Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

5 Design Considerations for a Senior Living Fitness Center

WLP Middletown pictureThis has been the year of design and consulting work for senior living clients who are renovating or building new fitness centers. I think I could give you the dimensions of a NuStep T4r model in my sleep (they are 60 x 27 x 24 inches, by the way). It truly is exciting to see the industry dedicating resources to well-designed fitness spaces to support quality programs and services for residents.

Although getting the right equipment and layout is important, these five design elements come up time and time again and should be considered early in the planning process. They might not be the same level of financial investment as your large equipment purchases, but they can significantly enhance your users’ experience and the program’s success.

  • IMG_2740Televisions and entertainment: Determine whether you will pursue wall-mount televisions or the integrated console option on the cardio machines. With some equipment like NuSteps and rowers not having the integrated TV option, you will want a wall-mount TV somewhere in your facility. With wall-mount TVs you’ll have to navigate the channel wars for the lifelong battle between Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC, which individuals have VERY strong preferences for—imagine that! Consider an FM tuner option with headphones if needed, but we generally see residents politely following the first-come, first-served rule.
  • Water source: Don’t forget to dedicate space for a water fountain or hydration station in the fitness center and where group fitness classes are held, or within immediate proximity. It’s highly important to encourage hydration during exercise. The more conveniently located the water source, the better.
  • Balance training area: When designing a fitness center, most think of cardio equipment, strength equipment, and then a stretching area. Don’t forget about an area dedicated to balance training. This can be as simple as a wall with a handrail and a balance pad. A balance training area can be one of the busiest spots in your fitness center—particularly if you have qualified staffing to provide fall-prevention programming.
  • Mirrored walls: Coaching residents on how to perform exercises in front of a mirror can make a significant impact on reinforcing proper form and posture. This can be especially important in group fitness spaces or in areas of the fitness center where residents might be performing balance, resistance band, or dumbbell exercises.
  • Screen Shot 2019-05-07 at 2.34.07 PMExercise chairs: We are big fans of the Resistance Chair for exercise classes, but if you are using traditional chairs, consider these specifications to make them more exercise-friendly. Armrests can be obstructive to a number of upper-body exercises, limiting a participant’s range of motion. Choosing an option without armrests or a slimmer armrest option is ideal. Also consider the height and weight of the chair; many chairs are used as a stable base of support and serve as a handle during standing exercises. Consider a chair with a taller backrest that can help residents maintain a tall, upright posture while performing exercises.

These minor details can make a big impact on the functionality of the space and programming options. We have designed dozens of senior living fitness centers and take these things and much more into consideration when creating the most functional and comfortable space for residents. Check out NIFS’ Senior Living Wellness Consulting page for more insight into how we support fitness center design projects across the country.

LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR FITNESS CENTER DESIGNS →  

Topics: balance technology senior living fitness center fitness center design equipment senior wellness consulting

NIFS Wii Bowling Tourney Brings Out Competition All Over the U.S.

HRGT Wii Bowling 3This summer, teams all around the country ironed their bowling shirts, warmed up their throwing arms, and double-checked their TV connections in preparation for the first-ever 10-week session of the NIFS Wii Bowling League.

What started as a little friendly banter between colleagues quickly became a full-blown tournament as NIFS managers from various fitness centers started exploring new opportunities for some variety in recreation programming. After a few group emails had been sent, we finally came up with the idea to host a virtual bowling tournament.

Residents formed teams of two to four people. Each week, teams played their round of bowling and NIFS fitness center managers sent scores in to be tallied. Each Monday, updated standings and a new schedule were sent out to all participating sites. This went on during seven weeks of regular play, and then the single-elimination playoffs began. After three weeks of playoffs, only one team was left standing: The PinStrikers from Lakewood, NJ are this summer’s Wii Bowling Champions!

Thinking of hosting your own Wii Bowling tournament? Here are a few tips to make it successful:

Make it accessible to everyone.

Nearly everyone can learn how to play Wii Bowling. That’s one of the best things about it! Just practice patience when teaching new people and everything will go well. You can even play while seated if balance is a concern.

Be sure the rules are clearly communicated.

Avoid frustration from all parties and be sure you are clear about the rules you’ll play by. For our tournament, we had a schedule and then the standings were set according to win/loss record rather than by scores. It made the tournament aspect much more interesting because there were no clear front-runners or favorites.

Make it fun!

I hope this goes without saying, but fun should be the first priority here. Be sure everyone is clear that it’s just a game and the opportunity is open to everyone!

Have you ever hosted a virtual tournament between teams of people in different communities? NIFS can help you evaluate your program and improve offerings for your residents with NIFS Consulting, click below for more information.

Are you ready to do wellness better? Learn more about wellness consulting.

Topics: senior fitness management fitness programs for seniors balance technology competition sports senior living activities

Help Clients Overcome 3 Common Misconceptions About Exercise and Aging

It’s well known that being physically active, especially as we age, yields many physical benefits. Examples include decreasing risk factors for chronic diseases, and preserving many aspects of physiological functions, such as cardiovascular function, muscle strength and endurance, as well as balance and flexibility.

In addition to the many physical benefits that you can gain from regular exercise, there are also many psychological benefits. Some of the benefits associated with regular exercise consist of (but are not limited to) improved quality of life and cognitive functioning.

As a fitness instructor I am constantly hearing reasons why individuals feel as though it makes no sense for them to exercise. One example I have heard recently is “I’m 85 years old. What good could taking part in regular exercise do for me? I am too old for there to even be changes made to my strength or balance.” (Hint: This isn’t true!)

Following are three common “excuses” or misconceptions regarding regular exercise that I hear frequently from older adults, and how you can address these concerns.

GettyImages-929610028 (1)I’m Too Old

You might hear: I’m too old to start exercising; its too late to make a difference in my health; it isn’t safe; I don’t want to fall and break a hip; I’m going to get old anyway

To be honest, no one is ever “too old” to start a regular exercise regimen. Many older adults are not aware that regular physical activity has been shown to be beneficial to individuals of all ages, even those well into their 80s, 90s, or older. Besides, inactivity is often associated with the common signs of aging. Older adults often have a fear of falling, especially if they have experienced falls in the past. Thus, these individuals think they are safer or rather better off if they remain sedentary. However, what these older adults don’t realize is that regular exercise is going to help them build strength and stamina, prevent the loss of bone mass, and allow the individual to improve their balance.

How to address this: In addition to discussing how certain exercises are beneficial to oneself especially as we age, instructors should also go over ways to make exercises less scary and thus safer.

I’m Too Busy

You might hear: I’m too busy to exercise; I don’t have time

Many people of all ages don’t realize that exercise does not need to take place at any specific location or at any specific time. Really, exercise is one of those things that shouldn’t be made more complicated than it has to be, and can be made to fit into your daily schedule. Exercises can even be performed in smaller bouts of 10–15 minutes that are repeated a couple times throughout the day, or even simpler exercises that can be connected to certain parts of their routine. Older adults might find exercise to be easier once it is part of a routine.

How to address this: Fitness instructors should guide these older adults on how they can add simple exercises to their daily routines. One example could be practicing a single-legged stance while waiting for their morning coffee to brew.

It’s Too Boring

You might hear: Exercise is boring; exercise is not enjoyable

Most individuals today seem to dread working out and look at it as something that just needs to get done to check it off the to-do list. People often associate exercise with repetitive movements that may be viewed as boring. However, there are a lot of different ways for older adults to make fitness an enjoyable part of their everyday life.

For example, they could take up a sport (such as golf, hiking, or swimming), take a walk with a friend, play with grandchildren, work in the garden, or even take a group fitness class. The key is to at least keep the body in motion, because some movement versus no movement can still be beneficial to their health.

How to address this: Fitness instructors can easily inspire older adults to look at some alternatives that they haven’t considered before but would likely find enjoyable. Instructors can also add components to group fitness classes to make them seem more fun and enjoyable, and less like exercise.

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The next time you hear one of these excuses from an older fitness client, you’ll know how to encourage them to overcome the misconception and keep moving.

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Topics: balance senior fitness group fitness exercise and aging why older adults don't exercise

Applying a Balance Lesson from Motorcycle Riding to Active Aging

GettyImages-993622692 (1)Training yourself to do something that feels unnatural is never easy, but it’s also never too late to learn an important skill. Balance is a focal point with our Active Aging population and something our residents are concerned with on a daily basis. Whether it be through designing exercise prescriptions to improve an individual’s balance, leading an educational presentation on aspects of balance, or leading a balance group fitness class, there are countless ways that we as professionals can attempt to help improve someone’s balance.

We recognize the importance of balance because the longer someone can maintain this skill, the longer they are able to remain independent. However, with all of this time, energy, and work dedicated to balance, I notice the same issue coming up consistently: residents are constantly looking down at their feet while they move.

The Lesson: Eyes Up!

When I moved to Virginia six years ago, I was finally in a place to fulfill a lifetime goal of mine: to own a motorcycle. I had no experience riding, I didn’t grow up around bikes, but I just was always fascinated by them and determined to learn to ride one. I am a cautious person, so before I did anything else, I participated in a Motorcycle Safety Foundation® Basic Rider course at a nearby community college. I learned many things during that course, but one lesson that has always stuck with me is instead of focusing on the road directly in front of your wheel, you should be looking down the road and keeping your eyes up. When you keep your eyes up and your focus ahead of you, you give yourself a valuable tool: time.

This is a lesson I work hard to get my residents to understand. When we walk, looking down at our feet gives us a sense of security that we know exactly where our foot is going to be and what our foot is going to land on, but it comes at a price. When our gaze is down at our feet, we can’t see what’s coming. We give ourselves very little time to identify a trip hazard in our path or to plan a route to avoid uneven or unstable surfaces. Much like riding a motorcycle, when you keep your eyes lifted, you give yourself more time to determine your best route because your brain has more time to process what you are seeing and plan accordingly.

Prepare for Balance Challenges

When we know that there are consequences to our actions, we often are very careful with those actions because we know what might result if we are careless. This awareness and concern has had the unfortunate effect of teaching us that we should fear falling and avoid it at all costs, so we look down at our feet. But just like riding a motorcycle, keeping your eyes up and looking well out in front of you may help you avoid obstacles, prepare for any balance challenges, and be safe through fall prevention.

Interested in learning more about NIFS effective balance programming?  NIFS premier fall prevention programming can help set your community apart from the rest. 

Learn more about Balance Redefined 

Topics: active aging balance fall prevention balance training for seniors

3 Video Game Systems for Senior Living Communities

WP_20130424_016.jpgTwenty years ago, if someone had suggested purchasing video games for a retirement community, they would have been laughed at. “Those are for kids,” would have been the response. “No one over 60 is ever going to be interested in that.” I’m here to tell you times have changed! Now, everywhere you look people of all ages are getting in on the action and testing their skills in the virtual world.

Here are just three of the systems popping up in communities all over the country.

Nintendo Wii

This is probably the most popular one for communities because it’s been around for quite a while now and it’s fairly easy to use. The Nintendo Wii is a low-cost, commercially available interactive gaming system that gives immediate visual feedback in balance training. For most Wii games, players hold a remote and use it as the golf putter, baseball bat, bowling arm, etc. to play.

An optional add-on is the balance board for the Wii Fit game, which enables a user to test his or her center of balance with a visual display onscreen that shows what percentage of their body weight they carry over each foot. Those with an uneven center of balance will unnaturally compensate for their imbalance, which can cause their posture to become misaligned, increasing the level of stress on their bodies. The game allows users to learn about their balance and provides them with tips for improving an uneven center of balance with several different training modes, including yoga, strength training, balance games, and aerobics.

Xbox Kinect

The Kinect has been around for a few years as well, but it’s certainly newer technology than the Wii. There is no remote to hold or board to stand on. There is simply a camera that points at the general space where you’re playing and then your body is the “remote.” The Kinect generally requires a bigger space than the Wii and it’s more expensive, but the games are also more advanced. If you are working with a more active community, this may be the way to go. There is a lot more foot movement required for most of the Kinect games, so be sure to educate residents on safety before really getting into the action.

PlayStation Move

The idea of the PlayStation Move is very similar to the Wii. Each person has a remote and their motion is captured by a camera that’s plugged into the gaming system. I don’t have personal experience with this system, but from the reviews it looks like the movements and reaction time of the sensors/camera are much better on the Move than on the other two systems. Of course, that’s coming with a higher price tag, so you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons yourself. The Move offers a wide array of game options, from the mostly sedentary to the action-packed.

All three systems are great options for your senior living community. They do range in price, but you can often find a refurbished/used version of the system online or at your local GameStop store. Each system has a range of exercise options, from the traditional fitness games, to dance games, to more of the recreational pastimes. No matter which console you choose, they all encourage more physical activity in the community, and isn’t that the goal at the end of the day?

Also, there’s an added perk of having these systems available at your community. When grandkids come to visit, these consoles provide a great activity that spans generations. Think of how impressed that 10-year-old will be when grandpa shows them how to score big at the Home Run Derby on Wii!

How have you used gaming systems to improve your senior fitness program’s physical activity?

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Topics: balance senior fitness senior living community technology video games

Senior Fitness: What is the point of exercising?

As we age, we get this notion that we no longer need to exercise, or as the common adage says, “I’m too old.” To put it bluntly, you are never too old to exercise or be active. No matter your condition, one of the best things you can do is to get up and move. Years of research has shown that exercising has tremendous health benefits, no matter what your age is! Exercising has shown to improve balance and coordination, prevent bone loss, increase strength, improve cognitive function, and decrease chronic illnesses such as diabetes. With this in mind, here are few senior wellness myths that older adults believe when it comes to exercising.

What is the point of exercising when decline in old age is inescapable?ThinkstockPhotos-494387649.jpg

Aging does not mean decline; it means another chapter in life with new challenges to overcome. There are numerous stories of older adults becoming marathon runners like Ed Whitlock, who ran marathons well into his 80s. While running a marathon may not be your goal, it does show you that age does not matter. The delusion is that aging means weakness and/or fatigue, but in reality it’s a sign of inactivity. More importantly, exercising and staying active can help you maintain your independence and your lifestyle.

At my age, is exercise really safe for me?

Yes, exercise is safe for you. Again it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself. Moreover, studies have shown that individuals who exercise on a regular basis are less likely to fall. In part this is because exercising improves strength, flexibility, and coordination. Two of the better exercises that target flexibility and coordination are tai chi and yoga. Additionally, exercising frequently will increase bone density and decrease the likelihood of osteoporosis. 

I have a chronic disease, so I shouldn’t exercise.

Many older adults suffer from arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and many other chronic conditions. And because of it, older adults believe that they can no longer exercise. In fact, the opposite is true. Exercising and being physically active is the best thing to do. For example, if you have arthritis, exercising will help improve your range of motion and decrease the pain caused by arthritis, which will lead to increased energy levels and improved sleep. Additionally, if you happen to have arthritis, here are a few tips to get started before exercising:

  • Apply heat: This will help the blood flow and relax the muscles around the affected area.
  • Move gently: Move slowly to warm up the joints. You may want to do this between 5 and 10 minutes before moving on to strength and aerobic activities.
  • Ice: After performing your exercises, apply ice as needed to help prevent joint swelling.

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If you are just starting out with senior fitness, make sure not to overdo it. It’s alright to start off slowly and to work your way up in intensity, especially if you have not been exercising for a few years or decades. The goal is to get moving and to create a habit that becomes a lifestyle. Also expect to experience soreness after beginning a program. However if you experience pain, you may have exercised too hard and will want to tone it down. 

See how we keep our residents coming back to the fitness center with our unique programing.  Click below for ideas to improve your programs.

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Topics: senior wellness balance senior fitness staying active injury prevention osteoporosis

Spice Up Group Fitness Routines for Seniors, Keep Residents Interested

ThinkstockPhotos-509732600_1.jpgGroup exercise classes are one of the top activities in senior living communities nowadays. With the increasing number of activities provided on community calendars, having a good group exercise program significantly impacts the overall resident well-being as they participate in their daily activities.

The initial spark of having a new group fitness class promotes a tremendous buzz throughout the community, and the new activity on the calendar generates a lot of popularity. Participation is high, and residents look forward to this new class to see what’s in store for them at the next session. A month or so down the road, however, you may notice that the residents who were highly motivated to attend a particular exercise class have begun to feel less interested in the routine, potentially causing a decrease in participation.

When people are acclimated to an established exercise routine, there may come a point where they feel tired of doing the same exercises over and over again, or don’t feel challenged enough in the journey to an improved quality of life. If you begin to notice these things in your exercise programs, it might be time to make some minor adjustments. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to turn your group exercise program on its head and start from scratch.  Spice up group fitness routines for seniors and keep them interested.

As an exercise instructor who thinks about these things on a daily basis, one of my primary goals is to encourage participation in our group exercise classes on a regular basis, regardless of their skill level. I actively think of different ways of keeping residents enthusiastic about our classes, while still maintaining their overall purpose. While residents want to exercise safely, they also want to be appropriately challenged so that they don’t lose the benefit of maintaining an active lifestyle.

Following are three different strategies that I have used in the past to keep residents interested in classes.

Mixing Up the Exercises in Your Routines

Adding different exercises into your routines will help keep your residents interested, and can increase cognition as they perform exercises that focus on balance and hand-eye coordination. A good way to map this out is to try one new exercise per class, and see how your residents respond to it. If they find enjoyment in the sequence, you are on the right track! Varying your group exercise sequences every month or two can go a long way in maintaining resident interest.

Another effective strategy that helps in mixing up your routines is to have two or three different formats for one particular class, and to rotate through those formats. I have always found that having a couple routines that I could rotate through on a weekly or monthly basis keeps people more engaged.

Incorporate Music into Your Classes

Whether it’s a choreographed mix-tape that has a variety of upbeat songs for low-impact aerobic routines, or a Big Band CD that is used simply as a background filler for the class, you will notice an immediate increase in residents’ mood in the class, and in some cases they might even get into the groove as the music is playing in class. Having a mixture of upbeat tunes along with songs requested by your residents will keep the excitement going in class. Music can also serve as a motivational factor for residents when they are participating in classes, because exercising to music can have psychological benefits that include improved cognition, reduced anxiety, and many more.

Interactive Exercises

Most people think of group exercise as performing certain routines in a repetitive motion for a certain amount of weight, repetitions, and sets. While in certain class formats that may work, it does not always have to be that way. For most of my exercise classes, I mainly focus on exercises that mirror our activities of daily living (ADLs), and also include sequences that incorporate the mind/body connection. The National Institute for Health (NIH) has an extensive list of various exercises that are both interactive, and ways to focus the class on functionality. Nontraditional balance exercises such as ankle spelling and ball tosses will keep your members guessing both physically and cognitively.

Make sure to use these strategies to spice up your senior living community exercise classes! Keep an open mind when trying out new things in your classes; see what works, and spice things up! 

Start with evaluating your balance classes and maximize your Balance Program by downloading our whitepaper!

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Topics: senior living communities balance senior fitness resident wellbeing group fitness music quality of life

What Exercises Should I Do?: Guidelines for Senior Fitness (Part 4)

In my first, second, and third blogs of the series, I went over five of my guidelines to being successful in senior fitness:

  1. Muscle-Activation Exercises
  2. Simplistic Exercises
  3. Compound, Multi-joint, Closed-chain Movements
  4. Grip Exercises
  5. Mobility Work
In this fourth and final blog of the series, I discuss one more guideline:

Don't Change Exercises; Change the Intangibles and Variables of the Exercise

ThinkstockPhotos-95247776.jpgCertain exercises, such as the sit-to-stand and the seated row, should always be performed in one's routine. Certain experts recommend that one would eventually replace these exercises with a new one. The reasoning behind this is that it is believed that over time the muscles will grow accustomed to certain exercises and the effect will be lost. While this is slightly true, it's not true because of the exercise itself, but rather the variables of the exercise, such as the sets, reps, rest periods, tempo, etc.

By changing these variables, the CCRC resdient client will always have results and will continue to perform exercises that work the entire body in unison, such as the exercises in the preceding blogs. As a result, they will increase their performance in the daily activities of life.

After all, the more something is changed, the less that person will be good at it. If you want to get good at throwing a ball, you spend your time throwing a ball and not catching a ball. Well, the concept is the same with exercise. Constantly changing the exercises on someone will possibly give them results, but the question isn’t, "Is this person getting results?" Rather, the question is, "Is this the best way to do it?"

So, constantly changing the exercises may elicit a result, but we are looking for the best results; therefore, mastering and being consistent with basic, compound, multi-joint, closed-chain movements will help gain strength, increase lean muscle weight, increase mobility, work the body in unison, increase neurological activation, and lead to greater overall success.

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Topics: CCRC balance senior fitness change mobility exercises grip

What Exercises Should I Do?: Guidelines for Senior Fitness (Part 2)

In my first blog, I discussed two of my guidelines for senior fitness:

  1. Muscle-Activation Exercises
  2. Simplistic Exercises

In this second blog, i will discuss different movements and grip exercises.

Guideline 3: Compound, Multi-joint, Closed-chain Movements

Exercises like sit-to-stands, which are modified squats; and a vertical and horizontal pressing and pulling movement, such as seated rows and wall pushups, just to name a few, give you more bang for your buck. Movements like this burn more calories and fat, lead to greater strength and lean muscle gains, and most importantly, they work the body in unison.

These exercises work multiple muscle groups through the range of motion of multiple joints. For instance, a sit-to-stand works the quads, hamstrings, hips, calves, and even the upper back due to maintaining a neutral, upright spine. Also, this exercise uses these particular muscles through the range of motion of the hip joint, knees, ankles, and more. Isolation exercises, on the other hand, only work one muscle through the range of motion of one joint. For instance, a leg extension works the quads through the range of motion of the knee joint.

When CCRC residents, or anyone for that matter, perform daily activities such as standing up after ThinkstockPhotos-145159937.jpglunch, walking down the hallway, or picking up groceries, multiple muscles are being used through the range of motion of multiple joints. That’s why the compound, multi-joint, closed-chain movements are so much more effective than isolation, single-joint, open-chain movements.

These exercises also increase neurological activation. Compound exercises allow the individual to lift heavier loads, as opposed to isolation movements. Lifting heavier loads demands an involvement of larger muscles, which places more demand on the central nervous system to activate more motor units and fire them off at a faster and higher rate.

These exercises are great for balance, as well. Strength-training exercises are extremely effective for increasing balance. One question I always like to ask residents is, “Would you say that your balance is worse than it was ten years ago?” The answer is usually a resounding yes. Then I ask, “Why do you think that is? Ten years ago, did you regularly perform balance exercises?” The answer to this question is usually a resounding no. What this tells me is that as the resident got older, they lost muscle. As the muscle atrophied, they lost the strength to appropriately balance themselves. Furthermore, if they had a fall, they'd be even more reluctant to do anything. This fear would lead to even more inactivity and muscle atrophy, leading to a steady decline in balance. My suggestion? Center most of the training on the main compound movements and add isolation exercises in for lagging, injured, or imbalanced muscle groups.

Guideline 4: Grip Exercises

Most residents have arthritis in their hands; therefore, they have poor range of motion with them. Hand strength is vital for many reasons. From being able to grab their eating utensil to being able to grab the railing when they walk the halls, grip strength is vital. Doing crushing-grip exercises, like using a hand gripper from a sports store; or rubber band forearm extensor exercises, which are vital to avoid an imbalance from the crushing-grip work; and pinching grip exercises with a dumbbell allows clients to strengthen their hands, reduce, pain and increase range of motion.

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Watch for my next blog when I introduce a fifth guideline for senior fitness—mobility work.

Interested in doing more for your residents and how you can create a culture of wellness?  Click below to see how you can do just that! 

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Topics: CCRC NIFS balance senior fitness muscles exercises

Pickleball for Senior Fitness at CCRCs

Two years ago a member of my CCRC fitness center came to me and asked if I had ever heard of pickleball. I told him I hadn’t, so he explained it to me. A month later a member of our sales and marketing team asked me the same thing; this made me do a little research of my own.

ThinkstockPhotos-471663643.jpgPickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, and results in a senior-friendly game that addresses the many health concerns seniors are faced with every day, like poor balance and hand-eye coordination, depression, and the many symptoms usually associated with decreased cardiovascular fitness, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.

Why the Game Is Great for Senior Fitness

We all know someone who is not quite steady on their feet; that person might even be you. Well, what if I told you pickleball could help with that? Pickleball has a unique set of rules, mostly regarding volleys (hitting the ball before it hits the ground), that favors people with less mobility and poor balance. The decreased amount of volleying combined with the slower-traveling whiffle ball is great for a beginner, and someone with poor balance who needs a little more time to recover after hitting the ball away.

The large whiffle ball is also easier to hit than a traditional tennis ball. Pickleball is played on a court that is 20 x 44 feet, so it is a lot smaller than a tennis court, which requires the player to cover less ground. When you combine less volleying, a slower ball, and a smaller court, you get a pretty free-flowing game with fewer interruptions, which means great exercise.

Who Plays Pickleball?

Pickleball is played by over 2.46 million people in all 50 states, so you don’t have to look far to find a league or people with experience playing. When I began my pickleball research, I found that a church less than 5 miles from my community had a league that played weekly. I also found that our local YMCA had a regular playing league, and both leagues encompassed people of all ages, fitness levels, and experiences.

All it took was one quick phone call and the church welcomed our seniors to their next session. The first night we took about eight residents who had shown interest. Not a single resident we took knew how to play before going, but after a short tutorial they were all on the court and loving it! The most amazing thing was seeing a resident with Parkinson’s disease get on the court and have no problem playing.

A Weapon Against Depression

If you are around seniors often, you have most likely seen firsthand that some battle with depression. About 6 million in the U.S. alone struggle with it every day. After seeing the smiles and hearing the laughs of residents and church members playing this game, it was a no-brainer for me to introduce it to our community, and we have gotten plenty of positive feedback. (See also: Tai Chi Helps Fight Depression in Seniors.)

Where to Learn More

If you are not convinced or you want more information, there are plenty of websites you can go to, such as these:

If you are looking for a place to try pickleball, I suggest checking with your local continuing care retirement community or community center, or contacting a tennis facility.

If you are a visual person and want to see pickleball in action, look at this video done by the Early Show.

Check out some of our best practices for wellness programming for residents, get creative to get them coming back for more!  

 

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Topics: CCRC continuing care retirement community balance senior fitness depression