Adults over age 55 are the fastest growing population demographic worldwide. A recent global survey by the American College of Sports Medicine lists fitness programs for older adults as one of the top 10 fitness trends for 2016. As the baby boomer generation moves toward retirement, they have the time and the money for personal care, including fitness programs. For personal trainers and other fitness professionals, older adults offer a lucrative and rewarding niche, providing you have what it takes to succeed.
Older adults are more diverse than younger populations in terms of health and fitness status. Many remain physically active into their 70s, 80s and beyond, while others lead more sedentary lifestyles. Understanding the unique individual needs of older adults is key to successfully training them. This is where the “personal” in personal training really kicks in. Health screening, risk analysis and fitness assessments are critical prior to training, and a physician’s clearance may be required. However, it is never too late for older adults to begin a safe and appropriate fitness program.
Know Your Stuff
Before taking on older adult clients, be sure you know what you’re getting into. Older adults often have medical conditions that are treated with pharmaceuticals, and their side effects may affect performance. Musculoskeletal conditions including arthritis, osteoporosis, and chronic postural problems are common. In addition to cardiovascular exercise, balance, strength and flexibility training are essential for optimal quality of life. However, the rate of progression and amount of training overload should be modified to provide results and prevent injury. Careful research about physical limitations, medical conditions and prescription drugs should be done prior to your first training session.
Don’t expect to pack as much into your training sessions with older adults as you do with your younger clients. They may move more slowly, and novice exercisers may require extra coaching. Older adults often enjoy the social aspect of training, and they tend to not be in a hurry. Expect to spend as much time talking as you do working, and chalk it up to a mental health benefit that reduces depression and gives your older client something to look forward to. At the end of the day, older adults want the health benefits of exercise that lead to improved quality of life, both physically and mentally.
Educating yourself about older adult health is key to successfully working with this diverse population. W.I.T.S. has got you covered with certification and continuing education courses including Certified Older Adult Fitness Specialist, Able Bodies Balance Training, Certified Personal Trainer, Older Adult Fitness Foundations, and Exercise Program Design for Special Populations.
References and Credits
Thompson, WR (2015). Worldwide survey of fitness trends for 2016. ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal, 19(6), 12-18.
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