Villagers stay active despite falling temps

Maryann Stackhouse, center, of Village De La Vista, practices control of the ball during the Pickleball 100 class on court instructions.

Gerri Jamieson said she moved to the Villages to play pickleball — something she can take advantage of even in the coldest months of the year. While three in five U.S. adults say they become less active in the winter, according to a National Recreation and Park Association study, The Villages’ 61-degree average winter temperature and ample recreation amenities means that Villages residents can stay active year-round. Staying active in the winter is vital to maintaining health for older adults, said Lesha Spencer-Brown, National Recreation and Park Association senior program manager. “A lot of older adults have chronic conditions like heart disease, arthritis and diabetes, and engaging in consistent physical activity is an important component of managing those conditions,” Spencer-Brown said.

One of the best ways to do so, said Spencer-Brown, is to take advantage of Recreation and Park Department amenities.

The Villages is home to about 100 recreation areas, 93 pools, 174 shuffleboard courts, 201 bocce courts, 54 golf courses, walking paths — some with fitness equipment — and nature trails, fishing spots and much more.

“There’s a lot of fun stuff they can do. If the space has outdoor equipment, they can utilize space in the park for picnics, if there’s a nice trail, they can use that for walking, water activities, kayaking; there’s a ton of different things, and when it’s warm out they can do pretty much anything that’s available at that center,” she said.

Recreation centers and areas in The Villages provide many of these amenities. Jamieson, of the Village of St. Charles, regularly enjoys the more than 200 pickleball courts in The Villages.

“It’s a fun and easy activity,” Jamieson said. 

She showed her friend Barb Afield around the busy pickleball courts on Friday morning at Everglades Recreation Complex. A member of the Passionate Picklers at Rohan Recreation Center, living in The Villages allows her to play year-round.

“Sunshine makes you want to be outside,” Jamieson said. “Being here in The Villages there are so many choices. It’s wonderful.”

Villages Pickleball Instructional Program lead instructor Al McGarity said the demand for pickleball is highest from January through March.

“I was able to train 12 new volunteers in the fall, so we were able to fill some of the demand in January, but we’re still short,” McGarity said.

One of The Villages most popular outdoor activities, golf, only gets more popular in the winter with favorable weather and an influx of snowbirds. Villagers played 228,468 rounds of golf at championship and executive golf courses in December.

Scheduled outdoor activities also help keep residents coming back outside, recreation supervisor James Scrubbs said.

“A lot of people are coming down to The Villages to get out of cold weather,” Scrubbs said. “We offer winter social leagues, which gives them plenty of opportunities to come out and participate in winter events.”

Activity has picked up inside recreation centers, too. Scrubbs has seen an increased turnout at yoga and pilates classes at Moyer Recreation Center which are now at full capacity since the beginning of the year. He expects an even higher turnout going into February.

Scrubbs added that an active lifestyle can include more than just exercise, things like attending outdoor concerts, joining neighborhood social clubs, or joining friends for a night on the square.

“If you’re looking for something to do, the recreation department offers it,” he said. “There’s no shortage of activities for (snowbirds) to do when they come down, and for residents year-long. We see that with our resident lifestyle groups: there’s over 3,000, and the number continues to grow.”

To find an amenity near you, check the Recreation News at districtgov.org.

Staff Writer Liz Coughlin can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5304, or liz.coughlin@thevillagesmedia.com.