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Seniors 50 Plus Fitness

--by Joan Price

If you're a group-exercise leader, surely you've noticed that class members are aging disproportionately to the age of instructors. You don't have to be the age of your participants to keep them coming to your class, but you do need to understand their psychology as well as their physiology.

Here are some tips to keep the Seniors - Over-50-but-Not-Over-the-Hill crowd coming to class and loving it:

Know Their Bodies.
Study what happens as we age, and incorporate your knowledge in your class. Let them know what you're learning, because they appreciate knowing you're taking the trouble.
Slow Down Your Moves.
A frenetic pace does not motivate this group. They respond well to a carefully structured class where you watch them to determine the pace. They want to feel challenged and successful.
Safety First.
These exercisers don't want a wimpy workout, but they want to feel secure that the movements are safe even if they're nursing a sore knee, back or hip. Avoid fast pivots or other fast turns that can cause dizziness and torque ankles or knees.
Always Give Modifications.
Every body is different, especially after 50. Demonstrate modifications for any high-impact or high-intensity move and for any move that might be contraindicated for some medical condition. You won't always know what might hurt or discourage someone, so get in the habit of giving modifications automatically.
Move Around.
You're teaching, not performing. Show the moves, then walk around class and help people who might be having trouble.
Don't Show Off.
Many mature exercisers are embarrassed rather than impressed by bare midriffs and thong leotards (called "butt floss" by one of my older exercisers). Dress more conservatively for this group.
Aim for Effectiveness.
Choose your moves carefully, and explain the benefits. Older exercisers respond to knowing the reasons behind your choice of exercises and learning more about their bodies.
Teach for Real Life.
Incorporate moves that your exercisers can apply to real life, such as postural improvement and strengthening the abdominals and back to increase balance skills.
Turn Down the Volume.
As we age, loud music becomes more irritating than motivating. Many older exercisers report abandoning a class just because the music is too loud. When in doubt, ask.
Vary the Generation of Your Music.
Include oldies, either in the original or updated (easier to choreograph to) versions. Ask class members to tell you when you play something they love. You may be surprised at what they choose.
Encourage Feedback.
Your class members have knowledge and experience. Let them know you're interested in their suggestions. Share your questions.
Make Class a Social Event.
The best way to keep your students coming back is to make your class fun. Encourage members to actively participate, tell jokes, sing and interact. Design a great class, then once you get there, don't take yourself too seriously.

Joan Price is a fitness speaker, writer, and instructor whose specialty is helping non-exercisers start and stick to an exercise program. Not your usual fitness pro, Joan is over fifty and the survivor of two devastating automobile accidents. Joan is the author of Joan Price Says, Yes, You CAN Get in Shape!

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