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Barre studio with a row of exercise mats

Barre — a blend of body-weight movements from ballet, Pilates, and yoga — has enjoyed a rapid rise in popularity over the last decade, though it’s been around a lot longer than that. Since the late 1950s, people of all ages have benefited from this accessible workout method, with experts noting that it’s especially helpful for older adults.

“Barre incorporates elements of flexibility, endurance, balance, strength, and mental challenge, all of which are important for healthy aging,” says Rob Glick, senior director of group fitness and creator of the ARORA Barre program for Life Time.

The modality is rooted in ballet technique, but you don’t have to be a dancer to participate in or reap the benefits of the barre method. It’s a low-impact modality that focuses on strengthening the muscles in your core, upper body, and lower body through small, controlled movements. Elements of yoga and Pilates help improve balance and flexibility.

“People are often intimidated by the name ‘barre,’ but we’re not doing any complicated choreography,” says Glick. “Instead, we’re learning to enjoy and appreciate the experience of training like a dancer. Barre training is excellent foundational work to develop your mind-body connection, strength, and body awareness — all of which can fade a bit as we age.”

To that end, Glick offers five reasons to incorporate a barre class in your workout routine.

1. Increased Mobility, Stability, and Balance

As we age, we naturally lose some of our range of motion, as well as the ability to stabilize our bodies. Barre movements can help older adults maintain and even improve their joint flexibility, overall mobility, and balance. These moves often mimic daily activities, which can help us function better, or are done on one leg to increase stability and reduce the risk of falling or injury.

2. Improved Muscular Endurance

The smaller, controlled movements and lifts featured in a barre class are often held for an extended period of time to promote and improve muscular strength. For example, your instructor might ask you to rise onto your toes and then lower back down several times in a row.

Muscle mass naturally declines with age, so it’s imperative to continuously work on building and maintaining it; this can lead to greater stamina for daily activities and improved quality of life.

3. Greater Mind-Body Awareness

One of the perhaps lesser-known but standout benefits of barre training is its emphasis on the mind-body connection. “The deliberate, controlled movements demand focus and concentration,” says Glick. “This cultivates a heightened awareness of body positioning, posture, and alignment. Posture also tends to deteriorate as we age, but exercises that focus on combatting that can help with back pain and joint discomfort.”

4. Enhanced Cognition and Coordination

It’s long proven that continuous learning helps keep our brains strong. It’s also well established that there are clear connections between moving our bodies and brain health.

“In a barre class, participants engage in crossbody movement patterns and mental challenges, while memorizing movement sequences — all of which help enhance brain function and maintain cognitive abilities, memory, and mental clarity,” Glick explains.

“These complex movements can also challenge coordination and balance,” he adds. “Stimulating the brain and encouraging the development of new neural pathways can help enhance your motor skills and proprioception, or your awareness of your body’s position in space.”

5. Added Sense of Community

Like any group fitness class, barre fosters social interactions, which can lead to the development of a supportive community and friendships. These connections are essential for mental and emotional well-being no matter our age.

“One of the biggest health issues facing us is loneliness,” says Glick, “Barre classes, and exercise classes in general, can help you find like-minded friends and a sense of community.”

Introducing ARORA Barre at Life Time

To bring the benefits of the barre method to the ARORA community at Life Time, Glick helped develop ARORA Barre, a new class specifically designed for active, older adults. Led by a certified ARORA instructor, the class is typically 45 minutes long and calls for participants to use a range of equipment, including the fixed wall bar for extra support, light hand weights, a mat, and a Pilates ball.

“There were several requests from members and team members asking for a barre class designed specifically for our ARORA members,” Glick says. “We created this new format to make barre even more accessible to this audience. It is the perfect barre class if you’re new to the format, returning from an injury, or dealing with limited mobility.

“This class provides all the benefits of the barre method, including flexibility, mobility, muscular endurance, strength, and more, all with the support of our wonderful ARORA community,” Glick adds.

Emily Ewen

Emily Ewen is a senior writer and content editor at Life Time.

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