Most personal trainers enter the fitness industry to build a career they love, and to help others realize their potential to lead a fit and healthy lifestyle. Yet many get stuck in the mire of low-paying gym or studio jobs that just don’t cut it in terms of financial rewards and sustainable growth. Oftentimes, the pool of available clients is split among multiple trainers, and new clients are assigned on an “ups” system so that everyone gets a fair shot.
The over-50 age group is the largest growing demographic in the fitness market, and the demand for personal training among older adults is high. Most older adults have the time and money to hire a trainer, and want the reassurance of safe and effective exercise to achieve and maintain optimal health. Yet many personal trainers are reluctant to take on older clients, especially those in their 70s and beyond.
Following are five common myths about training older adults, and the surprising truth about the advantages of working with this very special population:
Myth 1: Older people are boring, and we won’t have anything in common.
Fact: Older adults who engage in fitness activities are anything but boring. Most are highly accomplished, with stellar careers and colorful life experiences that go back decades. Training older adults gives you a rich cultural experience that you will not experience with younger clients.
Myth 2: Older adults are fragile and pose a high liability risk for injury.
Fact: When working with a trainer, older adults pose no greater risk for injury than the general population. The same principles and guidelines that govern all adults also apply to older adults. Progressive overload, specificity, the FITT principle and consistency are all principles that apply to older adults. The ACSM exercise guidelines are nearly identical for adults of all ages.
Myth 3: Older adults have medical conditions and take drugs that make it difficult to train them.
Fact: Medical conditions and medications may impose certain challenges, but they can be overcome. The key is to know the client’s health history and physical limitations, and to educate yourself about how to work with those limitations and get results. Working with older adults is a great opportunity to expand your knowledge and expertise. Becoming certified as an Older Adult Fitness Specialist will give you additional tools and specific knowledge for training older adult clients with health issues.
Myth 4: Older adults cannot expect to get stronger or healthier through fitness.
Fact: Given the appropriate levels of overload, older adults can build bone and muscle, increase cardiovascular health, improve flexibility and generally improve overall health. Moreover, older adults benefit from the psycho-social aspects of fitness training, with reduced levels of depression and anxiety, and improved mood.
Myth 5: Older adults are frugal and won’t want to pay for personal training.
Fact: Older adults have a high appreciation for health and are willing to pay for training that enhances their overall quality of life. Most know that medical interventions are expensive and often ineffective. Older adults often have a surplus of discretionary income that they are willing to spend on their overall health and wellness. Family members are often supportive of their loved one who wants to improve their health through fitness, and appreciate the added safety provided by a certified trainer. Moreover, an older adult is more likely to become a long-term client, giving you greater financial stability in the long run.
W.I.T.S. Older Adult Fitness Certification
The older adult population has certain unique needs that do not appear in the general population, and there is growing demand for fitness professionals who understand those needs. Trainers are in high demand for in-home training, retirement communities, and gyms and studios. Enhance your credentials, increase your expertise and grow your career with the W.I.T.S. Older Adult Fitness Specialist certification, available live and online.
If you love to work out and admit to being a bit of a gym rat, you may have considered pursuing a career as a personal trainer. The idea of wearing comfy clothes to work, hanging out in the gym and talking to people all day while listening to upbeat music has enormous appeal. Not to mention the gratification of helping people improve their quality of life on a personal level.
Every year, thousands of aspiring trainers become certified, with intentions of switching from a boring desk job or soul crushing sales position to the high energy world of fitness. Yet for many, launching a fitness career can be a daunting task. Where to begin? How to find clients? Will I be able to pay my bills?
Getting Off to a Successful Start
It goes without saying that completing your Personal Trainer Certification is an important first step to building you career and establishing yourself as a fitness professional. But once the ink dries on your certificate and it is framed and hanging on your ego wall, it will take a lot more effort on your part to get your business up and running.
Here are five important steps you should take to get your career as a personal trainer off to a successful start:
- Define your goals: Certified personal trainers can be found in a broad range of venues, including fitness clubs, physical therapy clinics, schools, retirement communities, small studios, and as independent contractors working from home. Do you want the security of working for someone else in a gym or studio, or do you plan to start your own business? Will personal training be your full-time career, or just a side gig? Will you open your own studio, or take it on the road with in-home personal training? Clearly defined short-term and long-term goals are key to laying a successful foundation for your fitness career.
- Create a budget: Starting a new business or career can have short-term financial consequences. If you are accustomed to the steady paycheck provided by your 9-to-5 along with other perks like health care and a retirement account, launching a business or working for a company with fewer benefits is a tough decision. Begin with the minimum monthly income you need to make ends meet and work backward. How much will you need to charge per session, and how many sessions per week will you need to stay afloat? Be realistic, and don’t forget to deduct expenses.
- Identify your niche: Personal training clients are as diverse as the population at large, and some are easier to train than others. Defining your niche and becoming an expert in serving that population will help you market yourself and build a solid reputation. Your niche may be as general as women, men, or teens, or as narrow as older adults, bodybuilders or people with disabilities. You may choose to work with bariatric patients, or pregnant and postpartum moms. Specializing makes you special, and it is a great way to build your client base.
- Start strong: You chose a fitness career for a reason, and even if you have never trained a client before, your W.I.T.S. Personal Trainer Certification has equipped you with all the knowledge you need to help your first client reach their goals. One of the best ways to get the word out about your business and build your client base is to transform someone’s life through fitness and lifestyle changes. Word of mouth from a satisfied client is a powerful form of marketing and advertising that money cannot buy.
- Learn, learn, learn! Fitness is a rapidly evolving field, with volumes of new research emerging daily. Keep on top of the latest trends, stay informed about new studies and most of all, pursue continuing education on a consistent basis. Consider boosting your credentials with a second certification in your niche, like older adult or youth fitness. Learn to market yourself on social media, and add to your business toolbox with courses geared specifically to the fitness industry, like those offered through the W.I.T.S. Online Business Management Success Series.
Let W.I.T.S. Help Launch Your Fitness Career
If you are switching from another career field, W.I.T.S. gives you a leg up with our unique internship program. Work with real clients, make valuable industry connections, and gain important credentials and experience to flesh out your fitness resume. Many of our interns even get hired by the hosting internship site, making an easy transition from student to Certified Personal Trainer.
Food for Thought
For older adults, healthy balanced nutrition can be a major factor in determining overall quality of life. Yet for many older adults, getting all the necessary nutrients for optimal health can be a challenge. According to the National Resource Center on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Aging, malnutrition in older adults is highly prevalent amongst older adults living in their own homes, in long-term care facilities, and in hospitals. A 2013 study published in “Osteoporosis International” found malnutrition, especially inadequate protein, to be a major contributing factor to muscle wasting, and loss of strength. As fitness professionals, we need to be aware of the nutritional obstacles faced by our older adult clients so that we can help them achieve peak health and optimal daily function.
Many physical changes take place as a direct consequence of aging that can affect nutritional choices. Dental problems can make chewing difficult, causing older adults to steer clear of foods like meat and raw produce. Diminished senses of taste and smell can make food seem less appetizing. Poor prostate and bladder function, combined with reduced ambulatory function, can be a deterrent to staying hydrated, as every trip to the bathroom becomes a challenge. Reduced strength and diminished reaction time can make cooking and food preparation a chore.
In addition to natural physical changes, many other factors can keep older adults from eating well. Medications can affect the taste and smell of foods, making them seem unappetizing. Chemicals and preservatives in processed convenience foods can interfere with digestion and vital organ function, and microwave ovens can deplete nutrients. Antibiotics in animal products and medications can disrupt digestive intestinal flora, causing upset stomach, constipation and diarrhea. Poverty among older adults is also a critical component of malnutrition.
Despite the many obstacles faced by older adults, getting essential nutrients can be simple. A daily smoothie made from whole ingredients like bananas, berries, greens and organic Greek yogurt can provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and protein. Ingredients can be prepared and frozen in meal-sized portions, ready to be blended. Organic peanut butter on whole grain bread can provide protein and healthy fat. Organic free-range hard boiled eggs are a rich source of protein and nutrients. The yolks contain lutein for eye health, and egg yolks are a rich source of vitamins A, B and D. Plain organic yogurt is an excellent source of protein and digestive enzymes. A probiotic supplement may help improve digestion.
Understanding the needs and physical limitations of older adults is important for trainers who wish to tap into this lucrative and growing market. As always, W.I.T.S. is on the cutting edge, providing quality education to help you grow as a fitness professional. To learn more about training older adults, explore our Older Adult Fitness Specialist, Older Adult Fitness Foundations, and Able Bodies Balance Training courses, all available online.
References and Credits
International Journal of Nurse Practitioners: Why are elderly individuals at risk of nutritional deficiency?
National Resource Center on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Aging: Malnutrition and Older Americans
Osteoporosis International: Impact of nutrition on muscle mass, strength, and performance in older adults.
*Images courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.