Network Blog

Reflections on fitness, wellness, health and more

Challenging the stereotype of ageing

The following Blog post was written by Kay MacKenzie, a fitness professional with over three decades experience. Kay is also Network's Ambassador for SA.

I was interested to read about a recent study by Victoria University into the efficacy of exercise for older adults which highlighted the fact that it’s never too late to start working out. Hooray to that!
If you think about a class for ‘older adults’ what do you visualise? Now that I am considered to be one (demographic over 50), I have been reflecting on the stereotype of the older adult and exercise – and it doesn’t sit well with me. I have been working with older adults for over 30 years, and my experience is that the hundreds of men and women I have had the privilege of teaching flourish in classes that are planned to challenge their ability, regardless of age. In fact, I believe that what you expect may well be what you get.

As fitness professionals we are aware that we need to be responsible and mindful of risk factors and conditions such as arthritis, and to structure our classes to include strength, balance, flexibility, mobility and low impact cardio. In my group exercise classes, however, I find I don’t need to lower the level of the class much, as long as I provide options.

I find I can challenge my participants (aged 60 to 84) without too many changes from the younger groups I teach, particularly in my sculpt classes. It is my goal to help people be mobile and fit for life, and to feel good about themselves and what they are achieving.

Of course, we will always need entry level classes for new and unconditioned participants, but if you teach a class that regularly attracts a loyal following of older adults, you do not need to ‘soften’ your teaching for them (again, as long as you provide options). This demographic will respond to a challenging workout.

The delight I experience daily as I look at participants smiling faces as they achieve goals they never thought possible is incredibly rewarding. I recently received a card from a 66-year-young lady that reinforced to me the benefits in pushing people to test their boundaries. I’d like to share the following exert in order to challenge preconceptions that many people may have about exercise and the older adult;

‘We value the way you provide us with pathways to achieve so much more than we believe we are able – then push us to do even more, regardless of the fact that our aches and pains tell us we can’t. We have absorbed many of your ideas about personal goal setting and overcoming any handicaps to achieve them. You always have time to help anyone on a personal level. You have made such a difference to our health and happiness on so many levels.’

What is your experience with training older adults? Do you 'dumb down' your classes or training sessions?

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