Not as many men as women typically participate in yoga and Pilates classes, nor do many elderly individuals get regular exercise. Sherm Smith, an 84-year-old Zionsville resident, is an exception.
Although research shows that yoga improves health regardless of gender or age, there is also evidence that men are not as inclined to participate in the activity.
A research article titled “Yoga not a (physical) culture for men? Understanding the barriers for yoga participation among men” postulates that the hesitation might be because of masculine ideals and the perception that yoga is feminine.
Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that more than a third of adults 75 and older don’t participate in any physical activity.
“As you get older, you need to exercise more, not less. And I think that a lot of men, when they retire, will sit down and watch TV the rest of their lives,” Smith said. “I think people should just do the opposite, especially when you have time to exercise and take care of yourself more than when you were working in the office.”
Smith said he started doing yoga because his friend, Sally Bassett, convinced him to take classes at her own studio about 20 years ago. She now teaches yoga at Blooming Life Yoga + Pilates, the same studio where Smith attends classes.
“Here he is doing yoga and Pilates, sometimes three classes in a day,” Bassett said. “I just think he’s a great inspiration, hopefully, to other men that yoga is for everyone and you don’t have to stop exercising at any age.”
Smith said he stays active to prevent some of the degenerative diseases his own family members experienced. He said his mother died from heart complications at the age of 46 and his father developed Alzheimer’s in his later years.
“Anything I can do to prevent that horrible disease, I’m going to do it,” Smith said.
Yoga and Pilates have not only been helpful in building up Smith’s core muscles, increasing his blood flow and helping maintain his balance, he said, but it also keeps him on track for his future fitness goals.
“For about 20 years now, I’ve had a goal to run a marathon once I’m 100, so I’ve got about 16 years to train,” Smith said. “With yoga and Pilates, it helps keep me in shape so I can get to a point where I can start running again.”
Although yoga is more popular with women than men, Smith is unfazed.
“Even though there are maybe 20 people in the room, you rarely ever see anybody else because you’re focused on what you’re doing,” Smith said. “I can’t do everything the instructor can do, but there’s no judgment at all. You just do what you can do.”