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Getting physical

Many reasons young adults are working out

November 29, 2009
By AMANDA WHISTLE, The Leader-Herald

JOHNSTOWN - A shifting social landscape and greater health awareness have motivated young men and women to turn toward gyms for fitness, stress relief and social networking, local health professionals said.

While many young adults may have similar reasons for working out, their choice of exercise varies widely based on the individual.

"Fitness is very much an individual preference," Fulton County YMCA Health and Wellness Director Peter Riley said. Riley said he doesn't see young adults, as a group, geared toward any specific fitness activity.

Article Photos

The Leader Herald/ Amanda Whistle

Personal trainer Alaina Hannahs watches as Ryan Wille works his quads on the leg extension machine at the Fulton?County YMCA in Johnstown on Tuesday.

"Some people like to jump on a treadmill and lift weights, but others they feel like a rat on a wheel on the treadmill," he said. "They want to take classes."

There are more than 2,000 YMCAs in the United States, serving 10,000 communities and roughly 21 million members with a 1 to 1 ratio of men to women.

"We reflect those numbers here too," Riley said.

He looks for direction from YUSA for fitness trends in the industry when looking to introduce new classes and programs that will attract young men and women.

That's how Riley found a class called Drums Alive, which is scheduled to be introduced this winter. The class requires participants to beat on an exercise ball with drum sticks to different rhythms. It is especially geared toward young adults who need to change their routines to keep gaining levels of fitness and working different muscle groups, Riley said.

"As people get out of their 20s, they realize it's not that easy to maintain their figure," Riley said. Though the percentage of the YMCA's membership in their twenties and thirties was not available, Riley said he sees more young adults expressing an interest in fitness than years ago, and thinks there may be social implications to that trend.

"This is just my opinion," Riley, who is in his late 50s, said, "But I was married at 22. Today, people are more driven by careers and they're getting married later in life. People have to maintain what will attract the opposite sex longer," he said. "Not that you let yourself go when you're married, but there might be more of an emphasis on individual fitness when you're single."

The YMCA classes and adult sports leagues also provide avenues for social networking for young professionals.

"There's definitely a big social aspect to it," Riley said.

Alaina Hannahs, 23, of Johnstown has been a personal trainer at the Fulton County YMCA for about one year and also sees many young adults who seek her help to retrieve a past level of fitness.

Right now, she is working with two clients - both women. One trainee is 23 and preparing to become a naval officer while the other is in her early 30s and looking to better her overall health.

"I would say the majority of the women I train have fallen off the wagon or were pregnant and are looking to get their body back," Hannahs said. "Most of the clients that I have in their late 20s and early 30s have felt they need to do something different to change up their workout."

Hannahs graduated in 2008 with a bachelor's in wellness management from the State University of New York at Oswego.

Hannahs recommends the same exercises for young adults as any other age group. Lunges, squats, push ups, and anything cardiovascular are sure to battle the bulge. Working out three times a week for 30 minutes a day can make a big difference, she said.

"The biggest thing I tell people is to burn more than you take in. It's really simple," said Hannahs. "Stay away from bread and sugars."

For many compromised metabolisms, the holiday season poses even more of a challenge.

The biggest tip Hannahs has for health-conscious holiday snackers is to watch their portions. "Portion sizes are the biggest problem," Hannahs said. "And just go for a walk after dinner."

Ryan Wille, 24, of Johnstown works at the YMCA instructing members on how to properly use the gym equipment.

"I think guys come here to make themselves more confident about their self appearance," Wille said, adding that most younger men in their 20s and 30s tend to use the free weights, which are specifically used for building muscle mass, whereas older men are focused on toning with the weight machines.

"I think it's important to live healthy to make yourself happy and find a better quality of life," he said.

Courtney Wilday, 24, of Galway always has made exercise a part of her routine, mainly for peace of mind.

"I burn a lot of stress," Wilday, who has been playing for a women's adult soccer team for two years, said.

When the body is under stress the brain releases hormones like cortisol, which can increase blood sugar, blood pressure, reduce immunity, and build up stored energy in the body.

This hormone is meant to help the body deal with stress, but with no outlet and chronic production it can build up in the body and have a tremendous impact on health, Director of Community Education for Healthlink Littauer Sue Cridland said.

"Physical activity is an outlet for the fight or flight response," she said, " but you still have to learn to handle stress. It's realizing you can't always control events, but you can control how you respond."

Healthlink Littauer partnered with the Fulton County YMCA to offer monthly preventative screenings to participants, many of whom are young adults and have seen significant improvement in their overall health since they began monitoring their bodies for warning signs, Cridland said.

"How we take care of ourselves shapes how fast we decline. So the more active we stay, the better off," she said.



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