. — Dorothy

DEAR DOROTHY: Oh, my goodness! Great for you! I love to hear from women who continue to take on new adventures, despite their age. And the good thing for all of us: There are plenty of ways to stay active that are appropriate, whether you’re 20 or 70 (or 86). It seems as if more and more, the “generation gap” is a thing of the past. Yoga, Pilates, belly dancing, Zumba — the fitness/dance classes that fuse everything from Hip-Hop to the Charleston — all attract women of all ages, shapes and sizes. And those pursuits are all fantastic for you. But during the summer, I always think water, probably because I live in the South and am looking to escape the stifling heat for three to four months. Water-based exercise is also great because it is low- or no-impact, so there’s little concern about its effect on aging joints, and it keeps your muscles constantly challenged as you work against water’s resistance. So, swimming, water aerobics, and something called Ai Chi (Tai Chi in the water) are great pool-based exercises. A number of people, too, are choosing to swim in lakes and other open-water sources; open-water swim events continue to grow in popularity. But there are other non-pool water sports that offer a great workout.




I’ve just discovered rowing—not rowboat-style rowing, but “sweeps,” where you row with a crew of eight in a long, narrow boat. Many of the first-timers in our group are 40-plus. Too, there is sit-on-top kayaking, a great upper body exercise. Another water-based exercise that’s growing in popularity is stand-up paddleboarding. It’s kind of like a cross between sea kayaking and surfing: Standing on a surfboard-like craft, you use a long paddle to navigate anything from a pond to a lake to a river, to the sea. It’s a fabulous core workout. Once popular just in Hawaii, standup paddleboarding has made its way to the American beach towns as well as inland lakes—even health clubs in places like Austin, Texas, include the activity in fitness classes. I tried it in Alys Beach, Florida, last fall, and fell in love. And there’s always cycling, hiking, camping, tennis … the possibilities are endless. If you are looking for like-minded folks to get outdoors with, research groups in your area that focus on particular activities. Cycling clubs, hiking/outdoors clubs, paddling groups—there are no doubt many other interested folks you can hook up with. Here’s hoping you have a fantastic summer!


Spry editor Lisa Delaney is one of the rare souls who know what it’s like to be an “after.” This journalist and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl shed 70 pounds—and six dress sizes—and has kept it off for 20 years. She answers your questions here each week.