The Fitness Zone

The 2023 Top Fitness Trends Review: #4 Fitness Programs for Older Adults

Nov 01, 2023 | by Steve Irwin

In this series of articles we are going to take a look at the top ten fitness trends for 2023 as created for the annual ACSM’s (American College of Sports Medicine) Health & Fitness Journal worldwide survey [1]

The survey list actually covers 20 fitness trends as collated as part of the survey, but we’re just going to focus on the Top 10 and dive specifically into some background information about the trend, how it can benefit you as a fitness consumer, as a fitness professional and also add some general guidance and / or recommendations.

So here we go… Its Number 4 on the List: Fitness Programs for Older Adults

The Number 4 Fitness Trend for 2023: Fitness Programs for Older Adults

This trend is making a remarkable comeback, focusing on the health and well-being of the baby boomer and older generations. As our life spans increase, so does our desire to lead active, fulfilling lives well into our golden years. This revival has gained momentum, harking back to its peak position in 2007 as the second most popular fitness trend, only to momentarily slip to number 11 in 2017. 

However, the tide has turned once again, and since 2018, fitness programs for older adults have steadily regained their foothold. What’s fueling this resurgence? The answer lies in the fact that the baby boomer generation and their senior counterparts boast greater disposable income than their younger counterparts. 

This presents a golden opportunity for fitness clubs to tap into this burgeoning market. A novel approach is emerging as fitness establishments are reshaping their environments, from lighting to music selection, to be more accommodating to older generations during traditionally slower hours. This subtle shift is ushering in a new era of age-friendly fitness, ensuring that everyone can thrive in their pursuit of a healthy and active lifestyle.

The History of Fitness Programs for Older Adults in the Fitness Industry

Over the years, society has increasingly understood the importance of maintaining physical well-being throughout one’s life, and the fitness industry has responded with tailored programs to meet the unique needs of older adults.

In the mid-20th century, the perception of ageing began to shift. Previously, older age was often associated with frailty and inactivity, but this perspective started to change. Pioneers like Jack LaLanne, who hosted one of the first exercise television programs in the 1950s, introduced older adults to the idea that they could remain physically active and vibrant well into their senior years.[2]

As the fitness industry continued to grow, more attention was given to the specific requirements of older adults. In the 1970s and 1980s, fitness professionals and researchers began to develop exercise programs that considered the unique physiological changes that come with ageing. These programs focused on improving flexibility, balance, strength, and cardiovascular health, aiming to enhance the overall quality of life for older individuals.[3]

The 1990s witnessed a boom in fitness programs designed for older adults. Gyms and community centres started offering specialised classes, [4] such as water aerobics, yoga, and Tai Chi, to cater to this demographic. These programs not only helped seniors stay active but also provided them with social opportunities, combating feelings of isolation and loneliness.

In recent years, technology has played a significant role in the evolution of fitness programs for older adults. Smart devices, fitness apps, and wearable fitness trackers have made it easier for seniors to monitor their progress and engage in home-based workouts. Additionally, online communities and virtual fitness classes have allowed older adults to connect with trainers and peers, regardless of geographical location.

The Benefits of Fitness Programs for Older Adults

For older adult fitness enthusiasts, staying active isn’t just a hobby; it’s a way of life. Engaging in fitness programs tailored to their unique needs can bring about a myriad of advantages, enhancing their overall quality of life. In this article, we will focus on three key areas where fitness programs for older adults shine: improving strength, managing weight loss, and providing essential mental health care.

  1. Improving Strength: As we age, muscle mass naturally declines, making everyday tasks more challenging. Fitness programs specifically designed for older adults prioritise strength training, helping to counteract this loss. Resistance exercises, such as lifting weights or using resistance bands, stimulate muscle growth and improve muscle function. Increased strength leads to better balance and stability, reducing the risk of falls and injuries – a critical concern for older adults.[5]

Furthermore, improved strength empowers older adults to maintain their independence. Simple activities like climbing stairs, carrying groceries, and getting out of a chair become easier, allowing for a more active and fulfilling lifestyle. Strength training also supports bone health, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

  1. Managing Weight Loss: Ageing often comes with changes in metabolism, making it easier to gain weight. Fitness programs for older adults not only help prevent weight gain but also support weight loss when needed. Regular physical activity boosts metabolism, making it more efficient at burning calories.

Engaging in cardiovascular exercises, such as walking, swimming, or cycling, helps shed unwanted pounds. These activities not only contribute to calorie expenditure but also have heart health benefits, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases that become more prevalent with age.[6]

  1. Mental Health Care: Physical fitness isn’t just about the body; it’s also a powerful tool for mental well-being. Older adults often face challenges like loneliness, depression, and cognitive decline. Fitness programs offer a multi-faceted approach to address these issues.

Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, known as “feel-good” hormones, which can combat depression and improve mood. Additionally, regular physical activity enhances cognitive function and memory, reducing the risk of age-related cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s disease.[7] Moreover, participating in group fitness classes or joining fitness communities provides social interaction and support, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Embracing a fitness program isn’t just about staying active; it’s about reaping the many physical and mental benefits that come with it.

Important Note – Strengthening Bones Through Weight Training: Vital for Aging Adults, Especially Women

In the realm of fitness for older adults, one aspect that stands out prominently is the remarkable impact of strength training on bone density. While this benefit applies to both genders, it holds particular importance for women, given their higher susceptibility to conditions like osteoporosis.[8]

  • Building Stronger Bones

As we age, our bones naturally lose density and strength, increasing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis, a condition characterised by brittle bones. Strength training, also known as resistance training, plays a pivotal role in counteracting this age-related decline. When you lift weights or engage in resistance exercises, your muscles pull on your bones, stimulating bone growth and remodelling.

This process not only strengthens the muscles but also fortifies the bones, making them denser and more resilient. Over time, this increase in bone density can significantly reduce the risk of fractures and osteoporosis. For older adults, especially women, who are more prone to osteoporosis due to hormonal changes during menopause, strength training is a powerful preventive measure.

  • Why It’s Crucial for Women

Women tend to have lower bone density than men, to begin with, and hormonal changes during menopause can accelerate bone loss. Estrogen, a hormone that plays a crucial role in maintaining bone density, decreases significantly during menopause, putting women at a higher risk of osteoporosis. The good news is that weight training can help mitigate this risk.

Weight-bearing exercises, such as lifting weights or using resistance bands, create the necessary stress on bones to stimulate bone-building cells. Over time, this leads to stronger and denser bones, reducing the risk of fractures. For women, the benefits of weight training extend beyond just physical strength; it becomes a lifeline for maintaining bone health.

Tailoring Fitness Programs for Older Adults

Fitness professionals, including Personal Trainers (PTs), Fitness Instructors, and Strength and Conditioning Coaches, play a pivotal role in ensuring that seniors maintain their physical health and well-being. By understanding the unique needs and challenges of older clients, fitness professionals can incorporate tailored fitness programs into their services effectively.


  • Assessment and Personalization: The first crucial step in creating a fitness program for older adults is a comprehensive assessment. Fitness professionals must evaluate the client’s health status, mobility, flexibility, and medical history. It’s essential to understand any pre-existing medical conditions, medications, or injuries that may affect their exercise capacity. With this information, PTs can design individualised programs that cater to their specific needs, ensuring safety and efficacy.
  • Functional Training: Older adults often have specific goals, such as improving balance, flexibility, or joint health. Fitness professionals can incorporate functional exercises that mimic real-life movements, such as squats, lunges, and core stability exercises, into their programs. These movements help older adults maintain their independence and perform daily activities with ease. Additionally, resistance training should be a cornerstone of any program to help preserve muscle mass and bone density.
  • Progressive Overload with Caution: While progression is essential in any fitness program, it should be approached with caution for older clients. Gradual increases in intensity, duration, and complexity of exercises are crucial to prevent overexertion and reduce the risk of injury. Emphasise the importance of listening to the body and recognizing limits while encouraging consistent, gradual improvement over time.

Incorporating fitness programs for older adults into your services can be highly rewarding, as it allows you to make a significant impact on your clients’ lives. By tailoring programs to meet their unique needs and challenges, you not only help them achieve their fitness goals but also enhance their overall quality of life.

My Top 3 “Tips” for Older Adults Starting a Training Program

Starting a training program as an older adult can be an exciting and transformative journey, but it’s crucial to approach it with caution and preparation. Here are my top three tips to help older adults embark on a safe and effective fitness journey:

  1. Research and Consultation: Before diving into any fitness program, older adults should thoroughly research and consider their options. It’s essential to understand one’s own health status, any pre-existing medical conditions, and personal fitness goals. Consulting with a healthcare professional or a certified fitness trainer is a crucial first step. They can provide tailored advice, recommend appropriate exercises, and ensure your chosen program aligns with your health needs.
  1. Focus on Balance and Functional Strength: As we age, maintaining balance and functional strength becomes increasingly important to prevent falls and maintain independence. Older adults should prioritise exercises that enhance balance and stability. This can include yoga, Tai Chi, or specific strength-training exercises targeting the core and lower body. Functional strength exercises, such as squats and lunges, can improve everyday activities like getting up from a chair or carrying groceries. Progress should be gradual to avoid overexertion or injury.
  1. Recovery and Self-Care: Recovery is an often overlooked aspect of fitness, but it’s especially vital for older adults. Adequate rest and recovery help prevent injuries and promote overall well-being. Utilise tools like foam rollers or massage balls to release muscle tension and improve flexibility. Consider incorporating practices like meditation and deep breathing to manage stress, which can have a significant impact on recovery. Ensure you get enough sleep to support muscle repair and overall health.

In addition to these tips, it’s important to maintain a positive mindset and stay consistent with your fitness routine. Patience is key, as progress may be slower than when you were younger. Always listen to your body and make adjustments as needed.

In Conclusion

Remember that the goal of a fitness program for older adults should be to enhance their quality of life, not just to achieve physical aesthetics. With the right research, guidance, and focus on balance, strength, and recovery, older adults can enjoy the many benefits of a well-rounded training program while staying safe and injury-free.

Please Note: The information provided in this article are the opinions and professional experience of the author and not all activities are recommended for the beginner or participants with underlying health conditions. Before following any advice or starting any fitness, health and wellbeing journey please consult with an Allied Health Professional and / or General Practitioner.


  1. ACSM’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2023: Thompson, Walter R. Ph.D., FACS
  2. Jack LaLanne: The “Godfather of Fitness”
  3. Physical Activity In Older Age: Perspectives For Healthy Ageing And Frailty: Jamie S. McPhee, School of Healthcare Science, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
  4. Club Active: FIFTY/50 Group Classes
  5. How Can Strength Training Build Healthier Bodies As We Age: National Institute on Ageing
  6. The Role of Exercise and Physical Activity in Weight Loss and Maintenance: Damon L. Swift Ph.D, Department of Kinesiology, East Carolina University, USA
  7. Exercise Dosage in Reducing the Risk of Dementia Development: Sukai Wang, College of Physical Education, Huaqiao University, China
  8. Osteoporosis: What You Need to Know as You Age
Steve Irwin

Steve Irwin

Steve has spent the last 19 years in the Australian Fitness Industry as a Group Fitness Instructor, 1-1 Coach, State Manager, Business Owner and is currently an Educator for the Australian Institute of Fitness. A lifelong fitness enthusiast he started his working life in the Military which guided him into the fitness industry where his passion for helping others on their health and fitness journey has been realised. Steve believes that for anyone thinking about getting fit or healthy they should “just get started” as “doing something is better than doing nothing”.

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