Fact: According to the Heart Foundation Australia, a third of Australians aged 55 and over have “low levels of physical activity”.
Maybe they think they’re too old.
Maybe they’re intimidated by a gym setting.
Maybe they’re not seeing anyone who looks like them when they take a class.
Regardless of the reason, consider this: Had Ellen Latham put away her workout gear when she turned 50, almost a million people wouldn’t be as fit as they are today.
That’s because Ellen, the founder of Orangetheory Fitness (whose membership is inching toward the 7-figure mark), started the company when she was in her early 50s. Now she’s in her 60s and continues to participate in classes three times a week and works directly with the fitness team designing every workout.
Take for example functional strength, like the use of free weights. That translates to carrying groceries or grandkids. The treadmill was incorporated to build endurance, and the often-derided rowing machines are all about building core strength. Every exercise comes with options that allow members to adapt it to their abilities.
Other reasons abound why exercise is an integral part of healthy ageing:
Study after study, as well as thousands of letters from grateful Orangetheory Baby Boomers, support Ellen’s mission of exercise for everyone. What’s not to like about something that is scientifically proven to improve your flexibility, your outlook, your strength, your life?
“As someone in her 60s seeing and hearing from many members in their 50s and 60s, I am excited about the anti-aging effects of this science,” Ellen said."
Orangetheory coach Holly Holland just turned 50 herself. What tends to keep her contemporaries from taking classes, she said, is fear.
“They’re intimidated; afraid they’ll stand out like a sore thumb if they don’t do something right,” she said.
“The thing is, there is no wrong. It’s not too late to start because we are at all levels. If I could get one message out, it would be that anybody can do this. We make it work. You have a room full of people supporting you.”
U.S. Air Force veteran Leslie Bryant initially went to Orangetheory when her psychologist suggested it for depression. The classes have worked for that, as well as boosting her confidence and raising her fitness level.
“The coaches really work with you,” said the 58-year-old member of Orangetheory Houston. “I have two bad knees and two herniated discs so I’m considered 40 percent disabled and they modify all of my workouts so I don’t injure myself.”
Grant Johnson, a 60-year-old member, likes that Orangetheory gives him extra stamina for playing tennis.
“Look,” he said, “you can get in shape at age 15, 50, 75. I've never been out of shape, but because of Orangetheory, I’m quicker. I can generate more power when I play.”
Then there’s Mike Chaplick, who was born in 1940 (you do the math). When he first started Orangetheory a month ago (with the encouragement of his granddaughter), his treadmill pace was 1.6 miles an hour. He’s sped up to 2.3 and, Holly said, “He’s not even holding onto the bar.”
He also participated in the studio’s quarterly “Orange Everest,” in which the treadmill incline is increased by one percent every minute till it reaches 15, then decreases one percent till it’s back to one.
While the number of over-50 members grows, so does the number of coaches in that category. As she neared her own birthday, Holly started checking to see how many others there were in the network. At last count, she had found 60.
“We had no idea there were so many of us,” she said.
That’s encouraging to Ellen.
“Coaches over 50 bring life experience and maturity,” she said. “They also are fit examples of what is possible at any age.”
Jeri McCormick, a coach, turns 54 on October 7.
“While looking good always motivates people, how you feel and the quality of your life is what makes fitness even more important as we age,” she said. “The more you move, the more energy you have to move.”
And for members of all ages, Holly offered this reminder: “It’s never too late to start. Your future self will thank you.”