Tips for Improving Senior-Specific Fitness Classes

By Aaron Eisberg

As Baby Boomers continue to age into retirement at unprecedented rates, fitness center may find older adults comprising a larger percentage of their memberships. Which begs the question: How can gym owners ensure that they're offering classes which will appeal to this group while helping them meet their goals? Read on for four tips aimed at supporting senior fitness.

1. Know what they want.

As with all gym patrons, a fitness facility's success or failure largely hinges on knowing what they want and delivering on it. And just like the general population encompasses a broad range of fitness and ability levels so does the senior population. The takeaway? Courses with names like "Senior Fitness" may miss the mark in failing to communicate exactly what participants should expect before walking into the room.

For many older adults, the motivation to exercise is about functional fitness. Marketing senior programs and classes to address how they'll help seniors feel better and enjoy a higher quality of life can increase participation. The more participation grows, the more you can add new offerings targeted to the changing needs of your members.

Other keywords likely to speak more specifically to seniors? Prevention, control, reversal, and participation. Each of these address the "whole" person -- as opposed to the exerciser -- a key approach when marketing to a generation which did not grow up with the goal of fitness for fitness's sake.

Knowing what your members want is crucial -- even down to the smallest details, and this same principle also applies to seniors. One particularly important factor? Music. According to IDEA Health & Fitness Association, "Volume and selection are the biggest issues when selecting and playing music for older-adult classes." Advises Terry Ferebee Eckman, former chair of IDEA's exercise and aging committee, "Watch the volume. My older adults don't appreciate the blaring sound that my younger participants enjoy."

2. Address liability

While liability is always a fitness center concern, it can be an even bigger one when seniors are concerned. As Linda Freeman, chairman of the Seniors and FUNctional Exercise ("S.A.F.E.") Ball Program told IDEA, "In an ideal world, instructors would have a health history for each participant." This doesn't just protect your gym; it also helps personal trainers customize fitness programs to target each senior's unique strengths and weaknesses.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) also reinforces the importance of taking health histories: "Before training an older adult (defined by ACSM as 65 or older) the ACSM-CPT should first make sure there are no disease challenges that would prevent the client from exercising safely. A PAR-Q should be completed, and the trainer should obtain clearance from the client's doctor. Asking the client if they have preferences in certain activities will aid in program retention."

3. Look at your personal training staff.

Speaking of personal trainers, they play a critical role in helping seniors learn to exercise safely while maximizing results through a senior-friendly mix of low impact endurance exercises and strength and flexibility training. Therefore, hiring personal trainers with experience and certifications specific to seniors can be an invaluable safety measure, selling point and retention strategy.

Personal trainers can help seniors get started...and stay on track to their fitness goals.

4. Teach technology.

Wearable fitness trackers also have tremendous potential in terms of helping seniors achieve their fitness goals through heart rate training, but it's vital to acknowledge that they may need extra help learning to use the technology. Offering a course or one on one lessons teaching seniors to use these devices is an effective technique.

If you're running a fitness center business, you face challenges every day. Rather than viewing an aging membership as one of these obstacles, embracing these four tips can help you reframe it as an opportunity, instead. Request a demo today to learn more about how Accurofit can help you stay ahead of the curve.
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