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Working Out in the Lowcountry

Today's Baby Boomers have replaced the rocking chair with the Nautilus machine and whittlin’ on the front porch with whittlin’ down the waistline. In fact, older men and women across America are working hard to become the healthiest, most active generation in history.

“... at least 20 health clubs offer a wide range of programs and activities ...”

According to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, membership in gyms and health clubs nationwide by men and women who have passed the age of 55 increased by an incredible 314 percent from 1995 to 2005. Add in the slightly younger boomers between 45 and 55, and this group of active athletes stretches north of one out of every three gym members.

If you’re a baby boomer yourself, you might not find these figures surprising. Americans reaching retirement age and finding themselves with fewer demands on their time are taking advantage of their freedom to focus on living long, healthy and active lives.

Many fitness clubs and gyms are acknowledging this influx of health-conscious boomers by tailoring special programs to their unique workout needs. These include walking, low-impact aerobics, water aerobics and chair aerobics, as well as dance exercise and specialized resistance training machines designed to place less stress on muscles and joints.

All this is evident throughout South Carolina’s Lowcountry, where health facilities have proliferated. The nearly 100 separate clubs in the Charleston area offer everything from traditional weight training and exercise classes to yoga, Pilates and the martial arts. Different as they are, they share a common thread: All are heavily populated with physically fit baby boomers, many of whom train midday, when their younger colleagues are in school or at work. Two hotbeds of baby boomer fitness, 30 miles apart, have developed in the Lowcountry. In the East Cooper area, at least 20 health clubs offer a wide range of programs and activities, while historic Summerville claims an even dozen fitness facilities.

Dominating the workout scene throughout greater Charleston is the East Shore Athletic Club – actually eight separate clubs, six East of the Cooper and another on Daniel Island.

ESAC offers a broad spectrum of programs, including cardiovascular conditioning, total body strength, flexibility, functional exercise training and relaxation/meditation.

According to Maggie O’Rourke, ESAC’s director of marketing and community relations, a quarter of the club’s members have passed the age of 55 and boomer membership is, well, booming. She notes that the club’s more mature members favor swimming and water aerobics – at the Johnnie Dodds Boulevard location – low impact exercise and spin classes, where participants ride at varying speeds on sophisticated stationary bicycles.

“Older populations are realizing that age is not a crutch and that they can accomplish more now than at any other time,” O’Rourke says, referring to the club’s boomer members as “the heart of East Shore.”

Among other popular and well-attended health facilities in East Cooper are Eco Fitness and Blue Turtle Yoga, Ladies Workout Express, True Form Pilates and Mount Pleasant Aerobics and Fitness.

In Summerville, workout choices range from Beyond Fitness to Armorplate Gym to a pair of Ladies Choice Fitness clubs to Positively Yoga and martial arts specialists Masters Studio.

A major facility in Summerville is Pivotal Fitness, which also has a club in Charleston. The full-service fitness center has a professionally certified staff, a wide variety of equipment, group exercise programs and a women-only area. Its goal is to provide an environment in which people of all ages and abilities will want to work out.

Pivotal’s boomer membership is around 25 percent “and rapidly growing,” according to Area Fitness Director Ron Peruzzi, who adds that “with all the information available on health and fitness, the number of members 55 and older is going to keep growing.”

At Pivotal Fitness, most boomers favor a workout combination of weight resistance machines and Among specialty clubs, the wildly popular Curves for women operates three area facilities, including one each in Summerville and Mount Pleasant. Curves is acknowledged for pioneering a 30-minute workout for strength training and cardiovascular health utilizing hydraulic resistance. The clubs also offer a common sense weight-management program.

Continue reading...

1. Stationary bikes are popular with boomers looking to keep trim
2. East Shore Athletic Club’s downtown location
3. Pivotal Fitness is a big favorite with Summerville residents
4. State-of-art equipment is available at Pivotal Fitness
5. Women enjoy water aerobics in the indoor pool at East Shore Athletic Club
6. Many people opt for strength training at Pivotal Fitness
7. The exterior of East Shore Athletic Club in Mount Pleasant.

Photos provided by East Shore Athletic Club and Pivotal Fitness.

Summerville owner Rion Rampey says most of her 400 current members are between 40 and 65.

People are realizing that to live longer and healthier, they must exercise,” she points out.

At Curves, the core program involves circuit-training, where members alternate from upper body to lower body work, getting a complete strength training and cardio workout. At the all-female clubs, Rampey says with a smile, members of all ages are very comfortable because “it’s no men, no makeup and no mirrors.”

Along with this variety of fee-based fitness clubs is a galaxy of city, town and county sponsored community programs ranging from swimming to shag dancing and tennis to tai chi. It’s clear that for baby boomers in the Lowcountry, 50 might not be the new 40, but it’s certainly the new 100 –100 percent committed to fitness, that is.

by Bill Farley

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