Today’s “over 60” portion of the population is the demographic group growing fastest than anyone one else. When people reach that age, it is normal for the body to lose a great deal of muscle mass, a condition called sarcopenia. This makes them prone to accidental falls and injuries. In addition, resistance training’s importance is more and more emphasized also with regards to cognitive health. An effective way of addressing this problem is engaging in resistance and weight training, at least twice per week. Despite these recommendations, fewer than 15% of people over 60 achieve that result. What could explain such low findings?
Some researchers wanted to find out, and they were able to identify the following reasons which explained why elderlies dropped resistance training.
The most common reasons for dropping resistance training was injury or illness, going away for holidays, or problems with the facility (e.g. class not available for type, age range, and times; long waiting time for machines; poor staff support).
Given these explanations, the researchers had a number of suggestions to facilitate and encourage elderlies to attend the gym and sticking to their program. First of all, older people who incurred in injury or illness, should have access to modified training programs to facilitate recovery from injury. In addition to this, fitness centres should be aware that illness for an older person can mean far greater problems and difficulties than a younger one, and they should provide regular advice, support, and referral to health professionals. Fitness centres should also provide screening for past injuries in order to avoid their reoccurrence.
When it comes to “leaving for holidays” as a cause for dropping resistance training, it must be kept in mind that while a person working full-time typically has approximately 4 weeks of holidays per year, a retired person can leave for much longer periods. It may become then easier to understand why if, for example, an older person “goes on holiday” for 3 months to avoid a cold winter, it may be hard for him or her to go back to training once back. One suggestions that the researchers have for this issue is for fitness centres and gyms to provide flexible subscriptions and memberships, allow long suspensions, and make a personalized effort to reach out to the person when back home, to encourage them to come pick up training once more.
As for problems related to issues with the gyms or fitness centres specifically, researchers suggest gyms to employ older instructors with whom older people could related better and having classes dedicated to older age groups earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon, as opposed to in the middle of the day, when they are typically held, as older people may have other commitments at those times.
Hopefully fitness centres and gyms can make the best out of these suggestions, to encourage older people to stick to their program so that they can grow old stronger both in body and mind.
Burton, E., et al. (2017), Why do seniors leave resistance training programs?, in “Clinical Interventions in Aging”, 12, pp. 585 – 592.