In general, many older adults are inactive, which means their muscles have atrophied, their heart is not as strong as is it could be, their endurance is limited and they are not as mobile or agile as they would like to be. When designing a program for an older adult client, start with basic forms of resistance, cardiovascular endurance and flexibility. Of course, not all older adults have poor fitness levels, and many are very fit, healthy and active. As always, perform a health and exercise history exam before designing and implementing a client’s program.
Many older adults have multiple health issues, so you’ll need to know how to modify exercises based on common health issues including, but not limited to: heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, poor vision, general joint pain and more.
It’s important to remember that seniors can build and maintain muscle, so basic resistance training should certainly be included in their workouts. For inactive seniors, begin with basic movements. Standard gym machines can help older clients increase their muscle with less chance of injury. Resistance bands are also effective, yet light and easy for seniors to handle.
Increasing the strength and efficiency of the heart and circulatory system has several benefits for older adults, so be sure to include a safe cardio workout into your clients’ programs. As we age, balance deteriorates, so running on the treadmill is not going to be the best routine for most older adults. Machines that support seniors, including recumbent bikes and seated steppers, are a better choice. Often, walking is the best cardiovascular workout for an older adult.
In addition to poor range of motion, tight muscles, tendons and ligaments can lead to pain, discomfort and even falls for older adults. A simple stretching routine can help counter the effects of years of tight muscles, as well as increase one’s quality of daily life.
Just like the rest of the fitness population, seniors have health and fitness goals, too. Help your older adult clients identify their goals based on their abilities and current fitness levels.
When working with your senior clients, be sure to interact with them just as you would with a client who is closer to your age or demographic. Your senior clients deserve just as much attention as your other clients, and maybe more, due to the highly likelihood of multiple health issues. Plus, seniors have a lot of knowledge and life experience that they are often willing to share. Unfortunately, some seniors feel isolated or lonely, and you may be one of the few people they interact with on a daily basis. Always take the opportunity to try and make their day a bit brighter.