If you’re over 65 or even in your 50s you’ll want to review this list of the most common exercise errors that older people make — and why they should be avoided.

These mistakes are disproportionately committed by older men and women at gyms.

Holding onto a Treadmill

A most universal mistake among senior age people at the gym — both genders equally — is clinging to the treadmill while walking.

He’s mimicking using a walker! Look at his bent-forward spinal posture and stiff hunched shoulders.

Walking for exercise can improve mobility and strengthen the hips and other bones.

This won’t happen if the user is holding onto the equipment, as this significantly slashes workload and creates an unrealistic gait.

“The biggest reason you don’t want to hold onto the treadmill for the entire workout is because you want to promote the normal walking pattern as much as possible,” says Dr. Megan McLain, PT, DPT, cofounder of Intuitive Choice Physical Therapy & Wellness in Atlanta, GA.

“When you hold onto the treadmill, you’re preventing the normal core rotation/activation and arm swing that occurs during gait.

“Using an assistive device or holding onto a treadmill the entire time can lead to changes in our normal, automatic gait patterns.

“Arm swing is a part of normal gait because it provides a counter-balance to our leg movement, meaning it helps us with our balance and staying upright.”

Step onto the tread and start slowly with your arms at your sides, focusing on correct posture. Pretend you’re walking outdoors.

If you’re afraid of falling off, walk at just 1 mph to get used to the correct way of walking: no holding on.

Bad Form with the Lat Pull-Down

Seems that 70 percent of people who crookedly yank down the bar, then let it slam back up, are men over age 55.

The butt lift with the lat pull-down, to compensate for loading to much resistance.

They may be trying to trick themselves into thinking they’re stronger than they actually are, because they load up too much weight.

And the only way to get the bar down is to lean way back and yank crookedly at it, then instead of releasing the bar with control, they let it fly back up, practically lifting their entire body off the seat.

This offers potential injury to the shoulder joints and back muscles.

Bad Form with the Preacher Curl

Men 65+ at gyms are not uncommonly seen making the mistake of lifting their butts off the seat to release the weights on a preacher curl machine.


When they bring the weights back up, they go only half way, sitting back down again. Then here comes the release and up goes their butt. Results will be minimal.

An Attitude

Another common mistake among elderly people at the gym is becoming grumpy or disgruntled, even angry, when a personal trainer kindly offers unsolicited advice.

When I was a trainer at a very large club that was jammed during prime hours, I’d go around and start chatting with a lot of people of all ages.

I was instructed to do this by my boss. It was how I got personal training clients.

One demographic stood out as being the most likely to react with grumpiness to my unsolicited advice: men and women 65+.

Certainly, there were older people who, instead of becoming irate, were personable or pleasant in demeanor, as I pointed out a more effective way to do an exercise. But many became temperamental.

Senior citizens must realize that personal trainers are at the gym to do just that: approach people who are exhibiting incorrect and potentially harmful form.

If a senior citizen were to walk into a computer or furniture store, soon he or she would be approached by sales staff offering to help.

I doubt that elderly people, in this environment, would get disgruntled and resentful.

So why have the sour attitude at the gym? This would come in the ABSENCE of me broaching the subject of personal training, e.g., I wasn’t trying to make a sale.

A crummy attitude prevents gym users of all ages from gaining advice that could actually help them reach their goals — and more safely.

Sometimes, a trainer just wants to be helpful and isn’t even thinking of making a sale!

Not Lifting Enough Weight

This gym mistake is far more common among older women than men.

I’ve worked with senior age women and they are stronger than they think they are.


They grew up in an era in which the idea of women lifting dumbbells or even using machines was frowned upon.

Times have changed, and medical discoveries have been made: Lifting challenging weight loads is crucial for maintaining bone health! Not to mention the scores of other health benefits!

Too Much Time in the Pool Bobbing Around

Older folks who only come to the gym to be in the water need to get out on the floor, too, and use the equipment.

No matter how poor your health is, if you walked into the gym, you’re capable of using the equipment.

Nobody expects typical elderly people to do chin-ups or pushups, but the many machines are there for the taking: Get on one and start moving.

Not Enough Back Targeting Work

Many gym machines target the back, and many people over 65 have postural problems and back issues.

Unless your doctor has given you reasons that using safe, ergonomic resistance equipment will damage your spine, it’s time to embrace working out the back.

Dr. Megan McLain, PT, DPT, puts her clients first while providing one-on-one in-home care. With physical therapy and health coaching services, Dr. McLain addresses all aspects such as physical barriers, mindset, accountability and knowledge that may be impacting the client’s experience.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 



Top image: Freepik.com.