Jackson’s Gym a reminder that everything old is new again

As Aspen Properties prepares to open their brand new state-of-the-art fitness facility for their tenants in the downtown Bell Tower, I was privileged to tour the original Jackson’s Gym by Aspen General Manager, Morley Barr.

Opened by George Jackson in 1923, Jackson’s Gym is considered the oldest private fitness club in Canada. To this day the gym is used by a dedicated core of active members.

Stepping into Jackson’s Gym is like stepping back in time. The welded cannonball barbells and well-worn plates stand in stark contrast to the rich wheat upholstery, ergonomic design and gleaming steel of its contemporary decedent.

Proudly, the Jackson Gym name carries on as it will be displayed on the doors of the new centre which opens in September.

As with many things, trends tend to cycle giving rebirth to that which has already been. What’s old is new again.

Similarly, exercise has gone back to its roots in some respects.

The industrial revolution and computer age did wonders for progress but also ushered in the advent of obesity, bad backs and poor flexibility. The biggest culprit of course being the chair seconded by drive through windows and the stuff that comes out of them.

Kettlebells and calisthenics, more typical of the first Jackson’s Gym, have resurfaced and been branded as functional training. It’s not that other modes of exercise have fallen off the map – there’s simply many more options from which to choose.

The theory behind functional training is that exercisers become more adept at performing regular daily activities by simulating full body movements during exercise through a full range. Pick it up – push it over your head – put it down.

The fact is, all forms of exercise could be deemed functional. After all, what constitutes function? If bodybuilding, walking, yoga or gardening help you move better, then they are all beneficial and functional to varying degrees.

Getting off the couch or out of the chair is the true challenge. Take a look at any given week and consider the amount of time you are sedentary. Its frightening. Even regular exercisers find that they are tied to a chair or laying in bed for the majority of the past 24 hours – eight hours in bed, eight hours at a desk, an hour or so in the car, a couple hours in front of the TV. Most of us spend very little time standing or moving.

So what to do? Well, if you look to science, the answer is pretty clear. According to research, the onset and progression of aging is well within our control.

In a recent study, exercise researcher Len Kravitz found that weight training not only slowed the aging process but also reversed it at the gene level. He goes on to say that mitochondrial impairment, typically resulting from inactivity, was reversed with only six months of weight training.

A little activity goes a long way to enhancing quality of life now and into the future.

Is there an actual chronological number at which one can expect the aging process to begin? Not really. Its not a number that defines your age, it’s what you do on a daily basis that sets the clock.

The research continues to grow suggesting that managing the aging process is entirely up to you. If you park yourself in front of a screen at the age of (enter age here) then the aging process begins.

A popular University of Texas Southwestern Medical School research study in the ’60s showed just that. Perfectly healthy 20-year-olds spent three weeks in bed to determine the affects of sedentary behaviour. Not surprisingly, the young subjects developed many of the physiologic characteristics of people twice their age. In this case, aging starts at 20.

As you plan the week ahead think about the age you would like to be. Now, consider whether your activity pattern mirrors the typical 70-year-old or 30-year-old. Chances are your physiological age will match that number.

What’s old can be new again. The choice is yours.

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