Gauging The Limits Of Your Older Adult Clients

by Amanda Vogel, MA on Sep 26, 2013

Why senior Fitness is dead.

What do you think of when you hear “senior fitness”? For some personal trainers, the term might conjure images of gentle exercises performed in a noncompetitive environment.

However, older adult fitness levels and abilities vary just like their younger counterparts.

Definition of an Older-Adult Athlete or Fitness Enthusiast

Pinning down a universal definition is difficult because aging affects each person differently, says Cody Sipe, PhD, associate professor and director of clinical research in the physical therapy program at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas.

Chronological age has little to do with training, says Jan Schroeder, PhD, professor of kinesiology at California State University, Long Beach. “It really is biological age that determines modifications in training methods,” she says.

“We need to be very careful not to lump the older-adult population all together and assume that they are all the same, because the reality is that older adults are much more diverse than younger adults,” says Sipe.

Perception and Purpose

Clients’ perception of how they fit or don’t fit into the “senior fitness” category is another consideration.

Colin Milner of Vancouver, British Columbia, is the founder and chief executive officer of the International Council on Active Aging® (ICAA), a leading authority on the health and well-being of older adults. “Most of us have a habit of overestimating our abilities,” he says.

Personal trainers who can pick up on these key perceptions and sell their services appropriately—by promoting injury prevention without pushing “senior fitness” stereotypes and assumptions—will have the most success at attracting a fit older market.

The better approach, according to Milner, is to provide purposeful exercise that meets the perceptions and expectations of older athletes who are already fitness enthusiasts.

Special Considerations

Avoid assuming what an older client can and cannot do based on age alone, says Sipe. “It is the level of fitness that is of prime importance, rather than age.”

“However,” he adds, “with age comes increased health risk and incidence of disease conditions.”

Personal trainers can teach older adults the same things as younger adults, says Schroeder, but “the way that you teach them may be different.” She advises personal trainers to look at each older client individually to determine if special considerations are in order.

Training Fit Older Clients: The Big Picture

“Many older adults can certainly train with the same intensity as their younger counterparts,” says Milner. “They just need the right guidance and awareness of any limitations that may challenge this.”

Functional training. Sipe recommends avoiding functional seated isolation resistance exercises and instead recommends focusing on functional exercises.

Communication. Avoid giving too many corrections at once when teaching a new skill or refining a technique. Milner also advises considering how you communicate with older clients, because comprehension, hearing and vision can change with age.

High impact. Consider whether your client needs high impact—for example, does the benefit or training purpose outweigh the risk?

Recovery from exercise. You might need to provide extra recovery time between intense training sessions. “The ‘older’ body takes a little longer to repair and recuperate,” Schroeder explains.

Power training. “Power exercises are great for older adults because of the close relationship between muscle power and physical function,” says Sipe, who recommends resistance exercises performed at a higher velocity (power = force x velocity) rather than traditional power-lifting exercises, such as jerks and snatches.

Personalized Programming for Older Adults

“Personal trainers have an incredible opportunity with the older-adult market,” says Milner. “However, the diversity of needs and abilities, from the physical to the cognitive, requires more personalized programs, beyond a cookie-cutter approach.” Knowing and applying the correct training protocol for your fit older clients will help you plan sessions that are appealing, challenging and safe for each one’s goals and abilities.

© 2015 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Amanda Vogel, MA

Amanda Vogel, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Amanda Vogel, MA, is a presenter, group exercise instructor and the owner of Active Voice, a writing, editing and consulting service for the fitness industry. She writes for leading magazines, includi...

0 Comments

Trending Articles

Mindful Walking

Walking can be more than just moving physically from one location to another. It can be a metaphor for your larger life journey. Things you&...

Nuts and Peanuts Reduce Cardiovascular Risk and Prolong Lifespan

While there have been numerous studies in recent years touting the health benefits of nuts and peanuts, new research published online March ...

Smooth Move: Creative Additions to Consider for Smoothies

When looking for a quick breakfast or post-workout nourishment, almost nothing beats a smoothie. Whirl in the right ingredients and the blen...

Cut Risk of Alzheimer’s with MIND Diet

Conservative adherence to a new diet, appropriately known by the acronym MIND, could significantly lower a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a paper published o...

Yes, You CAN Develop Better Eating Habits

Analogous to laying out your exercise gear so it’s the first visual reminder you have of your commitment to exercise each day, imagine...

7 Ways to Help a Client Boost Adherence

Once a client has decided to make nutritional changes to support weight loss, you can play a key role in developing an action plan that is m...

20 IDEA World-Renowned Presenters Share Advice on Success and Happiness

We asked some of this year’s most influential and motivating IDEA World Fitness Convention™ presenters to share the single piece of advice they would give another fitness/health pro to hel...

Recipe for Health: Picadillo-Stuffed Peppers

If you don’t believe that authentic Mexican cookery is “whole” and healthy, you need to take a deep dive into Mexico: The Cookbook (Phaidon 2014), the first truly comprehensive bible...

The Reason Your Clients Don't Acieve Their Goals

Lots of people hire personal trainers or join group fitness classes hoping to lose weight. Yet many fail to meet their goals. New research suggests that “progress bias”—overestimatin...

Rice-Cooking Technique Cuts Calorie Absorption in Half

In a molecular gastronomy-meets-lab-science moment, researchers at the College of Chemical Sciences in Colombo, Sri Lanka, have discovered a...

Next