Senior fitness trainers are helping baby boomers stay healthy and active

Dee Simpson on a bike trip in Macedonia in September 2018.Distribute

Dee Simpson retired from her film and television production company at age 65 and began her fourth career as a personal trainer.

Fourteen years later, at 79, the Torontonian is currently working with 11 clients ranging in age from 56 to 84. Her oldest client to date was 101 years old and her youngest, 38.

“I’ve always been fit, active and highly motivated, but I had never really been to a gym until I was 61 and was looking for something new to do,” says Ms Simpson, who ran her first marathon at age 60. her, she finished first in her age category at the Ottawa Marathon and qualified for the prestigious Boston Marathon.

She completed her personal trainer certification five years later and began seeing clients through Vintage Fitness in Toronto, which specializes in training for people over 50. Due to the pandemic, she is providing training via Zoom, including a 74-year-old client she supports with her weekly vacation sessions in Mexico.

Ms. Simpson says the client could barely do 10 chairlifts when they started, and 10 months later, she can do 60, jumping out of the chair with ease.

Mrs. Simpson does a lot of chair work with her clients, encouraging them to squat in and out of the sitting position because they are practical exercises. Her clients’ wish lists often refer to being able to get on the floor and play with her grandchildren or recover from knee surgery or other common ailments of aging, she says.

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Or just live without pain. That’s important to a lot of people,” she says.

Having a mature coach helps people overcome their fears, adds Ms Simpson.

“A less young fitness trainer, I don’t use the older word, is much less intimidating,” she says. “Many people have told me, even in their 50s and 60s, that they didn’t want to be coached by a beauty in Lycra who has no idea how they feel.”

A mature coach is aware of physical limitations and is reassuring, even inspiring, she says.

“I always work out together with them as much as I can and I think that’s often motivating.”

Only 39 percent of Canadian adults ages 65 to 79 are taking the recommended minimum of 7,500 steps per day, according to ParticipAction’s 2021 Adult Physical Activity Report.

Far fewer do the recommended strength training twice a week, yet study after study links strength training to a lower risk of mortality and chronic disease and better cognitive ability, the report says.

Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod, Canadian former athletes and television hosts best known for their BodyBreak segments, at the Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve in Muskoka, Ontario.Distribute

At 65, Hal Johnson, one of the most recognized faces of fitness in the country as one half of the duo Body Break with his wife Joanne McLeod, continues to practice and promote a healthy and active lifestyle. He recently built an outdoor rink to host senior hockey games.

He is well aware of the physiological changes that occur as the body ages, and how fitness goals change along with them, having had a knee replacement last year. It’s helpful if a coach is also aware of those limitations, says Mr. Johnson.

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“I think having someone who can relate to what you’re going through is very different when you’re 35, 30 or 20 than when you’re 65,” he says. “They know your limitations. They can relate a little bit better, whether it’s the knees, or you can’t bend as much, or you’re just a lot stiffer than when you were in your 20s.”

Medical science has allowed people to live longer, he says.

“But as a society, we are also much heavier than ever. And I don’t think older people have escaped that.”

Fitness is one of the most important factors in being able to stay home as we age, yet only 12 percent of Canadians aged 60 to 79 meet physical activity guidelines, according to the State of California report. latest health from Canada’s director of public health. .

Jennifer Ferguson has always been physically active. She swam competitively as a child, she started playing tennis in her 20s and learned to ski in her 30s. She has been a regular gym attendee for over 30 years.

Now 65, the retired health communicator shares her passion as a personal trainer.

“My experience in health care made it very clear to me that the healthier you are going into any health crisis, the better off you are likely to be,” she says.

She was also her mother’s caregiver until her mother’s death at age 93 and decided to do whatever she could to stay healthy in later life.

“It keeps me fit and if I can inspire, help, support and guide others to take better care of themselves, that’s what I want to do,” he says.

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Ms. Ferguson, who also accepts Vintage Fitness clients as well as some private clients, has clients ranging in age from 58 to 91.

“I can relate well to people my age and older,” he says. “And I’ve had my fair share of injuries and aches and pains, I know what it’s like to have arthritis. I just have a heightened awareness of some of the things my clients are experiencing.”

Fitness goals for mature adults are different than fitness goals for younger people, she says. Her clients are looking for “functional fitness,” she says, the ability to travel independently, play with their grandchildren, stand at the counter and prepare a meal.

”They want energy to mow the lawn and tend the garden, clean the house, do the laundry. They want to stay in their own house and exercise is one way to help them manage that,” she says. “Physical activity is the closest thing we have to a magic pill for health.”

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