“BOOMER” MARKET: AN INCREDIBLE CAREER
OPPORTUNITY—ARE YOU READY?
JANUARY 1, 2006, THE FIRST BABY-BOOMERS, BORN BETWEEN 1946 AND 1963,
STARTED TURNING 60. THIS IS THE GENERATION THAT CREATED THE MODERN
HEALTH CLUB INDUSTRY. IT IS THE LARGEST (78 MILLION), MOST
HEALTH-CONSCIOUS, AND MOST APPEARANCE CONSCIOUS GENERATION IN U.S.
HISTORY. 60+ HEALTH CLUB MEMBERSHIP WILL SWELL FOR THE NEXT 10 TO 15
five percent (25%) of the nation's 41.3 million health club members are
already over age 55,
the quintessential statistic that -- according to American Sports Data,
Inc. (ASD) president Harvey Lauer -- "represents not only a vast change
in American attitudes and perceptions, but also an imminent
restructuring of the health club and fitness industries, and most
crucially -- the seed of monumental healthcare reform in the United
From 1998 -
number of frequent fitness participants aged 55+ zoomed by 33%, along
with a growth rate of 13% for Baby Boomers aged 35-54, compared to zero
growth for the "traditional" fitness participant aged 18-34.
These were among the findings of the 18th annual SUPERSTUDY® of
Sports Participation, conducted among 14,684 Americans nationwide in
January 2005 by ASD. It
reported that people aged 55+ represent 25% of the 6.1 million
Americans who paid for the services of a personal trainer in 2004.
The aging of
population has created a large group of older adults who are even more
susceptible to the detrimental effects of physical inactivity than are
younger people. This is not news to the fitness industry; however, many
personal trainers are not adequately prepared to deal with this growing
segment of the population.
Let's look at a few more
age 55 are the fastest-growing age group among gym members, up more
than 266 percent since 1987 -- more than twice the rate for U.S. health
club members as a whole.
- In the year 2000, roughly 35
people (13% of the population) were age 65 or older. By 2030, that
number is expected to double to 70 million. According to the Active
Aging Partnership National Blueprint, 88% of these people have at least
one chronic health condition that in many cases could be improved or
managed with physical activity.
- Frequent health club attendance
days) has soared to a new high of 13.5 million. While they already
account for 25% of the total memberships, people over 55 represent 28%
of all frequent attendees.
to IDEA Health and Fitness Association's research, 51 percent of all personal
training clientele are over the age of 45. This would
stand to reason as this group has more than 50 percent of the
discretionary income, and they spend more of their income
on health than any other item, according to the World Health
pass the physical prime of their teens and 20's, they lose an average
of 10 ounces of lean body mass a year, and this is mostly in the form
of muscle tissue. And since few people actually lose 10 ounces of
weight a year, instead, most gain about a pound a year, the loss of
lean tissue is masked. Another way to look at this is the average person gains about 1 pound and 10 ounces of body
fat per year.
It is a process that is more insidious and crippling than osteoporosis
but one few people notice until they realize it is getting difficult to
climb the stairs or heft themselves off the sofa. Unchecked, the
gradual loss of muscle strength is the main reason older Americans have
difficulty performing the tasks of daily living and ultimately lose
their independence. This phenomenon, which we call sarcopenia, is
derived from Greek words for "vanishing flesh." This is NOT an inevitable
consequence of aging. It is instead an inevitable consequence of disuse.
for older people to strength train is that evidence suggests that
exercise may decrease the rate of bone loss associated with
osteoporosis and reduce the likelihood of falls that result in hip
fractures. A frightening statistic is that almost 24% of people over
age 50 who have hip fractures die within a year. Falling is a serious
public health concern among elderly people because of its frequency,
the morbidity associated with falls, and the cost of the necessary
healthcare. According to Dr. Mary Tinetti, Yale University,
approximately 30% of the people who live in the community fall each
year. Unintentional injury, which most often results from a fall, ranks
as the sixth leading cause of death among people over 65 years of age.
Muscle weakness has been identified as one of the biggest potentially
modifiable risk factors for falling. In the late 80’s, early
90’s, studies began being done which proved that despite a
decrease in muscle fibers and strength, muscle function can be
maintained and or improved with training, even in the very
increase in muscle
strength at any age can improve quality of life-and stave off the
frailty that used to be considered a normal part of getting old. While
strength training is not the only type of exercise that is important
for older adults, it should be easy to understand that the frailer a
person becomes, the greater the importance of strength training. And
sometimes, strength training and flexibility are the only types of
exercise in which the older adult can engage until they gain enough
muscle strength to allow them to work on their endurance or aerobic
capacity, and balance. According to Wayne Westcott, PhD, twelve health
and fitness benefits result from strength training by older adults. They
are: avoid muscle loss, avoid metabolic rate reduction, increase muscle
mass, increase metabolic rate, reduce body fat, increase bone mineral
density, increase glucose metabolism, increase gastrointestinal
transit, reduce resting blood pressure, improve blood lipids levels,
reduce low back pain, and reduce arthritic pain.
strength training have been discussed exclusively to this point, older
inactive adults also loose ground in three other areas that are
important for staying healthy and independent, these are endurance,
balance and flexibility. Endurance training can maintain and improve
cardiovascular function and can reduce risk factors associated with
chronic diseases associated with aging such as diabetes, colon cancer,
heart disease, stroke, and others and reduce overall death and hospital
rates. Balance exercises help to prevent falls and flexibility
exercises help to keep the body limber by stretching muscles and
tissues that hold the body’s structure in place. Flexibility
also play a part in preventing falls.
Some types of
improve just one area of health or ability, but more often, an exercise
has many different benefits. So, older adults should be encouraged to
increase both the types and amounts of exercise and physical activity
they do. According to an article in the winter 2002 newsletter, Aging
Successfully, published by the St Louis School of Medicine and
Geriatric Research, for
adult, the goals of exercise should be to minimize the effects of aging
and chronic diseases; to reverse the effects of disuse; and to maximize
psychological health. This is different than those of
younger adults for whom exercise helps prevent disease and increase
Contrary to traditional thinking,
regular exercise helps, not hurts, older adults. Older people become sick or disabled more often from not exercising
than from exercising. Almost all older adults, regardless of age or
condition, can safely improve their health and independence through
exercise and physical activity. There are few reasons to keep them from
exercising, and "too old" and "too frail" are not among
So, now that
learned what a huge market older adults already comprise, and that this
market will continue to increase dramatically for years to come, are
you interested in training this market? If you answered "yes", then you
must consider what it takes to be qualified to work with this
that you already
have a solid knowledge base in personal training, it is truly mandatory
to build on that existing knowledge and skill to safely and effectively
work with the ever-growing senior population.
specifically you should be able to:
Appreciate how the aging
process impacts the organ systems, as well as understand the risk factors associated with
Identify dietary changes
be needed as a result of aging, and also recognize how diet is related
to the different chronic diseases that become more apparent as people
Utilize safe and effective
training techniques for the older adult, including knowledge of
guidelines specific to older adult flexibility, endurance and strength
Conduct comprehensive senior
health assessment and fitness testing.
Understand chronic diseases
and be able to design and modify programs for clients with specific
Identify with what motivates
the older adult and understand how to create an age friendly
Find and appeal to senior
and identify ways to build your credibility and establish yourself as
an expert in the field of senior fitness.
In addition to
making sure you possess the skill to safely and effectively work with
older adults, it
also a good idea to understand what qualities and skill level that the
older adult will be expecting to find in you when they are considering
you as their personal trainer. The International Council
Active Aging (ICAA) has developed a very informative guide for older
adults to help them find a qualified personal trainer. You should
review use this guide for your own education, and keep copies handy to
give to prospective clients. This will show them that you are aware of
what it takes to be an "age friendly" personal trainer! The
guide "How to select an age-friendly personal fitness trainer" is
provided here for your review. You will find the guide available in
printable pdf format at the ICAA website: http://www.icaa.cc/FacilityLocator/Public/icaapftguide.pdf.
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