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Miracles Fitness Helps Older Adults Actively Age

Dan Ritchie is a personal trainer and the co-owner of Miracles Fitness in West Lafayette, Indiana. With more than 10 years experience in personal training, working with elite athletes and people with special conditions – from Parkinson’s to Alzheimer’s disease and everything in between; Dan has gained valuable insight into the aging population to help them actively age.

By Dan M Ritchie, MS, CSCS, HFI

Interview with Dan

Listen to our one on one interview where Dan discusses his background and experience working with older adults.

Dan Ritchie
Dan Ritchie

Dan Ritchie has a broad background in the fitness industry including training and management in commercial and university/hospital-based fitness, for-profit, not-for-profit and educational facilities. His primary areas of expertise are in personal training for special populations (elite athletes, pregnant women, those with chronic disease and/or disorders such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, Fibromyalgia and Alzheimer’s, etc.).

He has participated in state funded research on exercise for Alzheimer type severe dementia and regularly presents at national and regional conferences. He is a past Board member of the Midwest American College of Sports Medicine and was nominated for the National College Board of Trustees in 2008. In 2007-08 he was an Enhance Fitness Master Trainer for the State of Indiana, and he is a currently certified as a FallProof Instructor.

While at Purdue, he received a Lynn Fellowship and an National Strength and Conditioning Association research grant, and in May of 2008 he defended his Ph.D. in Health and Kinesiology, with a minor in Gerontology.
His experience also includes:

  • FallProof Instructor Certified, from California State, Fullerton, 2006-present
  • 2005 Thesis of the Year Award from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
  • 2004 Graduate Student of the Year, American College of Sports Medicine, Midwest Chapter
  • 2005-2007 Student Affairs Committee, ACSM

Below, Dan describes his background and his learned experiences in the active aging field. You can also listen to his interview by clicking play on the audio box below.

Describe your background and what led you to your current position.
Over 10 years Personal Training, working with elite athletes, people with special conditions, from Parkinson’s to Alzheimer’s and everything in between. Have completed a bachelors and masters degree in health and fitness fields, and obtained 3 of the highest certifications in the field. Have successfully defended my dissertation for my PhD, and expect my degree shortly. While working on my PhD, met another doctoral student who had similar entrepreneurial passions and the same passion for fitness and the older adult.

Please describe Miracles Fitness and the programs/services offered.
Health club geared toward the 40plus population that opened in January 2007, so we are about 2 years old now. We have over 400 members, average age 61years, and about 75% of the members are female. Every member receives a complete health fitness evaluation followed by 2 personal training sessions. We require that all our trainers have at least a bachelor’s degree in the field; many have Master’s degree and vast experience. We do not cater to the younger crowd, we do not offer group fitness, or have your typical weight room. We have a dress code, and expect our facility to be run in a highly professional manner. You will not find high school students working here.

What programs/services are the most successful there?
Personal Training and Group Personal Training. People that work with a trainer typically achieve greater results, stay motivated and accountable. Are various Group programs allow people to try out new things, from FallProof, to Miracle Abs, and a chance to exercise with a few other folks, whether friends or soon to be friends.

Do you plan to change anything to increase participation within the facility?
Not sure specifically. We have gotten better in recent months trying to encourage and motivate members that have not been attending, and continuing to follow up with former members to try to regain their business. We have begun to more aggressively intentionally pursue corporate memberships with companies, and are hopeful for 2009 we may sign on a few companies, but the current economic climate has not seemed to help that really take off as of yet.

What are the most important benefits that clients receive from your programs/services? What do clients say about Miracles? Why is it beneficial to them?
They receive one on one instruction, and constant follow up and supervision. They receive an environment that is warm and friendly and has their best interests at heart. They love it, they find it unlike typical health clubs. They love the warmth, the equipment and how easy it is to use. They find the staff helpful and kind. It has helped them to feel better, reduce pain, lose weight, recover from injuries/surgeries.

Is there one question that clients ask you all the time? If so, what is your response?
How do I get rid of this? (pointing at belly, or hips) Or lose weight from here? Or what is the exercise to get rid of this? I tell them the same thing you cannot spot reduce, we need to take a comprehensive approach to your exercise program, and if you can add a 4th or 5th day of exercise that will really help. But often more than exercise we really need to address your nutrition and what you are putting in your body, have you considered meeting with our Registered Dietitian? You can do all the great exercise in the world, and then undo that pretty quickly eating the wrong foods.

Do you think that cost is a barrier to participate, either to Miracles itself or programs/services, within this population?
I am sure that it must be. We certainly don’t serve low income seniors. At over $500 a year, plus a joining fee, which would put us just over $700, we are not for seniors on a tight budget. I am not sure exactly how to solve or address that, since what we offer is highly specialized and costs a great deal to administer. We do a few things in the retirement communities, but probably most of those individuals are also affluent.

What have you learned from this position that can benefit others working with the older adult population?
Older adults often have tremendous life stories. They have much more to share than a client the same age and life experience as yourself. They really want to have as much physical ability as is realistic for someone their age. They rarely have unrealistic goals, which young people often have. I have rarely had an older client say they want six pack abs (only one time). They want life things, play with grandkids, golf better, play tennis, move, lift, walk, hike, swim, live life to the fullest. Older adults also really want honesty and relationship. They want to know they can trust what you say and what you plan for them.

What do you most enjoy about your position and working with older adults?
The results I see, and how it changes lives. Ladies that say they feel 20 years younger because they are so much stronger. Grandfathers that say they no longer have fear climbing the high school bleachers for grandkids ball games. People who postpone or cancel joint replacements. Restoring someone to health who was near the brink of death.

What has been the biggest breakthrough in your career?
Probably for me personally in terms of practice and what I use with clients, the publication of FallProof by Debra Rose. I suppose on the onset of my career the research done at Tufts on strength training in the very elderly, but that has always been the foundation of my career. I have always known that the oldest of the old can get stronger through strength training. Only more recently with FallProof to learn that strength is only one component of so many that are critical for mobility, balance and safe gait.

Based on your experience, what is the most significant advancement in the field of active aging?
I think the research done on various modes of exercise, the early studies on strength training for older adults has really laid a foundation for now later work on various other methods of exercise. We now know that strength alone is not the only answer. We also know that strength and muscle mass significantly decline, but much of that is really not aging, but lifelong inactivity. The model of inactive lifestyles versus healthy aging has really shifted the thinking about how the human body could or should age. I think the more recent work done in the area of Power Training shows that high level function in later life is about both speed and strength. I think over time we will see exercise programs for older adults that begin to adopt some of this research and become much more dynamic, much more function driven, than simply chair based strength training of the past.

Interview with Dan

Listen to our one on one interview where Dan discusses his background and experience working with older adults.

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