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Key Reasons Fitness Professionals Must Learn to Train Older Adults

The skills needed for trainers for older adults have been in high demand in recent years. Having the confidence to discuss behaviour change topics and understand the root of concerns to help your older clients hit their fitness goals will help you provide an essential skill for your community. This is precisely what the Living Longer Better course is all about, but how and why was it developed in the first place?

Our experts have come together to discuss why the Living Longer Better Course is a crucial skill for any personal trainer, following the knowledge and cultural revolution to rethink how we consider age. You can follow along with these videos with the handy transcripts underneath.

This blog includes interviews with:


Paul Swainson: Background Context – Why We Need a Living Longer Better Course




"In the last twelve months or so, we've seen a considerable acceleration in the shift towards the value of physical activity for improving health and wellbeing rather than fitness.

With the NHS and social care systems under increasing pressure, there has never been a more urgent need to adopt the prevention is better than cure method. We need to implement solutions that reduce stress on the resource by improving health and resistance to disease.

So, physical activity has got a big part to play (and that won't come as a surprise to most people.)

  • But what might that look like at a population level?
  • How do we make it happen?

That's far less well understood.

Fortunately, we have got the insights of two people today who are very well placed to shed

some light on those critical questions."


Sir Muir Gray: Why We Need the Living Longer Better Course


"There is a revolution taking place, and part of it is a knowledge revolution.


We now know that the normal ageing process is not the cause of significant problems until the late 90s. The issues we face in societies like ours are due to:

  • Loss of fitness (starting about 22 with the first desk job and the car).
  • Disease complicated by accelerated loss of fitness is usually due to other well-intentioned people taking tasks away.
  • Negative thinking.

We now have evidence that people can improve their ability levels at any age with any number of long-term conditions. So that's what we've been doing. We're doing it through networks and reaching older people directly.

So the cultural revolution is needed because everyone assumes that people in their 80s and 90s need care (namely, having things done for them).

I think they need to be enabled. I love the word coaching, closing the gap between potential and performance.

They need coaching to regain the confidence to do things and to do something in different ways they are used to.

A friend wrote to me about her father. She said, "my father's taking up your challenge, Muir. He is 94, and he's now standing up for the first time and he stays standing up and you can sponsor him for 5p a minute. He has raised £550. But he's going to move on to standing up from the chair five times. I said I'd give another £50 if he can stand up five times."

I think it would be nice for him to do that, but it would be good to do that as part of a group online. So that's why we're interested in online, or go walking online, or cycling online in a group.

Raising money for a good cause and competing with other groups would be the motivator for many of us. You can always find rivalries that you could use, so it's a new paradigm (as they say)."



Anthony Crozier: How the Living Longer Better Course Addresses these Issues




"Living Longer Better focuses on:

  • The effects of ageing and how we need to be more resilient (that word that we use before
  • That it's not necessarily the loss of ability, it's potentially the loss of resilience that means that you will find life more challenging.

Obviously, you've got the complexity of the disease. Some things we can avoid and some things we can't. At the same time, if we have this more significant level of purpose and resilience and the idea of moving more, whether it's classed as physical activity or whether it's more specific structured exercise, can enable you to improve your quality of life.

The title says it all. It's not about living longer; it's living longer, better:

  • Quality of life.
  • Less time spent in care homes.
  • Less time spent in facilities that take away your independence.


It's hard to necessarily put a value on the ability to keep people in their homes, looking after themselves, compared to having to shift them into adapted living environments.


So the course is very much written along those lines. Muir talks about:

  • How to communicate.
  • Motivation.
  • Behaviour change.
  • Fitness and the different levels of how we think of fitness and how we need to think of fitness or resilience.
  • Strength training from a functional point of view - activities of daily living.
  • Dealing with some of the complexities of diseases

I think the critical thing for me is that it's trying to upskill and educate what we class as our health and fitness professionals now into really realising that we have got an ageing population and need to converse and work with these people over time. We're going to come across more and more of them, and COVID exacerbates this even further because it affects people who've got medical conditions. Traditionally, it affects older populations, more so than the younger sort of "healthier" population.

So we need to be able to work with these people.


Paul Swainson: Closing Remarks




All the skills and the knowledge that you just talked about relates to the wider discussion we had about wellbeing training and education for the existing industry and the workforce within it.

So it's definitely something to get involved with for anybody watching and listening (and reading!).

This is going to be the future of the industry, I think.

Want to know more about how YOU can learn more about helping older adults maintain independence and resilience through fitness? Check out our Living Longer Better course here.