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Winning Senior Fitness Programming

Winning Senior Fitness Programming

By Brooke Hayward, Spinning® Master Instructor | Texas, United States

Successful senior programing grows from the passion of wanting to make a difference in the quality of life for others and the desire to give back. The personal and professional rewards are endless as each day provides the proof of your hard work by seeing others become stronger and happier in their lives.

Build Successful Senior Fitness Foundations

Successful programming provides seniors with an opportunity for physical improvement as well as social interaction to keep their bodies—and minds—healthy. Effective programs for seniors must be educational and progressive. They must provide a nurturing environment that allows experimentation into new levels of fitness and breaks down the barriers of “I’m too old to do that!” In addition to physical well-being, successful, well-balanced programs provide opportunities for learning, connecting with the community and mental stimulation.

It is very important when developing a program that we don’t just create classes specific to the population, but that we lead them into mainstream exercise opportunities. Many times, seniors are relegated to specific classes, equipment or non-peak times, perpetuating the belief that they are limited in their physical activity.

Don’t just teach—educate! Seniors love to learn, and they want to know what to do to feel good and be active. Provide lectures or “learn and do” types of classes that give them the knowledge and power to walk into many group exercise classes and know how to modify.  Train the brain; the body will follow!

Define Fitness By Ability, Not Age

At the 2013 International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) convention, I heard an interesting recommendation to define group exercise programs by ability, not by name or description. For example, a cardio class may be rated at a level 1, 2 or 3 based on intensity or complexity of movement. Strength classes may be rated based on the number of reps and sets or time. This type of programing now becomes fitness-based, not age-based. There is no age limit; only programing that parallels each member’s fitness level. This type of programing would benefit not only the senior population, but new members and those looking for advanced workouts as well.

Introduce a Spinning® Class for Seniors

A Spinning® class is a great place to break down the barriers and open up the opportunity for seniors. Smaller, shorter classes can be a great start. Combining Spinning with other modalities that they are already familiar with makes a good combination too. For example, at the Houstonian Club where I teach, we offer a 55-minute “Cardio for Life” class, incorporating six- to eight–minute intervals of walking, medicine ball exercises and Spinning. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Many seniors had expressed a desire to try a Spinning class but were not comfortable walking into the studio. They were so excited to have an opportunity to try the bikes. With just six to eight minutes in the saddle they were successful and loved the challenge. Now, four months after “Cardio for Life” class was created, we have added a 30-minute “Come and Cruise” class that they alternate with their other classes. Our Cruise class also has been designated as “beginner level” and draws many new members as well.

Integrate Education into Your Programming

Facilities that provide educational events as well as socials for all of their members will fare much better in the long-run with regards to member retention. When people have an emotional or social connection to others, they are much more inclined to stay connected. Offering educational opportunities provides growth.

As more health clubs come into the market, it will be the programing opportunities that set some clubs far above the rest. When clubs provide a “lifestyle” and not just a workout, members will flourish physically and spiritually, and that is what sustains our business. Members will stay and grow with their health club if the club provides the opportunity to do so.

Think outside of the box — try new classes, opportunities and programs. Some ideas will fail and some will flourish. Ask your seniors what is important to them, and act on it.

A few suggestions that may be of interest to your members:

  • Lunch and Learn – This can be quarterly or monthly. Include light refreshments and a speaker on relevant topics. Doctors, local historians, park and rec employees, local health food store owners and gardening clubs all make interesting speakers!
  • Nutritional Seminars – connect with a local registered dietitian.
  • Specialized four- to six-week programs – target healthy backs, flexibility basics, rehab exercises, cooking healthy, diseases prevention and agility and balance.
  • Field Trips – include the local chocolate store!
  • Holiday Parties, Socials and Dances.
  • Volunteer Day – this can help both your community and your studio. Especially seniors enjoy feeling needed and they can certainly contribute to and benefit from the success of programs in your area.

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