Exciting Small Group Training Experiences for Older Adults

Keith Smith

The fitness industry needs to quickly embrace a growing group of older exercisers. With the exerciser experience becoming just as important as physical results in the battle for customer retention, and with the trend to deliver more group training, it’s essential to consider the importance of small group training for active agers. The benefits for group training are numerous, from the social aspect to the support network that it provides, from both the instructor and other participants.


There are a few key factors that a facility needs to consider in order to welcome this client group.


The Wide Range of Abilities of this Group

We need to keep in mind that the group can have a wide range of physical abilities, and how the differences in fitness levels affect exerciser confidence and session content. At one end of the fitness spectrum, we need to be aware that the marathon world record for a 70-year-old male is 2 hours, 54 minutes and 48 seconds. At the other end of the spectrum, some 70-year-olds have been inactive for decades. This vast difference affects exercise choice, exercise order and exercise intensity.


Adapt to the Group

For the instructor of the group session, the need for exercise adaptation is very important due to age-related changes that occur as we get older. Joints stiffen, muscles may atrophy, balance and agility are affected by nervous system changes, eyesight may deteriorate, and there are changes to hearing. These factors contribute to adaptations during a small group training session. Preparation may have to be longer, intensity may have to be lower, and exercise choice has to be considered. Communication skills may need to be enhanced, both verbally and visually, to ensure that exercisers safe and comfortable within the group. The way that feedback and praise is delivered may have to be reframed to ensure exerciser enjoyment.


Appealing to the Group

If older exercisers are a demographic a facility wants to appeal to, then in-facility marketing has to be correct. Images and wording used to promote group training have to reflect the interests of this group and appeal to active agers.



Schedule classes at times during the week that are the most suitable for the older demographic. A good time for these sessions may be between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the facility is less busy, travel is easier, and there is plenty of time for social interaction before and after the workout.



Life Fitness recommends that certification is acquired by all instructors and trainers working with this specific client group.


Small group training can be an energizing and motivating experience for exercisers at all age groups and fitness levels. Creating appealing group training options for older adults can greatly expand the reach of any fitness facility.