One of the fastest growing markets in the fitness industry is the Older Adult sector. According to the “2015 Participation Report” from the Physical Activity Council, 59.3 percent of Baby Boomers born between 1945 and 1954 regularly participate in fitness activities. This generation often has the leisure time and the financial stability to make fitness a regular part of their daily lives. As a fitness professional, you can have a profoundly positive impact on the quality of life of older adults. However, understanding the unique needs of this market is essential.
Knowledge is Power
Working with older adults can be gratifying, and professionally and financially rewarding. But before you seek out clients in this demographic, you should educate yourself on the restrictions and limitations that are peculiar to this age group. Loss of muscle mass and decreased bone density, along with decreased range of motion at the joints, all impose programming challenges. Metabolic diseases and musculoskeletal afflictions must be taken into consideration. Enhancing your knowledge about the physical changes experienced by older adults is fundamental to realizing success as a trainer or group exercise instructor.
Easy Does It!
When training older adults, the fundamental principles of exercise still hold. Progressive overload is necessary to increase muscle strength and improve bone density. The principles of specificity and regularity also hold true. However, overload should be applied in moderation, and progression should be more gradual than for a younger adult. The “personal” part of personal training is critical if you are to provide programming for older adults that is safe and effective.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends an exercise prescription for older adults that includes aerobic exercise, muscle strengthening and flexibility exercises, along with balance training to reduce the risk of falls. Resistance training should be performed through the functional range of motion, with one to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions, to fatigue. A minimum of 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity cardiovascular exercise should be performed daily. However, the 30 minutes can be broken up into shorter bouts throughout the day. Static stretching should be performed slowly, with muscles held at their longest length for 15 to 30 seconds. Balance training should be incorporated as a regular part of your training sessions.
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
American College of Sports Medicine: Exercise and the Older Adult
American College of Sports Medicine: Resistance Training and the Older Adult
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Exercise and Physical Activity for Older Adults
Physical Activity Council: 2015 Participation Report
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