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Personal Training Programs for the Elderly

By T.J. Jenkins ; Updated January 30, 2018

The elderly have special needs when it comes to getting in shape and staying fit. Mobility problems and health conditions may limit their ability to maintain their own fitness regimen, and hiring a personal trainer can make exercise more accessible and less confusing. A skilled personal trainer with experience working with older populations can ensure a training program that is safe, efficient and effective.

Effects of Aging

As people age, their muscles begin to lose mass and strength decreases. Grip strength decreases, making everyday activities more challenging. The heart muscle becomes weaker, causing the elderly to tire more quickly. Bones become more fragile, leading to increased risk of fractures, and flexibility decreases, raising the risk of strains and tears. Additionally, the metabolism slows, which can lead to weight gain and cholesterol problems.

Some individuals will stay active throughout their lives, while others may have a harder time and experience common age-related conditions such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, which can lead to a decrease in activity and quality of life. Other common illnesses such as hypertension, dementia and depression can also limit the activity of older adults.

Benefits of Personal Training

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, changes that occur in the musculoskeletal system result more from disuse than from simple aging. More than two-thirds of Americans don't get enough exercise, and people over 65 are least likely to engage in physical activity.

A targeted personal training program can put seniors on a regular exercise schedule, getting them active and out of the house. Effective training programs will address cardiovascular fitness to control weight and improve endurance, blood pressure and cholesterol; strength training will help counteract muscle loss and improve bone strength, coordination and balance; and flexibility exercises will increase range of motion for improved daily functioning.

Other benefits of a personal training program include pain reduction and management, reduction of the risk of chronic illnesses, improved mood and cognitive well-being and boosted energy levels.

Personal Training Program Features

While participating in a personal training program, elderly adults can expect to be involved in some form of aerobic activity such as walking, swimming, riding a stationary bike or any other activity that gets the heart pumping. Muscle-strengthening activities will also be a component of a personal training program. These activities consist of some form of progressive weight-training program or weight-bearing calisthenics that involve the major muscle groups to help increase strength and bone density.

Stretching exercises to promote flexibility will be included, as well as functional training such as balance exercises. Activities will typically be low-impact to protect the joints and reduce stress on the musculoskeletal system. Nutrition may be addressed to ensure seniors are getting enough calories and nutrients to support physical activity and overall health.

Exercise Frequency

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that healthy adults over the age of 65 participate in moderate-intensity aerobic activity for at least 150 minutes each week and do muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week. Personal training sessions can take place once a week to several times a week depending on the elderly adult's needs and budget. Programming typically includes activities for days when no sessions are scheduled.

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