Create Inviting Small Group Training Experiences For Older Adults
About the Author: Keith Smith is a Life Fitness Academy (LFA) Global Master Trainer based in London. He has been a part of Life Fitness for more than 20 years.
The fitness industry needs to quickly embrace the large group of older exercisers. With the exerciser experience becoming just as important as physical results in the battle for customer retention, and with the trend to deliver more group training, the stars are now aligned to consider the importance of small group training for active agers. The benefits for group training are numerous, from the social aspect to the support network that it provides, from both the instructor and other participants.
There are a few key factors that a facility needs to consider in order to welcome this client group.
A Wide Range of Abilities
We need to keep in mind that the group can have a wide range of physical abilities, and how the differences in fitness levels 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 and 54 minutes. At the other end of the spectrum are 70-year-olds who have been inactive for decades. This vast difference affects exercise choice, exercise order and exercise intensity.
Adapt to the Group
For the instructor of the group session, the need for exercise adaptation is very important due to age-related changes that occur as we get older. Joints stiffen, muscles may atrophy, balance and agility are affected by nervous system changes, eye sight may deteriorate and there are changes to hearing. These factors contribute to adaptations during a small group training session. Preparation may have to be longer, intensity may have to be lower, and exercise choice has to be considered. Communication skills may need to be enhanced, both verbally and visually, to ensure that exercisers feel safe and comfortable within the group. The way that feedback and praise is delivered may have to be reframed to ensure exerciser enjoyment.
Marketing to the Group
If older exercisers are a demographic a facility wants to appeal to, then in-facility marketing has to be correct. Images and wording used to promote group training have to reflect the interests of this group and appeal to active agers.
Schedule classes at times during the week that are the most suitable for the older demographic. A good time for these sessions may be between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the facility is less busy, travel is easier, and there is plenty of time for social interaction before and after the workout.
Life Fitness recommends that certification be acquired by all instructors and trainers working with this specific client group.
Small group training can be an energizing and motivating experience for exercisers at all age groups and fitness levels. Creating appealing group training options for older adults can greatly expand the reach of any fitness facility.
Small group training is exciting and encouraging for any demographic.