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Exploring Second Act Careers in Health and Fitness

Members of the active over-50 population are poised to excel in the health and fitness industry

By Erin Eleuterio

In a world increasingly pursuing longevity and vitality, seeking well-being has evolved into a lifelong endeavor. As individuals across the lifespan prioritize health and fitness, mature adults find themselves uniquely positioned at the crossroad of experience and opportunity within the flourishing health and fitness industry.

An older fitness trainer with a client. Next Avenue
As the population ages, the demand for older health and fitness professionals is higher than ever.  |  Credit: Getty

report from the Department of Health and Human Services reveals a remarkable trend – from 1998 to 2018, the percentage of adults over 65 meeting aerobic and muscle-strengthening guidelines more than doubled, from 5.5% to 13.9%. This surge in activity among older adults presents a golden opportunity to serve these clients and contribute to expanding this positive and welcome trend. 

Active individuals contemplating a second-act career are perfectly placed to take advantage of this growth in demand and thrive in the health and fitness field while gaining numerous benefits for their own lives.

Inspiring and Guiding Others 

Patricia Linderman of Falls Church, Virginia, never imagined that she would transition to becoming a health coach in her 50s. She spent years being sedentary and working a desk job writing and editing, and her weight was starting to creep up on her. After reading the book "Younger Next Year," she was inspired to switch her diet to mainly unprocessed foods and join a gym. 

"Of all my endeavors, this has been the most enriching in my life."

She discovered Zumba, aqua aerobics and weight training, and a year later, she had lost over 40 pounds. Today, at age 62, Linderman is the founder of Fierce After 45, where she helps women over 45 develop healthy habits, move with ease, nourish their bodies, manage stress and add more fun to their lives.

Linderman is an inspiration and an example for others that it's not too late to improve your health, even at midlife and beyond. She's used her experience to build a business, guiding others to improve their health and well-being.

Renewed Purpose 

Retirees often grapple with the challenge of a sense of purpose slipping away. Studies reveal that 93% of retirees desire to feel useful during their post-career phase. Opportunities in health and fitness address this need and provide a pathway to genuinely impact lives by enhancing overall well-being. 

Adela Vangelisiti, a professionally trained ballet dancer in her 50s, became a certified Silver Swans chair ballet instructor and taught at low-income senior housing developments. In an interview she said, "Of all my endeavors, this has been the most enriching in my life." Her new career has brought her fulfillment and elevated the quality of life for others. 

Flexible Part-time Work

One allure of a career in health and fitness lies in the flexibility it provides. Personal training and teaching group exercise classes are usually hourly work, making it easier to balance the opportunity with other commitments or interests. It can be an excellent fit for a flexible or part-time job. 

Opportunities in health and fitness provide a pathway to genuinely impact lives by enhancing well-being. 

Individuals like Becky Harkema, from Iowa City, Iowa, transitioned from a CEO position to a personal trainer and fitness instructor, offering virtual classes and online personal training for older adults. This work allows her to pursue her love of travel, teaching and training from anywhere. Venues like health clubs, community centers, and retirement communities actively seek professionals to lead diverse movement classes. 

Certifications in various fitness and movement disciplines — such as Zumba, chair yoga, BODYPUMP and aqua aerobics — open doors to these opportunities. Leading classes is an opportunity to build community among participants and ensure you and your clients stay active and socially engaged. 


Creating Experiences for Active Aging 

Physical activity enthusiasts can turn their passions into reality by creating tailored fitness experiences for active aging individuals. Arlo Niederer, a retired geophysicist and avid rock climber, leads the Boomers Climb Club in Colorado Springs. The club serves as a supportive local community for fellow rock climbers to come together to practice and improve their rock climbing skills. 

Lynn Jordan of Los Angeles created Joyful Boogie after touring senior living facilities for her aging parents. The programs offered at the homes didn't excite her or make her look forward to her aging process. This inspired her to create her program that incorporated her training in yoga and dance to offer something fun, joyful, empowering and accessible for all ability levels. 

Training and Certifications 

Acquiring certifications is highly recommended to navigate the health and fitness industry successfully. Three main types include:

  • Personal training and group exercise
  • Specialty certifications (e.g., yoga and Pilates)
  • Health coaching certifications

These certifications provide the foundation to start training and teaching safely and effectively. Personal training and group exercise certifications cost $400-$800 and can be achieved through an online, self-paced course or a weekend workshop. 

"All the skills you learn in other careers or in life are what I believe truly make you successful as a personal trainer."

Specialty certifications in yoga, Pilates and health coaching cost upwards of $1,000, and it takes a minimum of three months of training and hands-on teaching/coaching practice to acquire a certification. Learning and developing yourself as a health and fitness professional shouldn't stop after accreditation. Numerous courses and specialty certifications are available to help you gain knowledge in the specific demographic or niche you serve. 

Harness Your Work History 

Skills developed over the years, such as relationship building, professionalism and emotional maturity are valuable assets in an industry often skewed toward youth. Your diverse background can set you up for success as a health and fitness professional. 

As Dan Duran, a former police officer who transitioned to become a successful personal trainer, noted in an interview, "All the skills you learn in other careers or in life are what I believe truly make you successful as a personal trainer. That is some maturity. The ability to communicate. Those are some of the skill sets that helped me take off," he said.

With the growing active aging market, mature adults often seek guidance from someone who understands their life stage. As a mature fitness professional, your relatability fosters trust, especially for those embarking on their fitness journey in later years. 

Career Opportunities 

Whether you aspire to work in a gym, lead fitness classes, become a dedicated personal trainer or even venture into entrepreneurship, the world of health and fitness offers a plethora of opportunities to make a significant difference in people's health and well-being. 

The demand for dedicated professionals who can cater to the mature adult population is higher than ever, providing a fulfilling and rewarding path for those looking to embrace a second-act career in the industry.

Erin Eleuterio
Erin Eleuterio is a dedicated health and fitness professional with a commitment to improving the lives of individuals over the age of 50. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and is a certified Functional Aging Specialist helping others develop strength and resilience.

She is the creator of the "Second Act Fit Pros" podcast where she interviews people that have transitioned to a second act career in health and fitness and those dedicated to improving the health and well-being for the mature adult population.
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