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Ageism and the Fitness Clothing Industry

Most people, if not everyone, recognize the benefits of exercise. An entire industry has been built around promoting proactive health, with both food and drug commercials emphasizing diet and exercise.

It seems, however, that the companies that promote exercise the most are the fitness clothing lines like Athleta, REI and Lululemon.

These companies have been great in showing us inclusiveness with diversity of body types, ethnicity, moms and kids, etc. But if you are over 60, evidently you don’t exercise… or at least that’s what the ads portray.

I have been a loyal Athleta buyer for over 30 years. I still wear their leggings and tops to my Pilates and Yoga classes. In my little town, those classes are densely populated by women over 60 and 70.

The women that I know in that age group row, hike, take fitness classes, ski, camp and bike. Why then, are we not part of the message that fitness benefits everyone, not just the young? Why are we not represented in this line of athletic wear?

The Corporate Message of Ageism

The message that those companies communicate is that you don’t count if you are over 60. At that age, they assume, you can’t exercise. You can’t be fit. You are no longer a real athlete and therefore you don’t deserve to wear their stylish clothing.

Maybe don’t use that kind of harsh undertone in their commercial. And yet we all know that the attitude exists. It is featured prominently in ads that show young women climbing the hills with nary a 60- or 70-year-old in site.

The Question

I would like to ask all those fitness clothing companies that aren’t using models in their 60s and 70s – what are you afraid of?

Afraid your leggings won’t sell if you put them on an older woman with wrinkles and grey hair? Or perhaps you are afraid you’ll lose your sexy edge, because what’s sexy about getting older?

What if depicting mothers and their kids exercising could grow to include generational exercising? Now that would be sexy, and it would be a positive message: keep moving, regardless of your age.

Here’s What Companies Need to Change

The fitness fashion industry needs to ask themselves this question: What do you want for your mom and your grandma? Would you really prefer that they sit down in a chair and atrophy until they die?

Or would you like for them to live with as much vibrancy and joy of life as possible? Believe me when I say that upon hearing of your mother’s death, not one of you will say, “Geeze, if only she’d looked better in leggings.”

Why I Won’t Submit to The Ageist Message

I am so proud to be a part of a consciously aging community where people exercise well into their 80s. I may be a little bit slower and a little less cut, but the same values of health and fitness that I held 30 years ago, are still true today.

And, I will vote with my pocket book whenever possible. I will keep looking for fitness clothing companies that aren’t afraid to promote physical activity to seniors. They’re the ones that will get my business and my accolades. As for the rest of them, no one puts granny in a corner!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

How do you feel about an exercise industry that excludes our age group? Would you purchase leggings and other exercise clothing if the marketing and advertising was more inclusive of older women? Please share your thoughts below!

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Loved this article. I agree they need to show us in advertising but also have some clothing with us in mind. Most of my friends and I hate our upper arms. Skin sagging, no matter how much weight we lift. Please made 3/4 length shirts for us that cant do much about our “bat wings”!

Holly Schmitz

Great topic!! I’m 76 and keep myself fit and slim by exercising regularly. Most of us have been playing tennis for over 40 years. Some of my tennis girlfriends are even older than me. We all love to look nice in our tennis outfits. Of course no advertisements are geared toward us. Also, many older women play pickleball and wear leggings or tennis skirts. Yes, the marketing should change. Marketing people — if you’re looking for an older woman who still have the right curves, muscles and is into many sports, I’m available to be your model!!


I’ve been saying this for years! Women aging up are invisible, period.
When will our culture of youth smarten up and become truly inclusive. Loved your article!

Brenda T.

What an insightful article. I have been seeing these ads and thinking, ‘not really for me’.
You are right. Advertisers could show much more generational inclusions.


I agree, I have been an avid daily exerciser since 1984 and continue as I age. No reason not to include us in their ads.

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The Author

Stephanie Raffelock is a journalist, a blogger and an aspiring novelist. In her Sixty and Me column, she explores aging dynamically, living fully and loving well.

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