Staying active as a senior is important for increased longevity, mobility, and mental stamina — which basically boils down to better quality of life. But sometimes it can be terrifying to start or know how to exercise as you age. That’s why getting a personal trainer who specializes in working with senior citizens is the way to go. Here are a few tips on how to get this process started.
Get That Body Moving
It seems like there’s a new article every day about how even a one-second workout can provide heaps of improvement for your health. We’re joking about the one-second thing but all this means is literally any movement or exercise is better than nothing. Walking, even if it’s from the TV to your chair, is better than sitting all day.
And studies have shown that exercise is the key to maintaining a long and healthy life. A University of Pittsburgh study found that doing aerobic exercise three times a week for four months helped older adults maintain memories. Another study states that walking just under the popular 10,000 steps per day recommendation (9,826 steps to be precise) is associated with lower risk of dementia. And considering that almost half of older adults fear dementia, anything that can reduce your risk, improve your health, and give you endorphins seems like a win to us.
Since exercise can increase your longevity overall, it’s a great new habit to pick up in your retirement when you finally have the time to focus on you.
Low-impact exercises like walking and swimming are wonderful for seniors who want to get active. Tai Chi, deliberately slow movements done in a sequence, proves excellent for seniors, as it increases flexibility and balance. So if you see a group of people moving slowly and fluidly in a park, maybe sign up and join them. Your golden years could be at stake!
Find Support With a Personal Trainer
When you think of personal trainers, you might think of a jacked guy yelling at someone to lift 400 pounds. In actuality, they’re meant to create an exercise program tailor-made for you, watch your progress, and ensure you’re doing each exercise correctly to limit injury risk.
Remember the video of Ruth Baber Ginsberg’s personal trainer doing push-ups as a tribute to her? It’s unlikely he had her do deadlifts but he pushed her in ways she probably wouldn’t have pushed herself, and he added quality years to her life. It’s also a reminder of how, well, personal, a personal trainer can get. They become friends or even part of the family after a while.
And at a time in your life when loneliness is not only a major bummer but also a major health risk, having a personal trainer can help you feel more connected with the world. Your trainer will create a personalized training regimen and be a source of comfort and encouragement.
How Can a Personal Trainer Help With Training?
A personal trainer can be the secret ingredient for starting and sticking with a workout plan. A good trainer can remove or reduce the barriers to entry. We spoke with Los Angeles-based personal trainer Wendy Worthington, about how she creates a positive, workable exercise routine for her clients, no matter their age or ability.
Prioritize Form Over Output
A personal trainer can make sure you complete exercises with proper form, which means you won’t injure yourself by accident. While a college student might get away with subpar form and not get injured on the spot, an older gym-goer may struggle with mobility, joint pain, and age-related muscle and bone density loss. An unintended injury could be a major setback for an older adult that could take weeks or months to correct.
“Whether you’re 22 or 82, having proper form and posturing is imperative to building a body in which you have freedom and strength,” says Worthington, “Regardless of physical limitations, there is always a way to increase strength and flexibility safely without injury.”
Build and Maintain Strength As You Age
No matter your age, muscles control our movements; influence our balance and posture; and power the involuntary movements in our bodies like pumping blood, digesting, and breathing. Even if you are mostly sedentary, a personal trainer can help you build strength so you can avoid age-related muscle loss called sarcopenia. This condition accelerates muscle loss and is associated with falls, functional decline, frailty, and even death.
It’s never too late to start an exercise program and improve your strength and flexibility. “Everyone at any age is a beginner at some point. The entire point of training is getting stronger, and the only way to build muscle is by overloading it and working to failure,” says Worthington.
The concepts of progressive overload and working a muscle to failure might sound intimidating, but they’re simply strength-building techniques. A knowledgeable personal trainer will incorporate these principles into a routine that helps you build muscle gradually in a way that feels manageable.
Personal Trainers Meet You Where You Are
Personal trainers have seen it all. Little to nothing phases them; your biggest embarrassment is their everyday routine. (Seriously, they don’t care if you fart!) They’re used to dealing with not only the physical limitations of working out but also the emotional struggles that come with getting stronger.
If you’re worried that you may not be able to lunge because of your bad knees, communicate with your trainer.
“Regardless of the exercise, there are always modifications. The key is to find a way to strengthen the weaker area, not avoid it,” says Worthington. “Consistency is key.” Your personal trainer should work with you to make sure the workout program helps rather than hurts.
And of course, personal trainers love being along for the journey. “The thing that lights me up doing this work is getting to witness first-hand the joy on the faces of my clients when they realize they are capable of doing things that they couldn’t when they began their training with me,” says Worthington. “I have a client who started with me years ago because she didn’t have the strength to lift her cat carrier. Now, many years later after training three times a week with me, she does pull-ups and nobody will believe her when she tells them she is 72.”
What to Look for in Your Perfect Personal Trainer
Personal trainers are, like the name implies, very personal. Each has their own special way of teaching. And just like finding your hairstylist, mechanic, or favorite bakery, you might have to try a few options before finding your perfect fit. We spoke to personal Pilates trainer, Reamy Hall, about how to know if a personal trainer is a good fit for you.
Hall stresses that when starting a workout routine, a personal trainer should take into account injuries, previous surgeries and medical issues, combined with your ultimate goals. “There should be open communication between the trainer and client at all times. If the instructor is well trained, they will know plenty of variations to accommodate the body and specific physical needs of the person working in front of them,” she says. “A trained teacher should always be able to modify the exercises.”
If you feel like you’re getting a one-size-fits-all approach to training, then you should move on and find another trainer. The whole point of getting a personal trainer is for personal attention. If you don’t feel like you can speak up and get the help you need, then this is not the trainer for you.
In fact, the more mobility issues you might have, the more important it is to opt for a personalized approach. When Reamy learns a client is struggling with an injury or limited mobility, she has them take a private Pilates class. She works one-on-one with the client to ensure they leave her studio feeling: “physically strong, stretched, uplifted, vibrant, energized, and happy.”
How to Find a Personal Trainer
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably ready and eager to get started with a personal training program. But how do you find someone? Word of mouth is a great way to start. You might be surprised with how many of your friends use trainers to help them on their fitness journeys.
If you already work out at a gym and want to expand your routine, ask the front desk for recommendations. Often gyms offer their own personal training experience. Community and senior citizen centers, libraries, Veterans Affairs, and YMCAs often have community boards where personal trainers advertise.
If you’re recuperating from a specific injury or have a diagnosed health condition, your doctors or physical therapists may be able to recommend personal trainers who know how to work with a specific aliment or specialize in working with older clients.
If you feel up to expanding your search to the internet, it can be an excellent tool to find a personal trainer. (Remember, librarians are great at helping out in researching and are more than happy to help you search online for resources). A lot of trainers have strong social presences online and offer tips on Instagram and Facebook.
Also, sites like Kickoff are an excellent way to start with one-on-one training. Kickoff’s online training program means you get the individual attention of a personal trainer in the comfort of your own home. This convenience counts if your area doesn’t have a ton of personal training options, or if you have mobility or health issues that may prevent you from going to a gym. Whatever avenue you choose, today should be the day you start your fitness journey with a personal trainer.