Reasons for going to group fitness classes | it’s not always just about fitness

This past weekend, I attended a Third Age Fitness certification course. Third Age being a euphemism for ‘senior citizen’ or ‘older adult’.

Given that (1) I train a number of ‘above average aged’ clients, (2) several of my regular group fitness participants suffer from osteoporosis and osteoarthritis (3) my parents are on the cusp of 70

group fitness classes

and (4) my hubby and I will ourselves be classified as ‘third age’ sooner, rather than later, I thought that picking up some tricks and tips for teaching and training older adults would be a prudent thing to do.

We talked a lot about the physical infirmities associated with aging and how to keep older adults safe while exercising. We focused on important areas to stretch and strengthen aging bodies. We addressed the affects of many common medications on performance. And of course, we brainstormed about how to make our group fitness classes more welcoming to our older participants. (Check out this great guest post from AlexandraFunFit for specific tips for teaching seniors fitness classes)

For me, though, the most enlightening component of the course was a discussion about the reasons older adults attend group fitness classes.

Older adults are typically not there to get ‘abs of steel’ or ‘great guns’. Nor do they care about ‘personal bests’ or how they’ll look in their bathing suit next summer.

Seniors top reasons for participating in group fitness classes?

  1. to socialize with other same-aged adults
  2. to improve their ability to perform daily living tasks
  3. to have fun and learn something new

This discussion got me thinking about how older adults are really not that different from younger adults. When I returned to fitness after the birth of my first child, my reasons for attending group fitness classes were exactly the same. Of course, I also desired to see the reappearance of my pre-pregnancy body 🙂 , but just getting baby and I out of the house and into the company of others seeking healthy lifestyle changes was paramount.

I too craved adult-interaction, laughter and information. Strengthening my body to prepare for the ever-increasing workload to come (babies grow and as such, are a great source of progressive resistance training).

In addition to informing me about teaching the older members of my classes, this workshop was a great reminder to me that my job as a group fitness instructor isn’t just about helping people transform their bodies.

It’s also about creating a community, fostering improvements in daily living, entertaining and education. In short, helping people to transform their lives!

Do you participate in group fitness classes?

What are your primary reasons for doing so?



  1. Im not a big class fan ONLY because it’s a challenge right now to commit to a time.
    Youve totally reminded me, however, the benefits of MAKING THE COMMITMENT when I move.
    For all the nonfitness reasons I neeeeed to…
    MIz recently posted…The lies we tell ourselves.My Profile

  2. What a great post Tamara especially since I will be hitting senior citizen for some discounts this week! 😉 I don’t take classes just because I like to so my own thing AND I am into sculpting this bod with muscles! 😉 It is a good reminder for us all though why some do take classes…. I do work out to learn new things though… I always want to be learning in my fitness realm!

    Jody – Fit at 54 recently posted…Gratitude Monday & New HairMy Profile

    • Well Jody, my hubby is 53, so I’m thinking that I’ll need to be able to put all I’ve learned into practice sooner, rather than later. He shall be my guinea pig!

  3. I don’t think that I have heard the phrase “third age” before. Usually, I go to a group fitness class because I want to be challenged – I tend to push myself harder when I’m in a class and accountable. But I get so much more out of it – especially the community. That’s what keeps me going back for more.
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…Memories Captured: The RunMy Profile

    • Yes, ‘third age’ is a new one! My fitness certification body uses it, but I’ve never heard it used elsewhere. Even as an instructor, I’d have to admit that the community is a big part of why I keep going back to teach my groups over and over again! They are almost like family!

  4. I have never fully understood the appeal of working out alone, as I am so far along the scale of people who like to work out with other people. This is honestly one of my favorite ever posts from you, because I love teaching to older adults (I think I might be one, if you consider your hubby to be a geezer), and always want to learn more.
    AlexandraFunFit recently posted…Lunges to Shape the Tush and Lower Body: Right & Wrong WayMy Profile

    • Aw, thanks. I tell you, this past weekend’s course was a real eye-opener to me. Just the discussion around aging and how biased we all are towards the negative aspects was quite powerful. Most days I don’t think my hubby is an old geezer, but given that he’s 8 years my senior, he will get there before me!

  5. This is exactly why I love training and teaching older adults. They really just want to feel better and be a little stronger. They appreciate every small gain and don’t blame you because they don’t have washboard abs yet.

    And, oh yeah, the social part. It takes a while to get them focused on exercising because they need to catch up with their friends that they haven’t seen for a couple days. Of course, they include me in that group, so it’s all good.
    Debbie@ Live from La Quinta recently posted…Read All About…Fit & Fabulous Me!My Profile

    • The social aspect of group classes for seniors was something I hadn’t expected. Whenever I’ve subbed one of these classes I’m amazed at how long it takes them to settle down. Kind of like kindergarteners! But of course, that’s one of the main reason they’re there!

  6. At one time group classes were my favorite. Now, I’m happy to have a workout room at home 🙂
    Jill @ Fitness, Health and Happiness recently posted…Twelve In Twenty-Twelve || Mason Half MarathonMy Profile

    • I WISH that I had an at-home exercise room. I don’t even have an office. Need to get rid of a couple of kids first…

  7. “Third age fitness” – is that what they now call fitness courses for senior citizens? Why not just call them “senior fitness”? It’s almost as if saying “senior” to someone is up there with the n-word and a lot of four-letter-words.
    evilcyber recently posted…6 Tips On How To Lose Weight Right NowMy Profile

    • I know. It’s a strange thing to call senior’s fitness. I asked the same question at my recent course and was given an answer something like ‘third age reflects the diversity of ages we typically see in an older adults class; if we call it senior fitness, 55 year olds who should be there, won’t come’.


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