Club Owners Embrace Senior Market with Specialized Fitness Programs 

Adults aged 65 years and older should engage in moderate cardio exercise at least 150 minutes per week and strength training twice a week, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Only 15 percent of older Americans, however, are meeting these requirements, according to the Midcourse Report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

To get seniors moving and their hearts pumping, club owners are bringing in established programs like SilverSneakers®, Geri-Fit®, Zumba Gold® and Enhance®Fitness and others into their facilities. By licensing a program specifically for seniors, club owners can help their older adult members increase their strength, improve their balance and have a better outlook on life, says Francesca Fisher, program developer for Geri-Fit. 

“Our population is aging and there is a need for programs that are proven to help improve and manage chronic health conditions and aid in fall prevention,” Fisher says. 

Back in 1992, improving the health of her aging parents inspired Fisher to launch the Geri-Fit senior fitness program. Over time, the program has been licensed to senior centers, libraries, gyms, assisted living facilities and YMCAs. Today the evidence-based senior bodybuilding fitness program offers 700 weekly classes in more than 350 locations. 

Because Geri-Fit is part of the fitness benefits under Medicare Advantage plans, club owners can offer it as part of a gym membership or a low cost to gym members, Fisher says. To help partners to launch and market the new program to their senior members, Geri-Fit supplies the owners with press releases, PSAs, advertisement templates and flyers. The company also offers an accredited online training and certification program, which takes between 20 and 50 hours to complete. 

A week before the Geri-Fit classes begin, the participants are encouraged to attend a one-hour fall prevention presentation to observe seated strength-training exercises and learn how to fall-proof their home. 

“It's a chance to ‘try before you buy’ or ‘meet the instructor,’” Fisher says. “That way, people will know what they are getting themselves into. Many leave saying, ‘this is exactly the type of program I've been looking for.’”

Zumba Gold also helps seniors to stay active while socializing and connecting with others. The program, which launched in 2006, is offered globally in health clubs, community centers and private fitness centers. The modified choreography helps senior participants to improve cardiovascular fitness, strengthen the heart, improve circulation and maintain flexibility and balance through a full-body, low-impact workout. It is designed not only for older active adults, but also for beginners and special populations. 

To offer Zumba Gold programming, clubs must hire licensed instructors. Next, fitness facilities can work with Zumba to launch the program, organize classes and promote classes on social media to drive awareness and engagement. 

Another program, EnhanceFitness, can help older adults to take charge of their health. YMCA of the USA has a national license to offer the programming, but it’s also available in some gyms and studios nationally. The fitness program is not only an arthritis-friendly group exercise class, but also a federally designated fall prevention program. Club owners can train instructors through livestream small group training, which is regularly available online. 

“We’re glad that clubs are becoming more and more interested in offering federally designated health promotion programs and becoming part of the health-care team,” says Paige Denison, director of health, wellness and Project Enhance. “We know why EnhanceFitness works and how to replicate it so clubs don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Instead, they can focus on connecting with their community and meeting client needs.”

image of seniors raising one arm with a weight
Students perform the one-arm lateral raise exercise during a Geri-Fit class.   (Geri-Fit)