Why pre-exercise health screening is important for older adults

Pre-exercise health screening for older adults

The benefits of exercise outweigh the risks for most people, and as an older adult personal trainer my core goal is to encourage older adults to be more active. It is extremely important that I pre-screen all new older adult clients before starting them on an exercise programme, to ensure that the exercise I prescribe accommodates and is adapted to any medical issues, injuries or other risk factors.

Standard fitness industry practice is to use a PAR-Q screening form. Further pre-screening guidance can be obtained using the PARmed-X questionnaire in conjunction with the PAR-Q. PAR-Q which simply stands for Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire. The benefits of pre-screening using a PAR-Q are:

  • Determines weaknesses: The PAR-Q helps me as an older adult personal trainer to determine areas which my older adult client is weak in and which physical activity programmes are safe and helpful based on my new client’s physical condition.
  • Activity level assessment: Pre-exercise health screening helps me as an older adult personal trainer determine whether my older adult client is fit for an exercise programme right now. It can also be used to help me plan how the client can lead a more active lifestyle and to avoid any health risks before starting physical activity.
  • Simple to use: Par-Q is a simple pre-exercise health screening tool and it can be used by anyone who wants to start an intense exercise programme to keep fit and healthy and is not just for use by an older adult personal trainer like me. These are the questions I use in my PAR-Q form, which simply require my new client to answer yes or no to:
    • Has your doctor diagnosed a bone or joint problem, such as arthritis, that has been aggravated or made worse with exercise?
    • Has your doctor diagnosed a bone or joint problem, such as arthritis, that has been aggravated or made worse with exercise?
    • Do you have high blood pressure?
    • Do you have low blood pressure?
    • Do you have Diabetes Mellitus or any other metabolic condition?
    • Has your doctor ever said that you have raised cholesterol (serum level 6.2 mmol/L)?
    • Have you ever been diagnosed with a heart condition and advised that you should only do physical activity recommended by your doctor?
    • Have you ever felt chest pain during physical activity?
    • Is your doctor prescribing you drugs or medication?
    • Have you ever suffered from shortness of breath at rest or with mild exertion?
    • Is there any history of Coronary Heart Disease in your family?
    • Do you feel faint, have spells of severe dizziness or have lost consciousness?
    • Do you currently smoke?
Advice may be seeked from a GP

If one or more questions are answered yes, then with the client’s permission I may seek advice from their GP or other medical professional as to their suitability for starting an exercise programme.

  • Helps create an individual person-centred exercise programme: The PAR-Q helps me as an older adult personal trainer to devise an individual person-centred exercise programme for an older adult client based on their health history and current conditions.
  • Uncovers potential health risks: The questions in the PAR-Q screening questionnaire listed above are used to identify any potential health risks, for example, heart attack, stroke, joint problems, blood circulation, high blood pressure and other risks that can be potentially dangerous during intense exercise.
  • Improves the quality of life: The PAR-Q health screening helps me as an older adult personal trainer improve my client’s quality of life by determining the best exercise programme they should follow, and which exercises will be most beneficial when working towards achieving their specific health and fitness goals.
  • Determines the client’s level of commitment: The Par-Q helps me as an older adult personal trainer to pinpoint the level of commitment and motivation that each client has. Informing the me as an older adult personal trainer the right person-centred strategies to support the client as they work towards achieving their health and fitness goals.

The PAR-Q form is a central part of the free health and fitness consultation that I offer when I meet any potential new personal training client for the first time. This meeting is a great way for both me and my potential new client to have a conversation that hones-in-on what exactly the client would like to achieve through personal training. The PAR-Q informs me of any special considerations which will help shape the bespoke exercise programme that I devise to achieve the client’s health and fitness goals.

As an older adult personal trainer based in Brighton and Hove, I’ve taken a specific qualification, to work as a personal trainer with older adults. I can help older adult clients navigate their way through the confusing fitness landscape to gain the host of benefits that regular exercise offers, not least of which is to maintain independent living and moving with ease through everyday activities, for example carrying shopping, reaching up to a high shelf and leisure interests, for example, playing golf and playing with the grandchildren. I offer a fully mobile personal training service, which means I can train my older adult clients in the comfort of their own home or in a private studio. For more information please call me on 07730 038830 or email gav@3fspt.co.uk today.

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