Group Class or Personal Trainer

choosing between optionsDear Chris,

I see groups for seniors and mature people in all sorts of places. I am an active working person and wonder if those groups are really beneficial or if there is something more to be gained from a mixed-age group. I think I would feel older in a specially-made-for-the-older group. The other question is simply how do you start if you have never really worked out and find yourself ready for freedom 55?

James, Toronto

Dear James,

Regarding separate vs inclusive groups, there really is no right or wrong answer. Some people prefer to work out with a group of people of similar age and ability, while others like the idea of “mix and mingle”. Either works as long as you are comfortable in your group.

The reason that older adult groups were formed in the first place was to address different concerns than groups with a younger membership. Most of the trainers and fitness instructors I know who work with younger clientele say that their clients’ focus is on athletic training, weight loss, attaining the much coveted 6-pack (abs, that is), the tight butt, or just feeling better about themselves. There is nothing wrong with these goals but most older people I talk to want to feel more energy, compensate for lack of physical activity since retiring or moving into an apartment, and remain independent. Ask a 40 year-old what the importance of a squat is and he will say that it’s to have a tight butt and strong thighs. Ask a 75 year-old and she might say that it’s to help her get in and out of a chair by herself. Between these extremes are people just starting to notice that many of the leisure activities they did when they were younger are not as easy to do. At 50, a lot of people start noticing that their clothes don’t fit quite the same, that keeping the tight abs takes more work than it used to, or that their 9-to-5 is taking it’s toll on their posture. They may start to feel reminded of these things when they attend a step class with people 20 years younger. Others find the youthful classes invigorating.

Remember, too, that in a city the size of Toronto, older adult groups are often further segmented, not always based on age, but ability. I’ve seen 70 year-olds with as much energy and muscular strength as some 55 year-olds. While they may be a generation apart in interests and experience, they may share the same fitness goals. In the end, you’ll have to decide where you’ll feel most comfortable. If you decide to attend an older adult programme, make sure that it encompasses aerobic conditioning, muscle conditioning, balance, coordination, and flexibility, all crucial for maintaining independence and quality of life.

To answer your second question, might I suggest hiring a personal trainer to get you started. Do I sound like I’m pushing my services? Of course I am. I believe that hiring a personal trainer even for just a few sessions can go a long way to starting, what will hopefully be, a lifelong lifestyle. A personal trainer will help you to set goals, do a baseline assessment of your fitness level, and design a programme to help you reach those goals. Getting started is hard to do. We all find it easier to form bad habits than good ones. Exercising is a good habit. You just might need to hire a personal trainer to get you “hooked”!

To your health


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