9 Best Fitness Classes to Take If You're Over 60, Experts Say
Your physical fitness is more important than ever, so fitness pros recommend these classes.
As you get older, exercise can put your body through the wringer in ways you probably couldn't imagine in your youth. Yet experts say that by keeping up your fitness routine past the age of 60, you stand to gain countless benefits in the realms of health and longevity. By exercising at moderate intensity for just 150 minutes per week—or just over 20 minutes per day—older adults reduce their risk of chronic illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer. Taken together, this is associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, not all exercise regimens are created equally for the over-60 set—some are especially beneficial while also reducing the risk of injury. Read on to learn which nine fitness classes you should try, according to health and fitness experts.
The 9 Best Fitness Classes If You're Over 60
While the CDC says that moderate to vigorous intensity cardiovascular exercise should be the backbone of your fitness routine, the health authority also notes that it's important to incorporate balance-building activities.
Tyler Lowe, the sports and exercise rehab therapist behind the wellness company Loving Life, recommends taking yoga classes to learn those essential skills, which you can then practice between classes at home.
"Yoga is an excellent choice for older adults as it can help improve flexibility, balance, and strength. It's a low-impact exercise, which means it's gentle on the joints," he explains.
Deniz Efe, founder and owner of Fitness Equipped, agrees that yoga provides serious benefits for older adults who want to get in shape while minimizing joint pain and discomfort.
"Low-impact forms such as Hatha yoga place emphasis on stretching and breathing exercises as opposed to strenuous cardio workouts which can be taxing for aging bodies. Additionally, since yoga helps reduce stress and encourages mindful practice, it can also be beneficial to one's mental health," Efe tells Best Life.
Another low-impact exercise, Pilates can help you build balance, flexibility, and more. Taking a class to learn the ropes will not only provide you with the right equipment for Pilates but also a clear understanding of how to nail its range of motion exercises.
"Similar to yoga, Pilates can help improve flexibility and strength, but with a stronger focus on core strength," explains Lowe. "A strong core can greatly benefit older adults by improving posture, balance, and stability, reducing the risk of falls."
Entering your sixth decade doesn't necessarily mean it's time to slow down—there are still plenty of safe exercise classes that will put your fitness to the test. In particular, cycling classes are a great way to burn fat, build strength, and increase your coordination and balance.
"Cardiovascular health is important at all ages, but one of the benefits of indoor cycling is that it is soft on joints," says Matt Claes, founder and head coach for Weight Loss Made Practical. "This type of exercise class can be especially great for people who are just getting back into exercising. Then as you get stronger over time, you can also consider more intense options."
For a challenging, full-body workout that sends your cardiovascular health soaring, try a rowing class, suggests Claes. "The benefits of rowing classes are similar to indoor cycling but you get more upper-body muscle endurance training too."
Claes adds that besides the bigger picture benefits to your heart health and longevity, this exercise can also help preserve grip strength, which "makes it easier to hold on to something to avoid falling."
In fact, a 2019 study published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging reveals that grip strength is actually a key indicator of broader health, including improved upper limb function, bone mineral density, and cognition, as well as reduced risk of fractures, depression, sleep problems, and diabetes.
5. Water aerobics
A water aerobics class is another great way to get your heart rate going at any age. But Lowe says it's an especially beneficial cardiovascular activity for seniors.
"Water aerobics or aqua fitness classes provide a buoyant environment that reduces stress on the joints, making it an ideal choice for older adults—particularly those with arthritis or joint pain. Water resistance helps improve muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness without heavy impact," he tells Best Life.
Efe adds that because you're in water during the class, the risk of slipping or falling is significantly lessened. This makes it a good option for anyone who has experienced past injuries of that type, or who has noticed problems with balance.
6. Strength training
In your younger years, you may have hit the gym for a solo strength training workout. However, experts say that older adults may want to take a class to refine their skills.
"It's important that these classes are guided by professionals to ensure the right form and prevent injuries," notes Lowe.
The sports therapist adds that strength training can help offset a natural decrease in muscle mass, which commonly occurs with age. "Lifting light weights or using resistance bands can increase strength, improve bone density, and enhance balance."
7. Tai Chi
For an exercise class that can get you moving at any fitness level, consider Tai Chi. Focusing on slow, controlled movements and deep breathing, the practice is often referred to as "meditation in motion," says Lowe.
Efe says that Tai Chi is an excellent class for people over 60, as it can help build balance and flexibility without the risks of higher-impact exercise.
"The low-impact nature of Tai Chi makes it the perfect choice for seniors who don't want to put too much strain on their joints or risk injury. Plus, with its meditative elements, Tai Chi can help cultivate mindfulness and improve overall mental well-being," he says.
8. Walking groups
Walking is a great way to work toward your 150 minutes of weekly exercise. The CDC points out that not only is walking a great way to improve your cardiovascular health, but even a single walk or bout of comparable exercise can improve sleep, memory, the ability to think and learn, and symptoms of anxiety.
"Walking is a simple, accessible form of exercise that can significantly benefit cardiovascular health. It helps maintain mobility and independence, improves balance and coordination, and is gentle on the joints," says Lowe.
While you can certainly reap the health benefits of walking on your own, joining a walking group or class "adds a social element, which can boost mental wellbeing," he adds. A group setting may also encourage you to set goals and stay accountable to your new walking regimen.
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9. Chair aerobics
At 60, you may still feel like the fitness world is your oyster. However, if your physical abilities change as the years pass, keep in mind that there are still certain classes—such as chair aerobics—that are likely to meet you at your fitness level.
"Chair aerobics classes are a great option for those who may not feel comfortable standing up and exercising due to physical limitations or injuries," says Efe. "These classes still provide a full body workout with minimal impact on joints while allowing participants to modify movements ensuring that they remain safe yet still benefit from the exercise regimen."
Be sure to speak with the instructor to share any particular limitations you may be contending with so they can modify the workout to suit your particular needs.