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Personal training poised for “transformation” by 50+ market: ICAA CEO

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Client experience and expectations will present “opportunities, as well as challenges,” to the field, says Colin Milner

VANCOUVER--The burgeoning older-adult fitness market will prompt a “transformation” in the personal training field, says Colin Milner, founder and CEO of the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA). “Boomers and their parents have more than two trillion dollars in their pockets, and much of that money is going towards services, such as personal training, aimed at keeping them as healthy as possible for as long as possible.”

“The Boomers’ desire to stay healthy is one reason why ‘renewed interest in personal training’ due to an anticipated economic upswing was cited as the number-one fitness trend for 2011 by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), an ICAA partner,” Milner states.

Milner has identified six transformative factors that will help shape personal training going forward.

1. Client expectations. “Older adults who worked with trainers when they were younger feel these professionals can help them attain their fitness goals,” Milner says. “While many will be focused on improving function to stay independent as long as possible, a subset of more vigorous older adults want to go beyond function—to learn new activities or get in shape for sports-specific competitions. Trainers will need to be able to safely and effectively guide both types of clients.”

2. Demand for knowledgeable trainers. Personal trainers will need to become more knowledgeable in two key areas: the motivations and aspirations of older adults, and the health conditions that can affect a client’s ability to work out. “Older adults want to stay healthy and function independently regardless of any health conditions they may have. Trainers must become adept at designing programs that start with what people can do--not just what they can’t do—and bring them to the next level,” Milner asserts. “At the same time, they need to learn how to collaborate with doctors and other healthcare providers—to be part of the team of professionals their clients are working with.”

3. More comprehensive continuing education courses. “The education that has been provided to personal trainers will have to change,” Milner stresses. In addition to content dealing with chronic health conditions and rehabilitation, education that helps trainers be successful will include information on the social and psychological perspectives, emotional issues, and lifestyle choices that affect their older-adult clients. “Trainers will need to be coaches as well as flexible program designers, capable of working with their clients in their homes and in other non-gym settings.

“ICAA has extended its partnership with ACE for this very reason,” Milner says. In 2011, ACE will offer professional development for fitness professionals and others who provide fitness and wellness programs in active-adult communities and community-based senior centers across the United States.

4. Proliferation of small-group training. Small-group workouts are among the top fitness trends for 2011, as in previous years, according to the ACE survey. “This type of training is catching on with older adults as a way to save money and stay motivated,” Milner observes. “Trainers who offer small-group sessions will need to be particularly adept at designing workouts that are doable and appropriate for all group members. They’ll also need to understand that the social aspect of exercising in a small group is especially important for older adults; this will require them to create a collegial environment that still remains focused on meaningful activity.”

5. More user-friendly tools. “Equipment manufacturers continue to expand the design and production of exercise equipment suitable for all ages, shapes, and sizes,” Milner says. “We’ve seen a substantial increase in equipment with age-friendly features—easy-to-read display panels, easy entry and exit, easy-to-set control panel, etc.—over the past five years. As companies ramp up these features, everyone will benefit. In that sense, ‘age-friendly’ equipment is really ‘ageless’ equipment.”

6. More older-adult trainers. “An increasing number of older adults seem to be turning to personal training as a second career and opportunity to help others,” Milner notes. “While it’s too soon to gauge the potential impact of older-adult trainers, they may well be an important addition to the wellness team.

“Working with older adults presents opportunities as well as challenges,” Milner emphasizes. “There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to this market. Trainers will need to become more creative in their programming, and more optimistic about what their clients may achieve.”

About the International Council on Active Aging
The International Council on Active Aging® is the professional association that leads, connects and defines the active-aging industry. ICAA supports professionals who develop wellness facilities, programs and services for adults over 50. The association is focused on active aging—an approach to aging that helps older adults live as fully as possible within all dimensions of wellness—and provides its members with education, information, resources and tools. As an active-aging educator and advocate, ICAA has advised numerous organizations and governmental bodies, including the US Administration on Aging, the National Institute on Aging (one of the US National Institutes of Health), the US Department of Health and Human Services, Canada’s Special Senate Committee on Aging, and the British Columbia ministries of Health, and Healthy Living and Sport.

For interviews please contact:

Contact: Colin Milner, CEO, ICAA
Toll-free: 1-866-335-9777 (North America)
Telephone: 604-734-4466; cell: 604-763-4595

Contact: Marilynn Larkin
Communications Director, ICAA

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