Baby boomers not interested in having fun at the gym

Baby boomers not interested in having fun at the gym

Despite the rising rate of obesity, more people than ever are taking time out of their busy schedules to hit the gym. But, new research shows as people age, they become less motivated to work out for the enjoyment of it and are really only imprisoning themselves within the sweaty confines of their local rec center out of necessity.

The study, which was published in the International Journal of Wellbeing, examined the different motivations individuals have for exercising, which included ‘mental toughness’, ‘toned and fit’, ‘fun and friends’ and ‘stress reduction’.

‘Toned and fit’ and ‘stress reduction’ were the top motivation factors among all age groups studied, teens to age 50 and older. But lead researcher James Gavin from Concordia University found that for baby boomers, the first generation to make exercise a way of life, ‘mental toughness’, activity for adventure and challenge, and ‘fun and friends’, activity for social reasons, both declined as age increased, according to a news release.

“What stunned me was when we think of boomers — healthy ambulatory individuals who are reasonably robust and who theoretically have more time on their hands — one might imagine they would want to continue having fun and experiencing personal challenge and growth in what they’re doing,” Gavin said in a statement.

Gavin added that this lack of passion may cause those who are exercising solely for the health benefits to stop making the effort because they no longer find joy in participating in fitness related activities.

He said in a news release the results of the study pose a new idea to the fitness industry to begin shifting away from workout machines to activities that are meaningful and involve more social factors, such as team sports and martial arts, to keep this group motivated to stay active.

Laura Tarry, fitness manager at Good Samaritan Health and Wellness Center in Downers Grove, Ill., says passion is a great way to motivate people to continue making progress toward their fitness goals.

“There are trips they want to be able to do different excursions on, grandkids to play with, and other life events that keep them motivated,” Tarry says. “If they didn’t have passion for these life events there would be less motivation to improve or maintain their fitness level. It is an amazing experience to hear the success stories of these members and the drive that keeps them looking for the next accomplishment.”

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  1. Don’t agree with idea of a team sport for aging baby boomers. The emphasis should be on fitness rather than competition. Exercising with free weights in groups of 2 – 4 people could provide the social factor. My two biggest motivators for exercising at age 65 are:
    Exercising slows the aging process by 80%. Can’t cite the research unfortunately;
    Exercising and Diet keep the Leptin hormone functioning properly which affects the aging process. That statement is based on research shared in the book, Mastering Leptin, by Byron J. Richards, a clinical nutritionist.
    Being retired, my day starts with a visit to the gym.

  2. Shereen Venning August 11, 2014 at 6:22 pm · Reply

    I’m a baby boomer, and I never did think exercise was fun. I found it boring and distressing. I did it for health benefits only, and actually saw very little even then. I try to keep on walking so that I can keep on walking. I now do my exercise at the senior center instead of a for-profit gym.

  3. I am 62 and never thought exercise at a gym was fun. I prefer to “play” and yes compete as it is more fun and socialing a good part of keeping motivated to keep it up. Walking, bike riding and gardening and in the last two years I have taken up an old interest, riding horses and achieving a certification. I am having the time of my life!

  4. Team sports for boomers?? Surely you jest! Rather than assuming that interest in exercise as ‘fun’ somehow fades with age, the researchers should consider that not thinking of exercise as pleasure is a generational thing. Or something that indicates some people don’t actually feel good after exercising. It’s just work for them.

    I’m a tail-end boomer (not yet 60), but I can tell you that all gym ever consisted of in my grade school was the obnoxious round of dodgeball, which was why I skipped it as often as possible. And in high school (a girls’ parochial school, mind you), we nominally had the year divided into basketball, volleyball and tennis + calisthenics, none of which anyone liked because the gym teacher never bothered to provide actual instruction to those of us who didn’t already know how to play … which is why I suffered through 3 years of basketball without ever knowing how to dribble properly, let alone how to guard anyone or get around being guarded and not foul (don’t even get me started about the volleyball or tennis). When you supposedly know the rules but don’t know the moves, it’s not a pleasure. It’s just a chore and possibly a round of failure. I took greater enjoyment in reading a book or riding my bike. I doubt very much that my school was some rare exception.

    There’s something else: just because you’ve hit your 50s and are well educated doesn’t mean you have money to throw away on gym memberships, golf or tennis clubs, riding horses, or a lot of other physical activities — especially not after the Great Recession. I’ve been single for 30 years, freelance for 20, and my discretionary income for sports is NIL, especially after the recession. I don’t see that improving, even though I expect to work for another 20+ years (the recession also obliterated my pension investments, thank you).

    If I need to exercise, I walk, because that’s free and there’s an indoor track at my park district. None of that involves pleasure — never has. There is some great myth that implies everyone gets some kind of neurological ‘high’ from exercise, but that hasn’t been the case for anyone I know, including me. Maybe if you grow up with proper instruction in some sport and get in the habit of playing it or exercising in some other way while you’re still a teen, that may stick with you, or maybe even produce a ‘runner’s high’ … but it’s a non-starter for me. Like the gal above said: I go walking so that I can keep walking, and that’s about it. So if you think that motivating me is a severe challenge, you’re right — but it’s not because I’m getting older: it’s because I was never properly motivated and never enjoyed exercise or sports in the first place. Hiking, canoeing and camping with the socuts, yes — but not everyday sports or exercise. And therein lies the problem. Good luck solving that.

  5. I’m a Baby boomer, circa 1954 and also a personal trainer specializing in strength training for baby boomers 50+. The web diva’s comment “So if you think that motivating me is a severe challenge, you’re right — but it’s not because I’m getting older: it’s because I was never properly motivated and never enjoyed exercise or sports in the first place. Hiking, canoeing and camping with the scouts, yes — but not everyday sports or exercise. And therein lies the problem. Good luck solving that.” because the older you get the more you need daily physical activity in your life.
    As a personal trainer with a client base of mature adults 50 plus, many of the clients in my practice have not been exposed to the joy of sports or being physically active so my first priority is to always introduce my new exercisers to other gym members on the floor, the staff and then I go on to explain the names and functions of all the equipment we will be using. I look at myself as their guide to this new adventure of strength training. It should fun and exciting with a sense of exploring the unknown but that’s why I’m there to help. I have found that once my trainees have gotten to know the staff, some of the other members and are comfortable in a gym setting and knowledgeable in the proper use of the equipment then they usually start to really enjoy the routine of going to the gym 2-3 times a week.

  6. Awesome blog post.Really looking forward to read more. Much obliged.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.