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3 Key Things You SHOULD Know About Training Older Adults

Coaching older adults is an essential skill for any fitness professional. With roughly over 23.6 million older people aged over 50 in the UK (that’s around one-third of the total population) and set to grow by an additional 8.6 million in the next 50 years, coaching older adults will become more commonplace throughout the PT community.

Physical activity can help promote a healthy lifestyle and reduce the effects of ageing long into your client’s 80’s. Being able to retain independence and resilience without reliance on health care systems is the crux of being able to Live Longer Better. Coaching older people is, however, commonly misunderstood, as the effects of ageing and loss of fitness are confused with lifestyle and changeable factors.

To help fitness professionals better understand the ageing process in line with our essential Living Longer Better course, we have put together these top bits of information to help you understand how to coach older adults to maintain resilience.

This blog includes education on:


Encouraging Behaviour Change Using Brief Intervention

When coaching older adults, it is important not to overwhelm them with information, especially if they are new to fitness or referred for exercises following a change in health. In these circumstances, the standard method of delivery is “Brief Interventions”, shorter pieces of information that are easily digestible and actionable.

This method can be broken down into five parts (5 A’s):

  1. Ask – ask the patient/client about their habits and exercise routines
  2. Assess – is the patient/client in the proper physical and mental space to make changes to their lifestyle through physical activity?
  3. Advise – encourage a change in physical activity levels professionally, expressing the health implications of doing so.
  4. Assist – provide patients/clients with the support and exercises needed.
  5. Arrange – follow up with the patient/client and provide continued motivation and set-back strategies.

It is important to remember that you are encouraging a positive behaviour change, but it may take time to implement it properly. You should encourage and empathise with your client to enable them to continue increasing physical activity on their own.



Make Room for Adaptations to Your Client’s Routines

It is a common mistake that trainers make that age dictates a client’s abilities to train. According to our Living Longer Better Course, the most important thing when considering any treatment or intervention is encouraging positive attitudes and beliefs. This will instil a sense of self-sufficiency in the client that they can continue with physical activity with minimal assistance as part of a behaviour change programme.

However, it is essential to remember the individual conditions that an older person may have that may inhibit their ability to perform certain activities. Instead of the traditional structure of a workout:

  • Warm-up (10-15 mins)
  • Main sessions (20-30 mins)
  • Cool-down (10-15 mins)

Try substituting exercises for something more actionable from home:

  • Walking in a preferred space (in the garden or a local park).
  • Walking up and downstairs for 5 minutes.
  • Mobility and stretching of muscles and joints.
  • More minor activities that could be performed from sitting or with support – such as resistance bands, wall press-ups or sitting to standing exercises.
  • Gentle relaxation and stretching as a cool-down (the Living Longer Better course recommends Tai Chi).


Training Outside May Provide More Benefits Than You Think

We all know that training or exercising outside is good for physical health (if not, read our blog on the subject here). Did you know, however, that training outdoors can be good for older adults to help improve cognitive function and fitness (an essential skill in the fight against dementia)?

Training outdoors challenges the brain by being in a sensory and stimulating space. For example, taking a walk and noticing different trees combines different functions that challenge the brain like a puzzle. This can be true for exercise and activity outdoors.

Outdoor activity also has the following effects:

  • Outdoor activity can promote socialisation and building networks – such as outdoor walking clubs or group exercises.
  • Green spaces promote mental wellbeing and improved mood, reducing depressive symptoms, which can affect cognitive ageing.
  • Exercising in different terrain in outdoor areas promotes improved mobility and functional performance, reducing the risk of falls.


To Conclude


Understanding the importance of resilience and motivational communication is essential to training older adults. It is important to keep the individual client at the heart of your training programme with the assistance of the 5 As system, building a programme that encourages both mental and physical training to combat the effects of physical and cognitive deterioration.

This is just a small snapshot of the topics covered on our Living Longer Better course, which discusses the common misconceptions of ageing beyond the stereotypical understanding of linking age with frailty. Click here to find out more about the course and sign up for this vital e-learning skill.