Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Ramping Up Senior Fitness: Active Older Adults Need Programs and Facilities Designed with Their Needs in Mind

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Ramping Up Senior Fitness: Active Older Adults Need Programs and Facilities Designed with Their Needs in Mind

Article excerpt

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Perhaps your facility is planning to launch a senior-specific exercise program. Or maybe you'd like to infuse new life into existing services to ensure their continued success. Following are some suggestions on how to start or ramp up your senior fitness programming.

Offer Sound Activity Choices

Physical activity does not have to be conventional exercise to provide important physiological and psychosocial benefits. Good examples of effective programming include senior sports leagues and various types of dance, including ballroom dancing, square dancing, folk dancing and line dancing. Although a complete physical fitness program must include certain training components (cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility and balance), any element lacking in a greatly enjoyed activity can be pursued separately.

Fitness for older adults can take one of many forms. Senior personal training is on the rise. Meanwhile certain forms of group exercise have been proven to be popular among older adults, including aquatic fitness classes, tai chi, gentle yoga (which takes special care not to overtax the joints), low-impact aerobic dance and fitness walking that can be performed indoors or out depending on terrain and climate variables.

One offering that may help to get sedentary seniors in your door is chair-seated exercise classes. Other forms of exercise that have gained favor among older adults in recent years include balance training (sometimes referred to as fall prevention), circuit training (which can feature aerobics, muscle strengthening, or exercise modes) and senior-specific strength training.

The range of viable activity possibilities is broad. Develop programming consistent with the physical attributes of your location, your faculty's areas of expertise, and your clients' needs and preferences.

Use the Right Stuff

Successful aerobic conditioning can be conducted without the use of any equipment and effective strength training can be achieved using inexpensive exercise accessories, such as dumbbells and resistance bands. Facilities with the budgets and space to do so may also elect to provide strength machines or endurance equipment like treadmills, steppers, and stationary cycles.

The American Senior Fitness Association recommends a few considerations to choose machinery well suited for use by senior clients:

Equipment selection should consider space constraints, weight limits on the workout floor, and the number of participants exercising at the same time. Too many machines crowded together can result can be an increased risk for stumbling or falling.

Exercise stations for seniors must safely and comfortably accommodate persons of different sizes and heights. Therefore, all of your exercise machines need to be fully adjustable to body size.

Regarding endurance equipment for seniors, timers are useful for preventing over-exertion. Immediate access to large, clearly visible stop buttons on motorized equipment must be available to both trainer and participant. Recumbent versions of certain aerobic machines are ideal for many seniors.

Guardrails may be needed for equipment on which clients must stand. Convenient, easy-to-secure safety belts and harnesses often prove indispensable to clients with balance problems. Equipment with turbines and flywheels should have protective guards to prevent fingers, hands or feet from getting caught.

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Regarding strength training for seniors, it is essential to start low and go slow. Strength equipment should permit the client to start out with minimal resistance and increase it by small increments of 2.5 pounds or less. Variable-resistance machines will adjust intensity according to the degree of muscle contraction, providing optimal resistance throughout the movement.

Certain strength machines are liable to compel a senior exerciser to work beyond his or her safe range of motion. …

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