Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Senior Fitness: Don't be afraid to go back to the basics

In every fitness center setting it seems that the goal is to provide the most up-to-date, “trendy” group fitness classes and personal training. And while I agree that trying to offer something new and exciting is very important, I also think that sometimes we need to bring fitness back to the basics.

NIFS | seniors seated stretching

This is very important at a senior living setting. Many of our senior living communities support active living for several hundred people and providing fitness services appropriate for every fitness level can be challenging. It easy to cater to the “most active” group of participants. But we wanted to make sure we were reaching as many different residents as possible, so our fitness center staff challenged ourselves to take it back to the basics by providing a personalized group training that focused on the “bare bones” of exercise. And let me tell you, it has been some of the most rewarding work I’ve done to date! 

While I can’t deny that fitness professionals get a thrill out of providing a tough workout in a high intensity class and hearing “that was hard,” I can honestly say that providing an appropriate workout for those who need to take it back to the basics of fitness is also just as thrilling. Being able to coach a member to stand up from his chair independently when he hasn't been able to in a long time can make your heart swell with pride for his accomplishment. 

Now I’m taking that “back to basics” challenge to you dear reader. If you work in a senior fitness setting, take a look at your membership. Start identifying the needs of your members who struggle with standing, walking, overall balance, basic strength, and most importantly their confidence! One of the criteria we used when we started evaluating who might benefit most from “back to basics” programming was to begin with members who tend to get a little behind in class and do not reap the full the benefits. 

Once you build that member list, start reaching out individually to target specific fitness and functional living needs. Then watch how your overall participation numbers grow and how the increased confidence of some of your more frail residents helps them gain additional strength for every day needs. This experience has surprised me; I didn’t expect that getting back to the basics would be so rewarding and exciting, but it has been an absolute joy. Have a similar story to share? Respond the comments below.

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Topics: active aging senior group fitness classes group fitness for seniors exercise and aging resident fitness fitness for frail seniors

How one senior living community made major improvements in their fitness program

NIFS Fitness Center Management | DataIf you DIY the fitness program in your senior living community, you probably think your offerings are market-standard and don't need to be reconsidered. Even with strong staff running your fitness program, that in-house team has limits on what they can build for the community, and it's likely that you're missing out on opportunities for substantial improvement. The problem with those missed opportunities is that even with something as basic as exercise, it's tough to know what you don't know.

Here's one example of a client we're working with who already had in-house staff in place when we were brought on board to take over management of their fitness programming. In this case, the existing staff was well-credentialed and they were doing a good job of teaching group fitness classes and providing 1:1 exercise prescription and orientation-type services for the members. They were also running periodic programs and partnering across their communities with wellness initiatives. It was all good stuff, and yet, there was a lot of room for improvement. As part of the contract, we hired the existing staff and worked collaboratively to capitalize on what they were doing well, while also bringing in core services that provide tremendous value to program participants and the client. Here's a list of key data from our first full year at this community:
  • Annual fitness center visits increased 44% despite there being no change in total eligible residents during this time.
  • Appointment volume increased 68% which means that residents got a lot more high touch interaction with our fitness experts.
  • The average number of fitness center visits per day increased 43% and the number of residents who visited the fitness center at least once per month jumped 20%.
  • In a community where the group fitness program was already strong, we made a few tweaks and overall class participation increased 9%.

As I said, the staff leadership at this client location was strong before we came on board; they were doing a nice job tracking and using available data as well as providing good variety in programming. But, there are limits to what a small team can do in an environment like that without additional job-specific support. And that's the value of outsourcing your fitness center program to an organization that specializes in building and sustaining strong resident fitness programs. We were quickly able to help this team: 

  • Identify new ways to attract residents into appointments and structure documented follow-up practices to keep residents engaged in their exercise programs.
  • Adopt a program evaluation framework that allowed them to focus in on a few goals and truly evaluate what was/wasn't working in their community.
  • Provide comprehensive balance training/fall prevention programming with a depth that far exceed previous efforts, and served to draw in new participants to the fitness center and group fitness classes.

If you're ready to start moving your community fitness program to the next level, click below to download our eBook: How to Transform Your Fitness Center From Vacant to Vibrant.

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Topics: outsourcing fitness managment senior living fitness center resident fitness fitness center for seniors DIY staffing