Exercise is one of the best things older adults can do to stay healthy, fit and active. Even moderate activity can help them to stay mobile, independent and strong. As a Personal Trainer, working with clients who are older can be very rewarding, but there are issues and best practice to be aware of.
Assess the client
With all clients it’s important to assess the client’s individual health and fitness before you begin working with them. With older adults this is even more important, as they are more likely to have experienced health problems, injury or illness. If you are unsure about any aspect of your client’s health, make sure they gain consent from a medical professional before starting training.
As people get older they are more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, or heart disease. They may have mobility or balance problems, high blood pressure, or difficulty walking. The good news is that taking regular exercise can help with all these conditions. Regular exercise will help your client to grow stronger so they can maintain daily activities and independence.
Some older adults may be reluctant to exercise. They may feel it will be too hard, or that the physical activity will make them feel worse. Talk to your client about their concerns and reassure them accordingly. Emphasise that you will design the programme to meet their needs.
The importance of staying active
If they’re still not convinced, explain that doing no exercise, and not being active can have a detrimental impact on their health. When older people lose their ability to do things, it’s usually because they don’t do any physical activity.
Helping to manage depression
Depression can also be a problem for older clients. Explain that exercise can help improve mood and reduce feelings of depression. It may also help with some aspects of cognitive function, including your client’s ability to move between tasks.
The best types of exercises for seniors
Design a programme that combines cardiovascular activity and muscle strengthening exercises. Set your client exercises to work all major muscle groups a few times a week. They may benefit from a class, such as yoga or Pilates. Talk to them about what they enjoy. It’s important to put together a varied and interesting programme.
Start with walking or cycling at a low level. Make sure your client is fully warmed up. Monitor your client to check if there is any joint pain or discomfort, for example, hip or knee pain, which often occurs in older adults. Use the rate of perceived exertion scale to monitor the workout. Keep questioning your client throughout the session.
Don’t be afraid to challenge your client by setting realistic targets and goals. The programme you design will depend on the client’s individual fitness. Some clients may have exercised throughout their life, so will need a very different programme to someone new to exercise. As with all clients, it’s important to use your professional judgement.
Remember that helping clients to make exercise and physical activity a regular part of their life can make a huge difference to their health and independence as they age.