By Sean Wardwell
Killeen Daily Herald
Bell County baby boomers are keeping pace with their peers nationwide when it comes to exercise.
A recent survey by Sports Goods Manufacturers Association indicates the more than 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 are taking their health seriously. About 4.2 million of them live in Texas, with 44,854 residents age 50 to 64 in Bell County.
"I've most definitely seen an increase (in baby boomers wanting to exercise)," said Debbie Edwards, Killeen's senior citizens coordinator. "We have people coming in who aren't even senior citizens wanting to join."
Killeen's senior centers, available to residents age 55 or older, feature activities such as dancing, bridge and pool, but the exercise room with its 15 machines also entices people.
Edwards said on Thursday that 14 people took the exercise equipment orientation class required before the machines can be used. She estimated 30 to 40 people a week use the equipment, which is free for the center's members.
Harker Heights also noticed a surge in boomers wanting to stay healthy.
"I couldn't give you exact numbers, but I do feel by offering different kinds of activities, we're seeing more people," said Joyce Mayer, Harker Heights' director of senior and adult recreation programs. "They're more energetic, getting out and improving their health through physical fitness."
Outpace younger generations
Dr. Vonda Wright is an orthopedic surgeon with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. She said baby boomers now outpace younger generations at health clubs. Those aged 55 and older are joining at a rate of 34 percent a year, while people aged 35 to 55 are only joining at a rate of 18 percent a year.
Bill Beckner, president of the Virginia-based National Recreation and Parks Association, said his group is seeing more boomers sign up for swimming, basketball or hockey classes at odd hours, because these facilities are usually used by youth during the day. He added this could mean new kinds of senior activity centers.
"I keep waiting to see the first senior skate park. I won't be surprised when it shows up," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Contact Sean Wardwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7552. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcity.