Physical Fitness for the Young at Heart
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Staying active is easy in the Bay Area—no matter your age or physical inclination
It’s time for the whole family to get active: you’ll build healthier bodies, bond and have some fun along the way. Following are a few good-for-you options in your vicinity that can keep your crew—from tots to grandparents—healthy and fit.
INTO THE SWIM
Has it been a while since you last dipped your toes into some water? If so, it might be time to dive back in. Swimming can benefit nearly everyone. It helps pregnant women get aerobic exercise– while feeling weightless, protects postmenopausal women’s bone health and helps reduce the pain of osteoarthritis in older adults. Most every YMCA in San Francisco (www.ymcasf.org) has a pool and offers aquatics classes for kids and seniors. Just a few miles north, the Mill Valley Community Center (www.marin360.com) has an indoor pool with a retractable roof and a 120-foot waterslide. And the King Pool in North Berkeley offers family swim time, lessons for kids and adults, and water aerobics classes. Meanwhile, the pool at the YMCA in downtown Berkeley offers swimming lessons, aqua aerobics, water pilates, prenatal water exercise and deep-water arthritis classes.
SENIORS ON THE MOVE
Older adults who exercise regularly get the customary health benefits and can also reduce arthritis pain. The National Institutes of Health recommends that seniors do endurance exercises, strengthening exercises and balance exercises to reduce risk of falls. At the San Francisco Senior Center (www.sfsenior.com), seniors can join a walking group or classes in tai chi, qigong and dancing. Meanwhile, Youthful Hearts in Marin (www.youthfulhearts.com) teaches stretching, chair aerobics and line dancing.
Thanks to the Bay Area’s temperate weather, nearly every day is a good day for a hike. Walking regularly can cut your risk of heart disease and diabetes and can even help protect against memory loss and dementia.
So gather your crew and start hiking. In the city, try Crissy Field (www.parksconservancy.org), with its panoramic bay and Golden Gate Bridge views. Or hop on a ferry at Pier 41 and make your way to Angel Island (www.angelisland.org), which has more than 12 miles of trails and roadways for hiking and cycling. At Oakland’s 500-acre Joaquin Miller Park (www.oaklandnet.com/joaquinmillerpark), journey through meadows and redwood groves as lush creeks rush by.
Up for the challenge of supplementing your hike with a brain workout? Enter the whole family in The Amazing San Francisco Scavenger Hunt (www.theamazingsfrace.com), which is held twice monthly or more. Come up with a cool team name and then compete with other teams as you navigate through the streets of San Francisco, following a set of clues to complete tasks and drum up points.
Riding a bike isn’t just fun. It’s good for your heart and muscles—and might even lengthen your life span. A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that commuters who switch from driving to riding a bike to work could extend their life by up to 14 months.
In San Francisco, cycling is safer than ever, thanks to Connecting the City, an effort to create bikeways for everyone from “an 8-year-old child to an 80-year-old grandmother.” To start, check out the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (www.sfbike.org), which offers a Family Biking Guide and biking classes for families and seniors; Blazing Saddles (www.blazingsaddles.com), which rents bikes and offers guided biking tours in Marin, Angel Island and Wine Country; and the Marin County Bicycle Coalition (www.marinbike.org), which offers resources like a Bicycle Route Map and member events.
Or go it alone: Download the smartphone app MapMyRIDE (www.mapmyride.com) to access more than 26 million bike routes.
Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. Active kids maintain a healthy weight, build stronger bones and sleep better at night. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that kids get at least one hour of physical activity every day.
For the younger set, the Bay Area has some great play areas, like the Koret Children’s Quarter in Golden Gate Park, which features a rope climbing wall, a concrete slide and a 1914 carrousel with fun animals. In San Francisco, the recently renovated Dolores Park Playground sports a granite climbing structure, a climbing net, crawl tubes, swings and a super slide. For more locations, download a smartphone app like Playgrounds! by KaBOOM!
Older kids can build healthy bodies by taking up a team sport. Options include the San Francisco Youth Baseball League and the San Francisco Juniors Volleyball Club.