Do your over-55 clients or class members want to travel for pleasure but need more strength, stamina and mobility? Do they worry they’ll miss seeing the world because they lack physical ability?

If so, you can design a workout program specifically to help them build endurance, aerobic capacity and functional strength, whether for a road trip, for traveling abroad or for sightseeing nationally. Make a point of training older adults so they can get to the places they want to see and enjoy the experiences they want to have. You’ll quickly capture new clients, boost your revenue and engage a huge niche that’s largely untapped.

The Travel Challenge

Older adults often lack the physical ability required to realize their travel dreams. Organizations focused on fitness habits—such as AARP—cite health issues and lack of energy as hurdles that stand between seniors and their destinations. Sedentary lifestyles pose one of the core challenges. Surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for instance, show that more than half of people 65 and older are physically inactive (HHS 2017; ICAA 2018a). Moreover, when researchers from AARP asked baby boomers what kept them from taking all the personal trips they would’ve liked to take in 2018, health was the second-most-common barrier, after cost (Gelfeld 2017; Statista 2017).

In short, we have a lot of unfit older people who need your expertise to help them realize their leisure travel goals. Specifically, they need more functional strength, stamina and mobility. You can help by creating classes or sessions that match training with the way people move when on the road, in the air or on the tracks.

In my experience, older exercisers are more likely to flock to your travel training if you keep it short and sweet. For instance, I created a 2-month program called Fit2Travel© that schedules two classes a week and strongly urges clients to do more cardio training on their own. Admittedly, a 2-month lead time is a bare minimum: 8 weeks, twice a week, at 60 minutes per session is just 16 hours of training before they set off. Yet it is 16 more hours of activity-specific, directly transferable training than they might have had otherwise, so they’re still better prepared for getting out and about.

Matching Exercises to Travel Needs

When you’re designing travel-specific programs, start with a list of key physical demands. What do your members want to do on their trip? Will they be out in nature? Navigating foreign cities and streets? Hustling off ships for port tours?

With one-on-one clients, ask about their away-from-home plans and then list the functional tasks they expect to face. Next, tap into your knowledge base to assign functional exercises to match each travel task.

See also: Mother Nature’s Gym

Step Up Their Stepping Abilities

It’s very likely that in both domestic and international travel your participants will face a lot of stairs. Indoors or outdoors, stairs will be everywhere and will often be the only option to get from point A to point B. Especially if your members are heading overseas or into nature, there may be no handrails or the steps may have slippery or centuries-old surfaces that are worn and uneven. Have you ever tried climbing turrets in Europe that offer only an ever-circling smooth wall on one side and nothing to hold onto on the other? What about visiting caves where you are admonished not to touch anything, as was the case on a recent trip my husband and I took to Crystal Cave in Sequoia National Park? Picture your older adults ascending and descending in unknown surroundings, perhaps with little light. One obvious solution is to add stair climbing to their program. But can they handle stairs hands-free with no railings? Or do they first need your help to develop more dynamic balance? Should you add glute and quad strengthening and muscular-endurance exercises to their program along with a balance component?

Step-ups to a knee lift might translate well for this task, as would other dynamic-balance exercises.

Duck-Unders and Step-Overs

Do your members’ travel plans include hiking in nature or in crowded cities where they will have to duck under and step over uneven barriers or terrain? Offer side-stepping squats that mimic dropping down and lifting back up while traveling laterally (duck-unders).

Combine those moves with frontal-plane step-overs, where participants transfer their weight laterally as they lift one leg, and then the other, up and over an imaginary obstacle, such as a fallen log. Also include step-overs in the sagittal plane. At some point, travelers may need to move forward (versus sideways) to get over high curbs, short walls or branches, for instance.

For more information, see “Fit to Travel: Training Tips and Exercises to Prepare Seniors for Active Vacations” in the online IDEA Library or in the March 2019 print edition of Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at 800-999-4332, ext. 7.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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