As with any client this depends on her goals, current fitness level, her endurance capabilities, and her ability to maintain her THR for a certain amount of time.
I would ask many questions and find out what she is trying to accomplish and what else she is doing for exercise.
There are many fit 61 year olds out there!
She is just starting out. She’s not overweight. As she says it “I want to improve my “wind”. She’s weak, has a shoulder problem, wants to improve her core and leg strength. She’s going to see a therapist, hopefully, about her shoulder. She’s a “Master Naturalist” and is embarrassed that she can’t step up on a fallen tree to get over it when she hikes. She’s never been in a gym before, is nervous about it, and self conscious. I was wondering if there was a chart/guideline like I’ve seen for weight amounts. She currently walks at 4.0 (which I think is great) with no incline, that scares her.
the general guideline for cardiovascular fitness is to aim for 150 minutes per week. Since she can walk at 4 mph, she cannot be that de-conditioned. I would do a 1 mile walk test with her to see where she stands. You can suggest to her an interval training with very small increases in incline (which are hardly noticeable), and that should ever time improve her conditioning.
The shoulder problem is of greater concern unless she sees a doctor and/or therapist.
The mere fact that she is 61 does not mean that you cannot train her unless you have a senior fitness certification. You should be knowledgeable to do an assessment and then proceed from your findings.
I agree that your client’s age should not necessarily be an impediment to your working with her. As others here have stated, perform a thorough fitness assessment, refer to her physician if necessary (based on the assessment outcomes), and if she if fine to continue to exercise, start her slowly – let her experience exercise ‘success’ and continue to progressively overload her (safely). Lastly, make it FUN and she will begin to lose her fear and embrace it!
I hope that this helps.
I would make sure you have her health history and a medical clearance if warranted. 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week is a good starting point, as was mentioned above. I recommend picking up a copy of ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. Even if your certification is not with them, it provides some guidelines for you to follow.