With the number of “aged economies” globally in 2010 at 23, and with a prediction of 89 by 2040 , the fitness industry needs to very quickly embrace this particular customer group. With the exerciser experience becoming just as important as physical results in the battle for customer adherence and retention, and with the trend to deliver more group training, the time is now right, and the stars are now aligned to consider the importance of small group training for this client group. The benefits for group training are numerous, from the social aspect to the support network that it provides, from both the instructor and the other session participants.
There are a few key factors that a facility needs to consider if they wish to welcome this client group. Before investigating some of these factors, we need to be aware how broad the abilities of this client group are, and how the differences in fitness levels will affect exerciser confidence and session content. At one end of the fitness spectrum, we need to be aware that the marathon world record for a 70-year-old male is 2 hours, 54 minutes and 48 seconds. At the other end of the spectrum, some 70-year-old individuals have been inactive for more than two decades. This vast difference will affect exercise choice, exercise order and exercise intensity of the group sessions arranged for this client group.
If this group is of interest to a facility, the marketing has to be correct. The images and wording that is used has to reflect the wants, needs and situation of this group. The group sessions need to be timetabled at a time during the week that are suitable: a good time for these sessions may be between 1100 and 1500, as the facility is less busy, travel is easier, and there is plenty of time for social interaction before and after the workout.
For the instructor of the group session, the need for exercise adaptations is very important, due to the age-related changes that occur as we get older. Joints stiffen, muscles may atrophy, balance and agility will be affected by nervous system changes, eyesight may deteriorate, and there are changes to hearing. All of these factors will contribute to session adaptations. Preparation will have to be longer, intensity may have to be lower, and exercise choice will have to be considered. Communication skills will have to be enhanced, both verbally and visually, to ensure that the individual feels safe and comfortable within the group. The way that feedback and praise is delivered may have to be reframed to ensure exerciser enjoyment, and adherence is developed and maintained.
Life Fitness recommends that a certification is acquired by all instructors working with this client group.
- Source: ‘Ageing in the Twenty-first Century: A Celebration and a Challenge. 2012 and Tim Miller, Population Affairs Officer, Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe