As one of the largest populations, the baby-boomer generation will have an undeniable impact on the world. The over-65 crowd will almost double in size by the year 2030. Not to mention people are living longer and more health-conscious than ever, setting the stage for a generous influx of senior citizens seeking personal training services. Exercise is beneficial for every age group, but must be tailored accordingly for this population.
Before actually delving into any specific workouts, educate the client’s family about what type of program you offer. Print out your routines that you have planned and instruct the family so they may offer the best support possible. Ask your client and their family members what types of activities they currently engage in as well as possible activities they wish they were able to take part in. This will inform your workout program, focusing on exercises that are representative of your client’s most common activities.
The main word you will want to be mindful of when working with clients in this age range is intensity. Many of these clients will have a history of heart problems, high blood pressure, or osteoporosis so baby steps are necessary. Even if these clients seem relatively healthy, if they have been sedentary then they will need to be eased into each workout.
Maybe your client has a specific goal to lose weight. While this can be achieved faster from higher intensity workouts, remind your client that we workout for health, fitness, and functional capacity. A holistically healthy body sets the strongest foundation for specific workout goals. This entails emphasizing form first before increases in speed or resistance.
Workouts should focus on cardio, strength, flexibility, and balance. However, in order to fulfill the minimum frequency requirements for each form of exercise, combining two or more forms of exercise per day (or per workout) is essential. However, ordering sequence is crucially important. Research has reported that participation in either resistance or flexibility activities prior to balance exercise can negatively impact performance (Behm et al. 2004; Moreland et al. 2004), so balance training should precede both resistance and flexibility activities.
Loss of balance stems from many sources including: Cognitive impairment, visual disturbances, and poor skeletal and muscular strength all contribute to the problem. As much as 35 to 45% of otherwise healthy seniors, fall at least once a year. Daily living throws multifaceted challenge at you simultaneously, and so should your exercise routines. While working on individual functional tasks (like heel-toe walking) will improve that specific aspect of balance, this falls short in preparing clients for the variety of threats to balance that can occur simultaneously. Therefore, a multicomponent balance workout is best, and should include two different types of tasks at once. For instance, you could have your client work on two physical tasks by asking them to stand on one foot, while lightly playing catch with a medicine ball. Or combine a cognitive distractor with a physical task by heel-toe walking while counting back from 100.
The same goes for resistance training. Even though most personal trainers stray away from using free weights, (sticking to selectorized equipment instead) dumbbells more accurately mimic real life movements by engaging the core muscles.
Start by building up each major muscle group equally. This entails using light enough weights that allow for 15-20 reps per set with fatigue coming on by the last quarter of the set. Be wary of dips and pushups, as well as other body weight exercises at this level. By implementing life-like workouts, they will translate to increased efficiency and enjoyment in the activities of daily living, including gardening, tennis, and playing with grandchildren.
Lastly, always warm your senior clients up for 10 minutes with light cardio, yoga, or Pilates, and tell them to warm down for 10 minutes after their workout.
A little bit of patience goes a long way. Taking the time to be thorough will reduce the risk of unnecessary pain, and ensure that your client gets the most fulfillment out of daily living.
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