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Fitness Programs and Exercise for Senior Population

Updated on December 14, 2016
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Mahmoud Elboraey, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer with a Bachelor's Degree in Physical Education and Sports Science.

Aging is a normal biological process. We all know the signs of progressive aging: wrinkles, slower movements or less agility, gray hair, and a less erect posture. However, the aging process affects a lot more than those simple things we see. Even these basic, common changes have deeper causes and are the result of internal processes that we need to understand in order to be able to help senior clients.

It is true that, with modem medicine, people are now able to live longer. However, what is the quality of this prolonged life? Even among the young generations, fitness is barely shifting from a leisure activity to a necessity. It is very uncommon to meet a 70-year-old person in the gym or in an aerobics class. It is today our duty as fitness professionals to show these people how exercise can greatly affect the quality of their lives. We can’t promise that exercise will make them live longer but, undoubtedly, it can help them live better. For, what is the use of living to be 80 or 90 if you can’t even go to the bathroom on your own?

Chronological Age vs. Biological Age:

It is important to understand the difference between someone’s chronological age and their biological one. Even though, according to your birth certificate, you are 60 years old (your chronological age) you could actually have the fitness and health status of a 40-year old (biological age). People who look 60, actually turn out to be 40. This is mainly due to lack of exercise, bad diets, and unhealthy lifestyles.

As a fitness instructor or personal trainer, you could have a very positive effect on the quality of life of the elderly. Also, by teaching and inculcating certain healthy habits into your younger clients, you can help them age better. But, in order to be able to do that safely and effectively, you have to first understand the changes that their bodies are undergoing and what special exercise guidelines you need to follow when training them.

Loss of Autonomy and Morbidity:

As people age, some of the following changes occur and they find themselves more and more dependent on others to perform simple tasks of daily living:

  1. Impaired hearing ability
  2. Deterioration of sight
  3. Decreased joint mobility and arthritis
  4. Loss of bone density and increased fear of falls
  5. Memory loss and decreased ability to concentrate
  6. Impaired function of some organs (kidneys, liver, intestines, heart, etc.)
  7. Frequent morbid thoughts and a feeling of awaiting (or fearing) death

How can a personal trainer help seniors?

A personal trainer could have a very positive impact on the quality of life of seniors through any or all of the following:

  • Improving their strength and muscle tone which also has a positive effect on bone density
  • Improving their flexibility and partially or totally restoring range of motion to various joints of the body
  • Teaching senior safe ways to perform some simple tasks such as getting in and out of a chair, getting in and out of bed, dressing and undressing, etc.
  • Restoring some functions of body organs through improved circulation, increased metabolism and healthy eating habits

Counseling seniors and their family members on some safety measure that can make the senior’s life easier. These may include any of the following:

  • Installing some wall-bars around the house (especially in bathrooms and kitchens) to allow seniors to lean on while moving around.
  • Removing carpets or sticking their edges to the floor to diminish chances of tripping and falls.
  • Advising seniors to always wear shoes and other footwear that is attached to the foot. No slippers!
  • Leaving some sort of light on in every room of the house at all times.
  • Switching regular diet to healthier eating habits.

Exercise Prescription for Seniors:

Best of luck!

© 2016 Mahmoud Elboraey

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