In all my courses, we have been taught that working out–and especially weight training–is good for individuals at any age. Current trends are aimed at getting the 50+ crowd to understand the importance of resistance work along with cardio exercise.
I am currently recovering from foot surgery and will be unable to walk for four weeks. I have a scooter and crutches; they are tools, but they cannot perform all the functions necessary to get around. Thank goodness I have been working on building muscle strength over the years. I have found that I can balance on one foot for a while (thanks yoga!), push and pull myself up, hop around my car to get to the scooter in the trunk. It is the difference between having some independence and none at all.
This is an argument that should be made to seniors. Weight training isn’t necessarily about have a killer beach body; we need the strength to help us navigate the Activities of Daily Living. And when we do find ourselves with an injury, hopefully the hard work of resistance training we have put in will allow us to compensate for our deficits (in the long- or short-term).
As someone who has never had to rely on devices to help me ambulate, I have learned a lot in the last few days. I get why we have extra-wide handicap spaces. I get why we have ramps. The ADA has gone a long way to making public places accessible. If, however, we lack the basic strength to make use of these accommodations, what is the use?
We are never too old to lift weights. Muscle degradation does not need to be in our future. Seniors: get off of those treadmills a few times a week and get to the dumbbells! You’ll be glad you did.
At the end of last week, I had the opportunity to attend the IDEA Fitness Conference East in Alexandria, VA. In particular, I went to participate in the pre-conference training to receive Functional Aging Specialist Certification presented by Cody Sipe, PhD.
I had never been to a Personal Trainers Conference before and was not sure what to expect. The Conference East is the smallest of their gatherings so it was a more intimate crowd. My workshop on Thursday had between 50 and 60 people–ranging in age from 20s to 60s. I was afraid I might be the oldest one there (at almost 56) and the one who is newest to the industry; luckily, neither was the case. I actually felt that I fit in…which is a good feeling.
The focus of the day was to prepare us to pass the certification exam to become Functional Aging Specialists. What is a Functional Aging Specialist? The approach, which seems somewhat intuitive (but really isn’t) is to train seniors (50+, but more likely 65+) not by simply having them do cardio and strength training that simply works different muscle groups. Instead, the approach is individualized to each client based on their specific needs and wants. Needs: assessment can reveal where there are deficits like difficulties with balance, sarcopenia, poor reactivity, etc. We train with a program that specifically addresses the deficits. Wants: listening to the client can reveal what they would like to be able to do–be able to complete a 5k run, participate in a travel adventure that will require hiking, being able to get up the stairs without pooping out, etc. Again, we can train using a program that will help them to reach those goals.
The next few weeks will be filled with studying so that I can pass the exam. I know that this can be a great niche for me in a sector of the fitness world that is growing at a very fast pace.
Additionally, research shows that many seniors do not want to train with a shredded 20-year-old; they want to work with mature trainers who understand themselves how our bodies change as we age. More on that topic later this week.