Growing old is a fact of life. I was contemplating why I never see many fitness programs for senior citizens. We have a generation of baby boomers who are independent and want to stay that way. Far too often we find a lack of information being given to senior citizens why exercise is essential to maintain independence. Question is why we don’t cater our services to this population? Do older adults not value living with less chronic diseases?
To help answer some of these questions we have fitness expert Greg Mikolap to give us some insights about training senior citizens. Greg has the same questions as I do and understands why older adults need exercise. He has been a fitness professional for over a decade and has seen the value in senior citizens who regularly exercise. He is so passionate about this issue he has a course designed for trainers because he knows more trainers need to understand the needs of this population.
PEDRO SUN: Just wanted to say thanks Greg for sharing your knowledge in this area of training. First off, it’s important to know what people should look for when hiring a trainer. Can you give us some of your thoughts on this?
GREG: Sure. I understand it can be hard to hire a trainer, but this list should help make the decision easier.
PEDRO SUN: All too often I feel that the older adult population is left out when it comes to fitness and exercise. Can you tell me why we should also focus on this population? Also, why should aging adults hire a personal trainer?
GREG: Older adults (65+ in most countries) feel left out by most businesses, not only fitness and exercise. A report done by ’Later life UK’ in 2016 showed that almost 40% of 65 and older adults think businesses have little interest in the consumer needs of older people. This is just bizarre considering the over 50-year-old crowd is the fastest growing and there is a need for services for older adults.
Seniors are the least active age group. According to various sources, the number of people 65 and older that fit into exercise guidelines varies between 10% and 40%. Only 20% of this age group participates in regular activity.
For strength training, there is consistent reporting on 10% of seniors to meeting strength training needs.
Why the fitness industry does not include more attention to older adults is a complex question than it may initially seem. It involves societal norms, individual beliefs, subjective and objective barriers.
First, there is a myth that as people age they should move less. Society wants to help older people because strenuous activity is not the norm. We view seniors differently as a culture.
General opinion is that seniors should be in a rocking chair, not the treadmill or lifting weights.
Current older adults grew up in the era where technology was advancing, thus doing less by using machines or technology was a ‘status symbol’.
In a Canadian Journal, older adults surveyed said that they get enough exercise in their activities of daily living. As I stated earlier, research shows us that this is not the case. It confirms on what other studies say that a lot of people don’t start or maintain physical activity due to vague instructions of what is enough or not enough.
Adhering to physical activity also doesn’t show immediate results. This is something that a health professional need to remind people of. Also, as noted in this study (Chao et al in 2000 and later by Schutzer et al in 2004) a lot of older adults find the effects of increased activity; sweating, heavy breathing, muscle soreness the next day to be negative and ‘unladylike’. Another study from the same year found that ‘The findings suggest that many older women feel physically vulnerable, are unsure about their actual risks and benefits in an exercise setting and in the face of that uncertainty, report medical reasons why they should be excused from fitness-promoting exercise.’ O'Brien Cousins S. 2000
Great quote from the paper published in Controlled Clinical Trials journal named Exercise adherence among older adult’s challenges and strategies: ‘Physical activity is often perceived as a recreational or competitive activity rather than a therapeutic or prophylactic regimen. Pharmacological and dietary interventions, on the other hand, are often viewed as both necessary and effective means to improving health. In fact, only recently have health professionals given much attention to prescribing physical activity for older adults. Indeed, standardized recommendations regarding the appropriate “dose” of exercise (frequency, intensity, duration) to elicit the desired “response” (amelioration or prevention of a specific condition or disease state) are currently in the formative stages.
Also, health professionals must continually examine the quality and clarity of their recommendations to older adults. For instance, older adults are often given vague directions regarding physical activity; they may simply be told to “be more physically active.” These recommendations are in marked contrast to drug and diet recommendations, which can be rather precise.’
As you can see, there is a huge need for exercise in this population. That’s where personal trainers can make a huge impact in the lives of seniors. With current medical care, we are expected to live to at least 75 and usually way beyond that. Living longer increases the risk of disability or chronic disease. Training under a watchful and professional eye can prolong quality of life and life itself. Fitness professionals can make exercise enjoyable as they understand how to put exercise programs together for senior citizens. People who are stronger and fitter enjoy a better quality of life, both personal and social. Exercise can save lives. It is estimated that fall prevention strategies could reduce the number of falls by up to 30%.
PEDRO SUN: I'm excited that you are creating a course for trainers on how to train older individuals. Can you tell us what we can expect from this course?
GREG: I’m really excited about that course myself. Trainers will learn:
Course will be available from the Teachable website but you can sign up now and get a great discounted price at http://www.goodlookingbody.co.uk/coming-soon.html
PEDRO SUN: How can people get in touch with you? Any last thoughts?
GREG: Facebook is where I spend most of my time. My personal profile is https://www.facebook.com/greg.mikolap and I love connecting with people so make sure to say hi after sending friend request.
Thank you for taking your time Pedro and keep doing awesome work.
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My name's Pedro Sun and I am a personal trainer in Mission Valley. I write these blogs to help teach you valuable lifestyle skills that will improve your quality of life.