So the song goes. But may I ask—are you bustin' out all over? If so, it may be time to get moving. Even if you’re smooth, sleek and at your fighting weight, exercise is always a good thing and doing it with others multiplies the enjoyment.
This past Saturday I spent an energizing few hours walking from Manhattan to Ward’s Island, then to Randall’s Island, north to the Triborough Bridge (recently re-named the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge) and over it, back to Manhattan. If you didn’t know such a thing were possible, as I hadn’t until I did it, you too might consider taking a walk with the Outdoors Club. Walking with an interesting group of people and a knowledgeable leader greatly enhanced the experience for me.
I learned about the Outdoors Club at the 50+ Fitness Fairs hosted this past April and May at several of the public libraries. If you missed the fairs, you can get the information to start your own physical fitness plan by checking out the websites below. No money? No problem! Many of them offer free activities; others are very low cost.
Bike New York and Transportation Alternatives can tell you where and how to safely ride a bicycle in New York City and its environs besides keeping you up-to-date on cycling-related issues and advocacy. But before you start cycling, be sure to get a free helmet courtesy of the NYC Department of Transportation. Wondering about community gardens and how to get involved with them? The Open Space Greening Program of NYC’s Council on the Environment will give you answers—and gardening is a great way to get in some physical activity while producing something beautiful, and maybe edible. Speaking of beautiful things, I can’t think of a more appealing place to explore than Wave Hill—the Hudson River views, the super-oxygenated air, the flowers, the art, the crafts, the dance, even the urban beekeeping—I could go on and on about the delights of Wave Hill...
For walking, the aforementioned Outdoors Club, the Shorewalkers, and the Big Apple Senior Strollers clubs, which operate out of several NYC Department for the Aging senior centers, give plenty of options for walks for those at all fitness levels. The Transition Network, for women 50 and over, has some walking clubs as well.
If you use a wheelchair check out the Wheelchair Sports Federation. The NYC Department of Parks & Recreation offers plenty of accessible opportunities for exercise for those with a wide range of disabilities. Achilles International (formerly the Achilles Track Club) provides athletic opportunities to individuals with all types of disabilities, at all skill levels.
If you find the water calling to you, the Bronx River Alliance has a whole raft (pardon the pun) of activities. And the volunteers at the Downtown Boathouse offer opportunities for free kayaking at three of the Hudson River piers.
New York City has dozens of recreation centers, many of which have swimming pools, and if you’re 55 or over the annual fee is an irresistible $10. Many senior centers include the Stay Well exercise program in their roster of fitness-fostering activities. And at a cost of *free*, NYC’s parks—like the public libraries—are an unbeatable bargain. New York City's Urban Park Rangers, will be your new best friends. All of the park rangers I have met have a few things in common: they are enthusiastic, knowledgeable and passionate about their mission—linking people to the world of nature. There are also park rangers operating at the National Park Service sites.
City Parks Foundation offers free tennis and yoga and walking programs for those 60 and over at nine NYC parks each spring and fall.
For those looking for some serious outdoor exercise, the local chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club has a wide array of activity options coming up including hiking, bicycling and paddling. The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference will help you hike; besides maintaining over 1700 miles of trails in the southeastern New York/New Jersey area, they give you the information you need to be a successful hiker.
If you prefer to go no further than the public library for your fitness, you can enjoy what is perhaps the best aerobic activity—climbing up stairs. You will find stairs galore in many of the older library branches for your stepping pleasure!