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August 11, 2019

Helping seniors select the best fitness center and trainer

First step: figure out your priorities

Fitness Senior Health
Senior Fitness 08112019 Photo by Pexels


When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them I’m a personal trainer. I usually get two immediate questions: “How do I lose my gut?” and “Which gyms do you recommend?”

With so many high-profile, brand-name gyms available, it’s hard to decide what would be the best membership options.

Fortunately, the internet can help us research anything from recipes to restaurants and, yes, fitness clubs. Before you start your search for the most suitable gym or club, you need to prioritize your preferences. Is it cleanliness or price? Or maybe location is most important to you. Once you prioritize these preference, then you can research.

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The next step is to call for an appointment to take a tour. Typically, someone from the membership staff will show you through the facility (or at least they should).

Membership representatives have all the answers when it comes to specifics about a fitness facility, so this is the best person to ask about price, contracts, classes and personal training rates. You’ll definitely want to make an appointment ahead of time, since walk-ins may have to wait for a membership rep to become available. Some clubs allow other staffers to take potential members on a tour, but they may not have all the answers you need.

Once you take a tour, ask for a free pass to test-run the facility for a day. Some clubs even provide a whole week. This will allow you to get a sense of how it feels to be a member. You can also test the equipment to see if it fits your standards, and you can watch the trainers to observe their personalities and teaching techniques.

Now that you have made your choice and joined a gym or fitness club, it’ll be time to pick a personal trainer to get you started on a successful exercise program. How do you select a trainer? Again, examine your priorities. Many of my clients, for example, choose me because I specialize in older members. If you are older than 50, you may want to choose a trainer who has experience with your age group. If you have a fitness goal to train for a marathon or a 5K race, you may want to choose a trainer who is experienced with training athletes. If you have a chronic physical issue like back pain, you may want to work with a trainer who has some physical therapy experience.

In addition to experience, you also want to look for certifications and degrees. Not every trainer will have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in exercise science, but they should at least have a personal trainer certification. Certification indicates that they meet certain requirements for according to a national or international association in the field of fitness and wellness. You are putting your body in someone else’s hands, so don’t train with someone who does this for a hobby!

A smart general manager or fitness manager will have personal trainer biographies both on a wall in a prominent place, and on the facility’s website. On your tour with the membership rep, be sure to ask for trainer bios. Personal trainers come in all sizes, shapes, specialties, and genders. Regardless of how silly you think your priorities may be, follow your instincts when selecting a trainer. You can switch trainers down the road, but why not select the one you think is the best for your specific needs the first time?

Jess Lowy is an exercise physiologist for the Healthplex Sports Club in Springfield, Delaware County. Visit the Healthplex Sports Club web site, or call 610-328-8888.

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