Having a personal trainer beside you to demonstrate correct posture and form while exercising is invaluable, especially for older adults whose balance and strength may not be what they once were. A personal trainer can also help you set realistic fitness goals and keep you accountable, lower your risk of injury by monitoring your technique, and maximize results.
To learn more about the benefits of working with a personal trainer at an older age, we spoke with André Noel Potvin, a fitness educator and rehabilitation exercise specialist. Potvin is also founding president of the fitness education facility Infofit, where personal trainers of all ages earn accreditation. Welcome, André.
Q&A with André Noel Potvin
Q: Mature trainers like you. How prevalent are they?
A: At Infofit, we train and certify personal trainers and group fitness instructors of all ages. However, more and more older adults are looking to work with mature trainers. To meet the growing demand, we now offer courses that enable up-and-coming fitness trainers to specialize in the needs of older adults by earning a Senior Fit certification. Still, the majority of people who choose personal training as a career are between the ages of 18 and 35. Back in 2012, just 3% of the students at Infofit were over 50. Today, it’s 10%. More and more fitness facilities want to hire mature instructors too to meet the demands of older clientele.
Q: Mature clients. How prevalent are they?
A: More and more, older adults are pursuing fitness as a way to stay healthy, strong and independent as they age. Forty-five percent of my clients are between the ages of 50 and 70.
Q: When you’re older, what are the advantages of working with a more mature trainer?
A: An older trainer can relate. A 55-year old fitness trainer who has worked through joint issues or an illness is an inspiration for clients with similar difficulties. I had a total knee replacement and when I work with people who have arthritic knees, they can see that I’ve rehabbed my knee 100%, that I’m fully functional and live a great life.
Q: In your experience, are older adults more likely to maintain their fitness programs if they commit to an trainer or exercise group?
A: An AARP survey studying the exercise attitude and behaviors of adults between the ages of 50 to 79 found that older adults were more likely to maintain their fitness programs if they committed to an exercise group or trainer. When we see others exercising, we want to do just as well or better. In my experience, those over the age of 50 who try to exercise on their own drop out soon afterwards, typically within 4-6 weeks. Mostly, they just don’t have the know-how to pursue an exercise regime safely and effectively. When you exercise alone sustaining motivation can be tricky too.
Q: What kinds of physical challenges do trainers encounter with clients who are 50-plus?
A: Orthopedic issues are prevalent among older adults. That is, chronic injuries to shoulders, knees, hips, and the low back. At Infofit, we offer specialized training for fitness professionals called Post-Injury Rehabilitation where we focus on how to rehabilitate hips, knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows and the spine.
People today sit much more than they did 50 years ago. This is problematic and increases the risk of injury once you begin to move. When you sit all day long, gravity pulls down on your upper body, drawing your shoulders forward, putting stress on your neck and the joint capsule ligament (the envelope surrounding the joints). At Infofit, we specialize in reorienting the posture, working on the weaker areas of the posture, realigning the posture and rehabbing the chronic injury accordingly.
Q: What are some surprising ways a personal trainer can help us achieve our health goals?
A: Some trainers are also certified nutritional advisors so they can work with clients to refine their diet and provide them with better nutritional strategies. Trainers may also offer functional testing to assess a client’s ability to bend, lift, push, pull and rotate — all movements that are essential to ensuring older adults stay functionally independent.