You don’t need to have rock-hard abs in your 70s, but you have to keep moving if you want to age well.
At least that’s the advice of Robin Maginn, a 64-year-old personal trainer, who caters to middle-aged and older adults in her role as health living and wellness coordinator at the Central Lincoln County YMCA in Damariscotta, Maine, the state with the oldest population.
Maginn has been a personal trainer and fitness coach for about 30 years, but she’s now part of an wave of older adult fitness experts such as Joan MacDonald, 75, who transformed herself over five years from overweight and on several medications to drug-free and fit with a social media audience of 1.7 million followers on her @TrainwithJoan Instagram account.
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“There’s a boom in senior fitness and senior personal trainers. A lot of people want a trainer who understands them. Clients want someone who can appreciate how their bodies respond to training,” said International Sports Sciences Association president and chief executive Andrew Wyant.
Last year, 10% of ISSA’s new students were over the age of 60, up from about 5% a decade ago, Wyant said. ISSA had about 50,000 students worldwide last year.
“With age, comes experience,” Maginn said. “I like to stick to common-sense exercises that mimic what we do or need to do in life. I really hone in on form. I want people to understand why something helps or works better—I really explain things.”
“Exercise can help anyone—from illness prevention, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes. It’s important to keep your body strong and moving,” she said.
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Maginn said she enjoys working with older clients, who have the time and perseverance to stick to exercise regimes and keep coming back. In addition to being a personal trainer, Maginn also teaches group exercise classes for older adults, tai chi, and boxing for Parkinson’s patients.
It’s recommended to spend 150 minutes a week being active, Maginn said. Strength, cardio, flexibility and balance are all important components for any age, but especially older adults, she said.
“It’s important to incorporate it all into your routine. It doesn’t need to be in a gym. Just keep moving,” Maginn said. “Your chronological age can do a number on you psychologically if you let it. Don’t let that number get in your way, though.”
“For older adults who haven’t exercised before, it can be very intimidating. I try to take the fear out of it and go slow and steady,” Maginn said. “I’m not afraid of working with people with many risk factors. I work with stroke victims, Parkinson’s patients, anyone who wants to get healthy.”
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“There’s always something you can do. Sometimes I just wish people would try and start somewhere,” Maginn said. “It’s never too late—I don’t care if you’re 90 or 100—to make gains in strength and stamina.”
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Maginn and other older trainers appeal to baby boomers who want to age actively.
“A lot of baby boomers have been fitness advocates for decades, whether it was running or tennis or now pickleball. As boomers continue to age, they’re looking for really active aging,” Wyant said.
“For a person in the 60s or 70s going to a gym and seeing a strong 25-year-old is great. But a 65-year-old trainer will understand and appreciate what their experience is like,” Wyant said. “It’s my personal opinion, but while any-age trainer can be skilled and knowledgeable, having someone who appreciates that your elbow may be hurting from tendinitis and understands that and empathizes with that can be very powerful,” Wyant said.
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Katharina Keoughan, 69, who trains with Maginn, agrees.
“When your trainer is your age, healthy, fit, strong and pleasant, you have a role model. If the trainer were 40 years younger, you would not because you are not that age and could not be that fit,” Keoughan said.
“I can relate to her better. She’s closer to my age and can say ‘I know how you feel,’” Keoughan said. “Sometimes I joke to her ‘do I have to pay extra for psychiatry?’”