Vancouver gym owner Ron Zalko can relate to some of the challenges that aging baby boomers face.
In nearly four decades operating his own business in Kitsilano, he’s experienced career success and personal satisfaction. Over the years, he's helped his 3,000 members not only become more fit but also develop a greater sense of self-worth and confidence in their day-to-day lives.
In an interview in the back office of Ron Zalko Fitness & Yoga, he also pointed out that as people move into their later years—particularly after retiring—they can sometimes feel more listless.
According to him, they commonly stop worrying about how they look to the outside world, so they might pay less attention to nutrition. And in his mind, that can sow the seeds for more rapid decline in their later years.
“They sometimes don’t care about how they feel,” Zalko explained.
He said that people can overcome the inertia that leads them to avoid exercising by retaining a personal trainer. Another option is joining groups of five or six baby boomers in a low-impact exercise program at his gym.
There are a variety of fitness regimens for people over the age of 55, including high-intensity interval training, body-weight training, strength training, yoga, and functional training.
“They can go at their own pace and listen to their own body,” he noted.
High-intensity interval training includes cardio, stretching, and some weight training. The goal is to work on the upper body, waist, hips, thighs, and glutes—and particularly the core, which includes all the muscles in the midsection.
Zalko noted that this is particularly important because the core supports and stabilizes the entire body. One way to strengthen this area is by doing Pilates.
“I have lots of baby boomers here,” he said. “They come three to four times a week. They look great and they’re happy. They’re happy because they feel good about themselves.”
Many exercises don't require machines
Body-weight training doesn’t involve any machines, which makes it convenient for people who like to travel. It involves using a person’s own body weight as a resistance-training tool, whether that’s through pushups, squats, planks, lunges, or other exercises.
Functional training can help improve balance, coordination, and endurance through strength training. A squat, for example, is a functional exercise because it also helps improve an older person’s muscles for tasks like picking things up off the floor.
This “training for life” can also make it easier for a person to grab a suitcase from an overhead compartment or haul boxes into their home.
“There are different movements,” Zalko said. “You can write them down, and when you travel, you can do them on your own.”
In a 2014 study published in the International Journal of Wellbeing, Concordia University researchers reported that people over the age of 50 were usually more motivated to exercise as a means of reducing stress and becoming toned and fit. Having fun, meeting friends, and enhancing mental toughness ranked far lower for them than for younger age groups.
The researchers noted, however, that “motivation matters in regard to living a meaningful life.” And they questioned what it will take to increase older people’s passion for exercise rather than simply working out on machines in a mechanistic way.
Zalko is well aware that exercise needs to be fun for people to retain their desire to remain healthy. That’s why he pays close attention to assigning the right personal trainer to individual members, depending on their objectives, and encouraging baby boomers to join fitness groups at his gym.
“This is my mission in life,” he said. “I don’t do it for the money. I’m here because I like to see people changing their lifestyle. I like to see them happy.”