Archive for May, 2012

Seniors And Their Workouts

May 24, 2012

Due to my education and work experience I train seniors. For my purpose I define those 65 or over as a senior. In fact at any given time in the past 12 years I have had 5 or more people over 80 on my client list. It’s a very different time of life.  This period can be filled with excitement, retrospect and angst. One thing is for sure these people look at their health and fitness in a very different light than they did even 5 years before. There is true purpose behind their training.

So what is different about their workouts? What is different about their attitudes, now compared to when they were younger?  Can they really improve even if they have never been involved with organized workouts before? What is the best activity for maximum results?

Generally workouts are different for seniors compared to those 10 and 20 years their junior. Whereas at one point a person might have been concerned about her agility and reflexes while getting around a tennis court that same person later in life is more concerned about navigating a busy day at the mall, being active with their grandchildren and at the most base level being able to perform activities of daily living.

Attitudes and sense of purpose are just as directed whether the person is in their 20’s or their 70’s, 80’s and beyond. In fact I have found that the seniors I work with are more consistent than their younger counterparts and they see their purpose to be more imperative.

Guidelines established for older adults by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services require 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise and two or more days of weight training. Exercise physiologist Barbara Bushman of Missouri State University says fitness routines must include resistance training for muscle and bone health. Weak muscles and bones can lead to falls and broken bones, and time doing rehabilitation in nursing homes. Greg Warshaw, chair of the division of geriatrics at the University of Cincinnati says “Most people don’t understand the effect of deconditioning. We get more illnesses as we get older. If you’re in good shape and you get bad illnesses, you’re likely to recover faster. That’s another reason why exercise is so important to people as they age.” (USA Today May 10, 2011)

So what if someone has lived their lives so far not exercising? Do they have a long way to catch up so they can compete in a push-up contest or start running sprints? Well not at all. In fact it turns out that the largest increment of mortality benefit is seen when comparing sedentary adults with those in the next highest physical activity level. In other words avoidance of a sedentary lifestyle by engaging in at least some daily physical activity is recommended for reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases and postponing premature mortality at any age.

The National Institutes of Health states that the four main types of exercise that seniors need are

  • Endurance activities – walking, swimming, or riding a bike.
  • Strengthening exercises which build muscle tissue and reduce age-related muscle loss
  • Stretching to help keep the body limber and flexible
  • Balance exercises to reduce the chances of falls

Although no amount of physical activity can stop the biological aging process, there is evidence that regular exercise can minimize the physiological effects of an otherwise sedentary lifestyle and increase active life expectancy by limiting the development and progression of chronic disease and disabling conditions.

The seniors that I work with bring a very different energy to the gym compared to their younger counterparts. They are very happy to be participating in life. They’re not concerned anymore with lifting the heaviest weights or running marathons. A lot of them see their contemporaries struggling and they’re concerned with maintaining what they have. And they want to live in this part of their lives as fully as they possibly can.

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