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On Getting Older: Senior Fitness Training
Getting older is a Blessing not afforded to all of us. Getting older, is far better than the alternative. Getting older can be wonderful if you learn to do it Right!!!!
No one wants to be a decrepit, 65-year-old, living in a Senior Care Retirement home, waiting for a nurse to get you out of bed, into your wheelchair every morning.
What you should work for is to be a fully functional, highly healthy, very virile and happy athlete until at least 125!
The 2010 census showed there were 40.3 million people aged 65 and over, living in the USA. This is over 13% of the overall population.
And, the USA population continues to age!
This trend is continuing throughout the Industrialized World.
If you want to do aging right, you must live a healthy lifestyle. This includes: exercise, balanced nutrition, sleep management, stress management and healthy habits.
Personal trainers play an essential role in leading every man, woman and child to a healthy lifestyle and maintaining that lifestyle.
Studies show about 31% of people ages 65-74 are physically active and about 40% of people 75 years old and older, are physically active.
This shows that:
(a) people live longer when they are physically active;
(b) become more motivated to become physically active when they get older, (after all: “They are Knocking on Heavens Door!)
We do have numerous studies showing that fit people, live longer than non-fit people. We also have numerous studies showing individuals that fall within the normal weight range, live longer than individuals that fall within the obese weight range. We also have more studies than you can count, that show people who exercise have:
- Reduced risk of developing conditions/disabilities
- Lower blood pressure
- Increased balance
- Increased mobility
- Increased positive weight management/healthy body composition
- Increased flexibility
….And Much, Much More!
Without exercise and physical activity, it is a near certainty the aging population will lose muscle mass, strength, agility, balance, muscular and aerobic endurance, functionality, sexual and physical performance, bone density and their immune systems.
Personal Trainers can prepare safe and effective exercise prescriptions, that can prevent all of the above. Proper exercise prescriptions can also, decrease body fat and prevent bone and joint injuries, that typically occurs to the non-exercising population.
Much of the heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and cancers that occur with aging, can be prevented or at least dramatically slowed, for up to decades, while avoiding premature aging.
Personal trainers should educate all their clients that even moderate levels of exercise can add years and, in some studies, even decades to their lifespan.
But… what is most significant, is that exercise dramatically improves “Quality of Life”. A wiseman once said “it is not about the years in your life, but the life in your years!” Exercise puts the life back in your years!
Caution is needed. In fact, caution is an essential element in Exercise Prescriptions for the Senior Population.
Personal Trainers must insist Senior clients and potential clients, see their doctor before beginning an exercise program.
The following facts must be discussed and clearly understood:
- How does the senior’s existing conditions affect exercise?
- Are there any exercises or activities to avoid?
- Are there any contraindications to exercise due to drugs?
- Are there any unexplained symptoms?
- Are there any ongoing health concerns and conditions?
- What are the senior’s goals?
Beyond the Exercise Prescriptions, the Personal Trainer will execute personally with the Senior client, Trainer should also assign “Home Work”.
The senior client needs to have periods of activity throughout the day. These activities can include activities of daily living (ADLS):
- Brisk walks- for leisure or chores
- Household chores
- Walking upstairs
- Gardening, yardwork, etc.
- Instead of hiring out work, do-it-yourself- like washing the car, house cleaning, shopping, etc.
Personal Trainers need to be creative at finding exercises and activities that the Senior client can do and WANTS to do!
While strength training may be among the all-time greatest exercise, your Senior client may not be able to start with classic strength training, or may not want to do strength training.
It may be necessary to start with lower intensity modes of exercises like:
- Stationary bike and other aerobic machines
- Swimming or Water Aerobics
- Aerobics- Non- Impact, Low intensity modes
- Tai Chi
Personal trainers must be well aware that 80% of all adults over the age of 50 have at least one chronic condition: heart disease, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, muscoskeletal conditions, cancer, psychological disorders, etc. In nearly all cases, safe and effective exercise prescriptions can reverse all these conditions.
Exercise can be particularly effective on brain and heart health. The Gerontological Society of America reported, exercise led to significant increases in brain volume in seniors between 60 and 79 years old (I personally believe these results will be found in everyone who exercises, regardless of age!).
We have already seen numerous studies reporting exercise routinely improves all cognitive functions including test scores, I.Q., memory recall, learning ability and more. We also have numerous studies reporting psychological improvements including improved moods and behavior, dramatic decrease in negative conditions in those with suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety and nearly all psychological disorders.
The Journal of Psychiatric Medicine reported, exercise prescriptions were safer and more effective than drug prescriptions typically used to treat psychiatric disorders.
People will continue to Age! The wisest among us will find ways to age WELL!
The Key Elements to Aging Well is the Lifestyle You Choose to Lead!
Personal Trainers are in the unique position, where their profession enables them to help every man, woman, and child to lead a longer, healthier and happier life.
Personal training can have a greater impact on Seniors that any other Special Populations group.
Use what you know in personal training to help seniors to live their best lives.
Dr. Jim Bell