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What to Remember When Working with Elderly Group Fitness Clients

Two elderly clients work out in the park, doing yoga during a session.

Fitness and health aren’t restricted to a particular age bracket or group; it’s something that can and should be a part of everyone’s life regardless of age, gender, and current fitness levels.

Seniors and older adults need to have a health and fitness routine just as much as anyone else, and it’s important to focus on training them using the right techniques and interventions. As a certified group fitness trainer, you will have to be mindful of a few things when working with senior or elderly group fitness clients, including the following:

Perform a comprehensive assessment

It doesn’t matter whether you’re training them one-on-one or as a group. You will need to perform a detailed, comprehensive assessment of your senior fitness clients before starting any type of training because you need to know about their health history, different conditions they might be dealing with, restrictions, and other factors that could impact their performance in the workout. Knowing your clients’ health histories and physical conditions will help you set the pace for the class, know what the majority is struggling with, how far you can push them, and so on.

An older woman performs a yoga pose and stretches her arms.

Be consistent with motivating them

A large part of a certified fitness trainer’s job is motivating their clients and keeping them on track with their health and fitness goals. This applies when working with senior clients too, but often more than you expect. They might tire out more, lose motivation and drive, or feel out of place working out at their age. You will need to motivate them to stay consistent and regular and show up day in and day out for their workouts, even when it seems tough.

You will have to remind them that they are physically capable of these exercises and movements and that they have the mental grit and focus that it takes to get fit, healthy, and in the best shape of their lives. It’s a challenge, and you will be pushed to the limit, but it’s incredibly rewarding.

Expect limited and imperfect movement

Alongside that, however, you also need to manage your expectations as a trainer. You can’t expect them to work out the same way as younger clients or those without health conditions and complications holding them back. You can’t and shouldn’t be involving them in movements that are harmful or dangerous, such as jumping and running, and other types of high-intensity, high-impact movements, especially as a group. Some clients may be more adapted to intense movements or have the physical capacity for it, while others might not, and when training a group, you need to be mindful of the majority.

Similarly, you also need to be prepared to expect a more limited range of motion and movement from your clients. Health challenges such as arthritis, inflammation, and simply age can severely limit their range of motion and flexibility, making it difficult to perform certain exercises.

An older client stretches his arms following an outdoor workout.

Prepare to work with first-timers

You will also be working with a lot of first-timers during your group fitness sessions. Despite their advanced age, many potential clients are unlikely to have ever set foot in a gym, studio, or workout class. Their reasons could be as simple as not having the time or as significant as leading an active lifestyle that kept them in shape earlier. They might be coming to you because they want to be healthier and move once more, or they’re on a health plan and have been asked to lose weight by their physician, or they want to work out with a professional. No matter what their reasons for coming to you are, you will probably be working with a lot of people who have no formal experience with exercise.

Emphasize warm-ups and balance

As we age, our sense of balance may be affected due to health problems and complications, hearing loss, vertigo, and other problems that make it difficult to perform various day-to-day activities. One way trainers can help elderly clients is by emphasizing warm-ups that ease them into their workout and by incorporating more balance-based exercises such as weight shifts and flamingo stands. Additionally, you should also add in some exercises to improve their posture and help them strengthen their core and support their back, shoulders, and head better. Posture and balance are crucial parts of leading a healthier, fuller life, and you shouldn’t downplay that in your training sessions for senior clients.

A client holds dumbbells while working out in the park.

Focus on power and agility exercises

In addition to the above, you should also be focused on power and agility exercises for your clients. These movements are important for their good health, building strength, and developing quicker movement. Don’t underestimate their ability to lift weights, and challenge them with appropriately weighing dumbbells, plates, and resistance moves. One thing to avoid, however, is the use of barbells for senior clients, which can lead to more injuries and accidents.

Strength training for seniors is very helpful and beneficial when done right, including strengthening their joints, building muscles, and stabilizing different ligaments and parts of their body to function more optimally. It’s an excellent tool for their health and well-being, and you should definitely focus more on these types of exercises and movements in your training sessions with them.

Working as a certified group exercise instructor with elderly patients requires you to be more mindful of their requirements and needs and the fact that their bodies may not function the way younger clients’ bodies can. This is why it helps to have specific training in this area, and you can join our fitness trainer programs for senior fitness clients and learn more about proper training techniques, physiology, and more.

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