When it comes to fitness for the over 60s, it can be difficult for older adults to get motivated to attend a fitness classes at the gym, or find the confidence to work out with a personal trainer.
This is because there’s bound to be the ‘fear factor’ if they haven’t completed regular exercise before (or just haven’t done so for a long time), and older people may be concerned about the effect vigorous exercise will have on their bodies; particularly if they have issues with their balance, co-ordination, or mobility. Not only that, but they might assume that gyms won’t offer classes and programmes to suit their needs as an older adult.
However, as a gym owner you’ll know this simply isn’t true, and that there are many activities that can be completed by those in their 60s and 70s. There are also plenty of benefits regular exercise can have on the older generation, such as helping them maintain their bone density and ease of movement.
Diana Tencic, who has been a health and fitness expert for over 17 years and has written articles for the blog, I Quit Sugar, says: “Seniors need to be concerned about bone and muscle density as they get older. This is especially true for women, as post menopause calcium is literally sucked out of their bones! Therefore, weight training a must.”
Katie Carmichael, Owner of KT Personal Training, adds: “As you get older, your bone density starts to decrease. Your muscles start to atrophy, and your balance just isn’t as good as it used to be. Staying active through gentle weight training, tai chi, yoga, or playing your favorite sport will help to counteract this. Additionally, whatever your sport, moving for a minimum of 30 minutes per day will be a benefit in the long run.”
Here’s everything else gym owners and trainers should know about exercises for the over 60s…
According to NHS Guidelines, anyone aged 65 or over (with no conditions that limit their mobility) can benefit from doing at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week. This should be combined with strength exercises on two or more days a week, and these should work all the major muscles.
Even if your clients are limited by their mobility, they should still be completing low intensity workouts, such as yoga, tai chi, and dancing, as these can improve strength, balance, and co-ordination. It’s also no secret that regular exercise will lower blood pressure and help people to maintain a healthy weight; both of which are typical and increasing concerns for those aged over 60.
Stephanie Cunningham from Yoga Lightness says: “Most older people want to maintain their mobility and independence. Because yoga has many aspects (for example, movement, breathing, and relaxation) most seniors can participate in a yoga class. Poses can also be modified to address most conditions of aging by using chairs, walls, and other props.”
Dmitri Simons, Head Trainer for Exercises.com.au, agrees that yoga is one of the best exercises for older gym members. He says: “Yoga is a fantastic, safe, and effective form of exercise for seniors to increase their strength, flexibility, balance, and mobility. Yoga can also help decrease the risk of injury in gym related exercises (as well as general life) by strengthening joints, tendons, muscles, and bones.”
Suzana Talevski, Fitness Instructor and Director of 3121 Fitness, advises: “Living longer means there is a need for living stronger, and many gyms around the world now have a wide variety of classes that seniors can participate in. Classes like Les Mills Body Pump, which focus on strength training by using lighter weights, can improve strength, balance, bone density and body composition, which are very important elements as we age.”
Amanda Sterczyk, Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Essentrics® Instructor and Creator of The Move More Institute™, says: “It’s interesting to see that the NHS only recommends strength and cardio training for fitness. I certified as a personal trainer with the American College of Sports Medicine, and they cover the 3 pillars: cardio, strength, flexibility. They also advise that flexibility training should happen every day.
“There are 3 fitness components on which individuals can train for optimal health: cardiorespiratory training, resistance training, and flexibility training. One of these pillars tends to fall off the radar: flexibility. However, how can you have proper joint range of motion if your muscles are strong but tight?
“Essentrics® can help individuals of all ages with flexibility and joint range of motion, as well as re-balancing the body. It appeals to older adults specifically because it’s a non-impact workout that re-energizes the entire body. This simply means it ensures that every single muscle has optimal flexibility and strength, so that each muscle is doing the job it was meant to do. If a muscle become tight and/or weak, it will experience ‘atrophy’, which means your muscle will shrivel up and die, basically. A shrivelled up muscle isn’t doing you any good at all!”
Phoebee Frost also adds: “I own and run CrossFit Long Haul in Maddington, Australia, a small, community driven gym where we do a lot of personal training, as well as CrossFit classes. We have quite a few members over 50, and our oldest member is 67.
“We find the older populations require more coaching, so CrossFit is perfect for them! We are able to work with them individually, even within our class setting. These are not like the gym classes where someone just stands at the front and gets everyone pumped. Instead, our coaches are on the floor, fixing people up individually and ensuring they’re working to the right intensity for them.”
How to market
To get the over 60s to attend gym sessions regularly, you should really be shouting about the benefits. Do this by making sure you tailor your marketing communications (such as direct mailers and emails) so that they target the right people; younger audiences will have different goals than older ones!
Although those aged between 18 and 40 may be more motivated to attend the gym regularly because they want to look better by building muscle definition or losing weight, an older adult is more likely to be concerned with using exercise to improve their overall health and fitness. Thus, you should make sure any marketing communications you send are targeted accordingly.
Older gym members may also be wary of attending the gym because they feel intimated by the range of classes on offer, as well as the unfamiliar equipment. However, you should be encouraging them to exercise with others (through familiar aerobic activities and classes, such as tennis, dancing, and yoga). This is also a good way of boosting motivation as it provides a wider support network, and will enable them to establish new relationships. This is highly beneficial for older people who want company, but will generally have less opportunities to go out and meet new people.
Your gym should also be equipped with the tools to enable your personal trainers (PTs) to check blood pressure and weigh gym members. This doesn’t just help them to devise a tailored programme to suit each person’s needs, but it will also make it easier for them to keep track of their health. If this remains stable, or they want and can see that progress is being made, gym members in the over 60s age group will be more motivated to exercise and get moving.
Talking older gym members through how to use the equipment will also take away the fear factor and make them more comfortable with joining in on the squat rack!
Another important thing to remember is that you should be offering a range of fitness classes at every intensity level, from low to high. According to NHS Guidelines, vigorous activities that are suitable for the over 65s include high intensity aerobics, swimming, dancing, and martial arts, while recommended moderate activities include cycling, water aerobics, and walking on a treadmill. However, older adults should also be doing strength-building exercises, such as yoga, Pilates, and weightlifting.
Because your more senior gym members will have different mobility levels, it’s vital that you have the facilities, classes, and experienced trainers available to cater to these needs. As well as advertising the full range of classes you provide (through your website, marketing emails, direct mailers, and posters), you should let ensure your PTs work with each gym member to devise a suitable exercise programme that takes into account their health (such as their weight and blood pressure), their mobility level, and the goals they want to achieve. However, these should be realistic to maintain their motivation!
Keep the interest
If you want to encourage the over 60s to exercise, you should also keep it exciting; it’s difficult to stay motivated and enjoy your workout if you’re doing the same thing every day, so your PTs should make the programmes they devise as varied as possible. This doesn’t just boost motivation, but it also helps your gym members target all areas of their body, which is more beneficial for your health.
Finally (and most importantly), you should be ensuring your gym is welcoming for everyone, so make sure respect is shown by everyone, from your members to your trainers, Don’t let older members feel that their work out is in any way less important; after all, they’re paying for their membership just like everybody else!
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