As part of our ongoing ad campaign to attract people who are over 50 and want to improve their health and fitness – we have put together an ad saying that for many over 50’s the gym environment is not for them.
However, the ad has been met by quite a few angry responses for various reasons:
- One saying we are being very patronising by marketing to over 50’s.
- Another from a class instructor of 51 who said that she does not think that people over 50 should be exercising any differently to their younger counterparts.
- Others have contributed that all you need to do is go for a good walk or swim and you will be fit for life.
Before I explain why I think these people are off the mark with what they are saying, I wanted to reiterate why we have chosen to work with over 50’s…
At the age of 30 I had a pretty serious health scare that made me view the world in a whole new way. Being healthy became my number one priority but it also led me to the conclusion that my purpose in life is to help others appreciate, preserve and improve their health, as without our health we are left with little else.
In doing this we have found for most people the decade between 50 and 60 is a stage where they are actually ready to hear the message about preserving and improving health. Whereas in our 20’s and 30’s and for some people their 40’s many of us still tend to take out health for granted .
My own health scare helped me realise that I didn’t necessarily want to spend the majority of my time working with clients who were only interested in fitness for vanity reasons only.
I completely agree that for our mental health we need to feel happy and confident with how we look, but I wanted to work with clients who wanted to be healthy for many years to come, people who valued their health (or wanted to start to value their health), who wanted to be climbing a mountain in their 80’s or knew the importance of having enough energy to keep up with their grandkids.
Anyway here are my thoughts on the negative comments that have been received about our over 50’s program:
“You are talking rubbish; the Gym is a great place for over 50’s to workout”
I have worked and studied in the fitness industry for going on 20 years now and feel I am pretty well positioned to form an opinion on what is good and bad in the industry. This has ranged from work on the gym floor doing countless gym inductions and programs, to management roles in a club with over 5,000 members and now Get Results Fitness is coming up for its 7th birthday in July and this journey has allowed me to visit a good few gyms and work with 100’s of people.
In my opinion the majority of gyms are not serving the over 50’s market adequately. They have designed programs that are hell bent on training people to breaking point; they play music that only suits a younger age group, and they have staff that are not experienced enough to deal with this demographic and therefore many over 50’s have reservations about getting injured if they workout.
Another issue I have (which my local gym has finally changed after years of frustrating me), is how they market their health and fitness program, every poster or ad has a super fit 20 something working out. Tell me this how does that appeal to someone in their 50’s who is lacking confidence and thinking about starting to exercise? If anything it only reaffirms many non-exerciser’s beliefs that the gym is only for fit people. Many clients have also told me this.
There are of course, some gyms that do get it right and create a nice environment for over 50’s and promote a community aspect which works great, but these are few and far between.
Finally, stats show that in England, 20% of men and 17% of women aged between 65 and 74 years achieved the recommended activity levels of 5 or more days of moderate-to-vigorous activity.
“Over 50’s should be training the same as everyone else in the gym”
I am the first person to say that a person over 50 shouldn’t be wrapped in cotton wool and be doing workouts sitting in chairs with pink bands for resistance. It is essential that we challenge the body with progressive programs that cover all aspects of fitness (strength, power, mobility, cardiovascular fitness and motor skills) so please do not construe this as us saying that over 50’s shouldn’t push themselves and working hard in the gym. However, they do need to train smarter with a program that is progressive and starts at the level they are currently at.
For most people in their 50’s or 60’s, it is not likely that they will be able to smash out the same levels of workout as they did in their 20’s. As we age the elasticity of our muscles decreases, the cushioning in our joints diminish, and there is also a good chance that you have picked up an injury or two along the way that may make some types of exercise inappropriate for you.
So no, I don’t think you should be jumping about in Metafit class, or doing Olympic lifts with the equivalent of your bodyweight on the bar in the gym, as the risk for injury in these type of exercise far outweighs the benefits of doing them. Being injured is an over 50’s enemy as it is a simple fact that as we age, injuries take longer to heal and at this crucial period in your life it is vital that you are not sitting on the side lines with an injury.
“You don’t need a personal trainer, just get out for a good walk or go for a swim”
There are a few reasons why I think this statement is a bit simplistic when it comes to being the best solution to eternal health. Of course everyday activity is a great way to maintain health, but the fact that we have high rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, or that the UK is one of the leading countries of cardiovascular disease, shows that it is not as simple as this.
When we do our consultations with new clients, commonly they are stuck in rut, they have gotten out of the habit of exercise, many can’t see how they can fit exercise into their busy lives or have just lost confidence in how to exercise or don’t even know where to start. Common sense would tell us that going for regular walks would be a good start, but often we need someone to help them map it out and also provide some accountability and support to get the ball rolling for them!
Finally, there is an important point to make on the benefits of such everyday exercise; going for a walk or swim will only predominantly improve the cardiovascular aspect of fitness (and to a smaller degree muscular endurance) and doing only this means you are missing out other vital components of fitness such as strength and power, mobility and motor skills all of which will decline if we don’t challenger them.
We stand by our ad campaign that the fitness industry is failing over 50’s. We will continue to make it our life’s mission to provide a place for anyone looking to be fit strong and healthy for many, many years to come and in do it in a way that makes the person feel valued and proud of what they can achieve.
“It is not a question of how old you are, but a question of how you are old.”