Some people have the misconception that fitness is a young person’s sport. Yet, this simply isn’t true. In fact, there are plenty of older adults who are incredibly fit, some of whom didn’t even start an exercise program until later in life.
Take Charles Eugster, for instance. Although this 96-year-old has set multiple world records running in races of varying lengths, he was 95 before he began running at all. And his strength training wasn’t serious until he was 87 either (1).
While Eugster’s story may be inspiring, you might still be wondering whether others may be inspired to work with you if you are an older certified personal trainer. Is there a demand for trainers who are in the later stages of life?
When you hear the phrase “personal trainer,” what image pops into your head? A 20-something person who is buff to the max? If so, it may surprise you to know that one survey found that the average age of a personal trainer is 39.8 years old (2).
But what about demand? According to some news outlets—like The Wall Street Journal and Forbes—there is an increased demand for trainers in their 50s, 60s, or older (3,4). So, if you want to join the fitness industry when you’re in one of these age ranges, you can serve a need that appears to be going up.
Another reason to consider personal training as an older person is that you may be sought out by certain clients. For example, older clients may want a trainer who is closer to their age. Working out with someone who understands the challenges they face can make them feel more comfortable. They might also be less self-conscious about any movement limitations.
As an older trainer, some clients may even find you more inspiring. When older adults see you engaging in regular exercise, they may be encouraged to do the same. This is especially important since studies have found that a majority of older adults don’t get the recommended amount of physical activity (5). This puts them at increased risk of chronic health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Research also indicates that exercise can improve mental health (6).
Add strength training to the mix and not only can older clients boost their muscle mass, but they can improve bone density as well. Stronger bones mean a reduced risk of fractures or breaks, such as with a fall. As a fitness instructor who serves this demographic, you can help them receive all these types of benefits and more.
Being an older trainer isn’t just beneficial to your personal training clients. There is also a benefit or two for you too.
When you provide personal training services, it helps you stay active. Even if you don’t do the entire exercise routine with your clients, you’ll likely do at least part of it. Over time, this can add up. (If you teach group fitness classes, you’re sure to get a good dose of physical activity!)
Again, if you specialize in senior fitness, you may also have an easier time attracting older clients. They might seek you out simply because they would feel more comfortable training with you.
Despite all these benefits, you may still have some doubt as to whether you should become a personal trainer as an older adult. For a little extra inspiration, read Prevention’s post about 5 people who became trainers after 50 (7). Maybe their stories will convince you that being an older trainer isn’t just possible, it can be an incredibly satisfying job title!
Age isn’t the only factor that can make you a good trainer. There are a few additional qualities that can make you a top-notch personal trainer at any age. They include:
Having a passion for fitness, which can inspire your clients to also develop a passion for exercise and healthy eating
Being empathetic to your client’s circumstances and needs, strengthening the trainer-client bond
Enjoying the teaching process, as your enjoyment will make the experience more positive for your clients
Being good at recordkeeping, since recording a client’s progress is critical for ensuring that they meet their fitness goals while also proving your value as a personal trainer
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median pay for a personal trainer is $40,510 per year. This equates to roughly $19.48 per hour (8).
The average salary for an older trainer depends on a variety of factors. Among them are your level of education and experience, the state in which you work, and even whether you are a personal trainer in a rural or urban area.
Another factor to consider is your clientele. Your income potential when training senior clients may be higher (8). One reason is that older clients are often more established financially. Therefore, they have more money to spend on hiring a personal trainer.
They also may see more value in improving their fitness. If they’re trying to maintain their independence or better manage a major health condition, the cost of training may be less of a factor. As long as they get the results they desire, they’re willing to pay a higher amount.
Are you ready to get your personal trainer certification as an older adult? Great! There are a few things you can do to maximize your income and grow your bank account. The first is to decide who you want to work with as an instructor.
For instance, if you want to specialize in senior fitness, what does “senior” mean? Is there a particular age range you have in mind? Is it anyone who has reached the age of retirement (which can vary), someone who is able to collect social security (generally, 62 and up), or is there some other guideline you had in mind for determining your target demographic?
The reason this is important is that you’d market differently to each one. If you want to attract retirees, your messages might talk about the importance of staying active in retirement. If you want to draw in more people old enough to receive social security, your content could talk about fitness for people who are 60+ years of age.
Another way to maximize your client list is to design a workout, especially for older adults. This program could target older clients by hitting on the most common fitness goals for this demographic. This might include offering a strength training program for seniors that helps improve balance and mobility, helping them to retain independence. Or maybe you offer an aerobic activity that aids them with weight loss to help manage a chronic health condition. Create a program that addresses issues that are important to seniors.
If you want to work with clients experiencing issues related to balance, loss of strength, or joint pain, you could offer a program focused on corrective exercise for seniors. This type of exercise plan could also help increase cardiovascular capacity, improve flexibility, and reduce body fat.
You might also choose a physical activity that would likely be more appealing to senior clients. While some older clients may enjoy boot camps, for instance, this may exclude those who want an exercise plan that is lighter in intensity or impact. Yoga is one option to consider. So too is senior strength training.
If you want to work with older adults, the first step is to learn how to work with this demographic. For this, ISSA offers Senior Fitness Instructor certification. This course teaches some of the most common challenges older clients face, as well as ways to overcome them. You’ll also learn how to create a personalized training program based on the client’s fitness level and health status.
Specialize in a group of clients that have the time, money and motivation to work with a Certified Personal Trainer. By the year 2030, the number of Americans over the age of 65 will grow to over 63 million. This group now constitutes the fastest growing segment of our population.
Tips from the world's fittest 96-year-old: 'Retirement is the worst thing you can do'. TODAY.com. (2016). Retrieved 28 September 2022, from https://www.today.com/health/world-s-fittest-96-year-old-charles-eugster-shares-diet-t87956.
Waryasz, G., Daniels, A., Gil, J., Suric, V., & Eberson, C. (2016). Personal trainer demographics, current practice trends and common trainee injuries. Orthopedic Reviews, 8(3). https://doi.org/10.4081/or.2016.6600
Potkewitz, H. (2019). Forget the Hotshot Trainer with the Six-Pack, Boomers Want Mature Fitness Coaches. WALL STREET JOURNAL. Retrieved 28 September 2022, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/forget-the-hotshot-trainer-with-the-six-pack-boomers-want-mature-fitness-coaches-11554557400.
Where Are All The Older Fitness Trainers?. Forbes. (2021). Retrieved 28 September 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2021/08/13/where-are-all-the-older-fitness-trainers/?sh=1d9b25d710d8.
Keadle, S., McKinnon, R., Graubard, B., & Troiano, R. (2016). Prevalence and trends in physical activity among older adults in the United States: A comparison across three national surveys. Preventive Medicine, 89, 37-43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.05.009
Langhammer, B., Bergland, A., & Rydwik, E. (2018). The Importance of Physical Activity Exercise among Older People. Biomed Research International, 2018, 1-3. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/7856823
Klein, S. (2017). 5 People Who Became Trainers After 50. Prevention. Retrieved 28 September 2022, from https://www.prevention.com/fitness/a20474298/5-trainers-over-50/.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Fitness Trainers and Instructors, at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/fitness-trainers-and-instructors.htm (visited September 08, 2022).
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