A very good book I read years ago, Other People’s Children by Lisa Delpit discussed how the treatment of a particular group of students was contributing to an education that impeded their potential to learn. In her book, there is a scenario I often think about where a teacher does not challenge and push a student compared to others because of a lower expectation of potential. Because of such expectations, the student’s educational growth suffers from not being challenged.
How can this relate to the fitness profession? If you expect less of a certain group compared to others you treat them accordingly and are holding them back from what they could learn. Learning takes many physical and mental forms when it comes to practicing better movement. A fitness professional teaches clients how to move in ways that contribute to their health and well-being. Undeniably exercise is a medicine that can help to ensure that those approaching 50 and especially those 50 years and up that are able to do what they want and like to do for as long as possible. To connect the dots, coddling an active aging client because of assumptions of the potential of growth and improvements is holding clients back. (Of course, it goes for coddling anyone!) Call it well-meaning, ageism, or the combination, this is an issue the fitness industry should recognize and address more. This population deserves the respect to be challenged in safe ways and within their fitness level.
Everyday life activities should not be a challenge to someone because of how many birthdays they have had. Because of their perspective on vitality, these “students” can be more grateful to live life with strength and confidence than their younger counterparts.
If you are reading this because you are part of this diverse population, don’t internalize that “downhill after 50” mentality. It is entirely possible for you to re-connect with your body and move better. There are things in life that are not able to be measured. For example, the ability to perform everyday life activities with strength, agility, and balance does not have a measurement. At the same time, the ability to do those things is what makes up our memories. Learning how to move better can change your outlook on your potential to physically do things. Age is a number, but it does not define your ability to improve and move well. You have the opportnity to choose your own path and decide what being fit means to you and how you live your life.
If you are reading this on behalf of a loved one, keep cheering them on. Encourage them to enjoy movement in all of the various ways. Understand the reasons why they may not be excited about exercise. Find qualified professionals like myself that see the potential in their clients and online resources that can help both of you as well.