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Possibilities and Challenges Within an Overlooked Niche Market

By Fergus Bell, Head of Discovery Learning

With the increasing awareness of the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, by now we all know that inactivity comes with huge health risks such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes, increased rates of falls, dementia and early death. The more we age, the more all these risks have a greater chance of actually occurring so there’s no surprise that by encouraging people over 55 to exercise more, we can make a positive impact on their life expectancy and overall life quality.

A study conducted by Oslo University Hospital has found that regular, vigorous exercise can extend life expectancy, while research done by the Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO) has concluded that 70% of over 65s want to be more active, but face challenges such as feeling self-conscious – because gyms often tend to be populated by younger people, they don’t know how to use the equipment, or facilities are not designed to accommodate the needs of older people. Also, one in four people aged 65 or older said that they would be more likely to go to the gym if there were more people within their age group attending classes.

With the NHS recommending 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, and further research showing that upon retiring people do like to stay active, and even take hobbies such as cycling, Zumba, brisk walking or salsa dancing – not to mention the fact that Nuffield Health reported that 72-year-olds are their most frequent gym-goers, making an average of eight visits on average a month, we can definitely see that the will is there, we just need to provide some extra tools.

With all these bits of information in mind and the inspiring talks at ukactive’s Summit in September, we are now more determined than ever to make a contribution towards improving statistics.

By the end of the next ukactive Summit in 2019, we aim to get at least 100 people over the age of 55 qualified as a minimum Level 2 Gym Instructor. We want people to feel encouraged and not be held back by a factor such as age. By aiming to get more over 55s qualified we believe that we can start a small chain reaction as they will be on the gym floor, helping and motivating others who in time will inspire others by providing both an example as well as motivation.

In addition to that, in 2019 Discovery Learning will be introducing a few new special populations courses, amongst which includes the Level 3 Award in Designing Exercise Programmes for Older Adults.

This course aims to provide fitness professionals with the necessary skills and knowledge in order to design and adapt programmes to meet the specific needs of older adults. The course is also focused on getting the learners to understand the effects of aging as well as physiological and biomechanical changes associated with aging. During the course, students will learn about communication skills required to engage with older adults, as well as identifying and setting effective goals, adapting exercises to meet specific needs, planning and designing a programme and all the necessary teaching and instructing skills required when working with this particular age group.

The course will definitely give personal trainers a competitive edge as this is a niche that is not as explored and there are people that fit within the group criteria who will hugely benefit from having an experienced personal trainer who is specifically designing programmes to suit their needs.