Trainer helps seniors with ‘move it or lose it’ exercises

Julio Salado, a Dorchester native, leads online training sessions for older adults online. Salado’s fitness program is aimed at changing perceptions older adults might have about their limitations and eliminating fear of common movements or activities.

Julio Salado, a first generation Dominican-American born and raised in Fields Corner, specializes in training older adults, helping them regain mobility, restore balance, and reap the various mental health benefits associated with exercise. At a time when the majority of seniors are stuck at home and generally immobile, he’s worried about “collateral damage” the COVID-19 pandemic could cause by disrupting exercise routines.

“There’s an indirect negative effect of the stay-at-home order, and it’s hitting harder for older adults,” said Salado. “Even if they don’t have the virus, for most older adults living alone, their only activity was walking. Now that they’re not out walking and getting regular activity, it could lead to muscle atrophy as well as psychological issues like depression. For everyone, there’s a decompensation process when you stop physical activity, and that often accelerates in older adults.”

Earlier this month, Salado published a book detailing SPARTA Seniors, his new fitness program aimed at changing perceptions older adults might have about their limitations and eliminating fear of common movements or activities. The program involves a series of non-traditional exercises meant to develop movement patterns in all anatomical planes of motion within a client’s physical limitations while incorporating clients’ fears.

Fear of falling is common for many of our older neighbors. Through hand eye coordination drills and others that develop balance, change of direction, ankle mobility, power, grip strength, and memory recall, the system targets deterioration of both the body and mind. Salado describes the regimen as “steps to empowerment.”

“In my experience in the fitness industry, I think there’s a missing bridge between training older adults and knowing how to assess their fears or limitations,” explained Salado. “Trainers gauging their fears is an important step in the process. A lot of people have a fear of things you don’t normally consider, like walking down stairs or closing their eyes...sometimes it’s just a matter of asking simple questions like that, and a lot of trainers are surprised by what answers they can get.”

With the help of regular motion exercises such as arm raises, leg extensions, and basic lateral walking drills, Salado’s clients have reported regaining confidence in daily scenarios: closing their eyes in the shower, putting their pants on, bending over to pick something up. Those small victories go a long way in improving one’s quality of life, said Salado. 

“I never give them something they can’t do, as a way to build confidence,” he explained. “Then as you gradually add more steps, they’re always very content to have something else that they know they can do. I always ask, ‘Are you ready for the next level?’ I have yet to meet an older adult who does not like a challenge.”

With in-person training no longer an option, Salado has kept up sessions with a number of his clients by transitioning to online training. 89-year-old Nick Tranquillo, who suffers from arthritis in his knee, said he looks forward to his training sessions with Salado, which take place about three times a week.

“He’s incredible,” said Tranquillo. “He’s the easiest and nicest person to work with, and he really is able to do things most people can’t do...it’s good that I have to move a little bit, because otherwise I’m not doing much: I sit, and read, and eat. With Julio, we do exercises for the arms, for the legs--every part of the body is taken care of.”

In addition to his online sessions, Salado regularly posts free, live workout videos on his YouTube channel and social media feeds. The short clips often offer examples of basic exercises you can do in your living room; a video posted last week shows Salado demonstrating a leg extension while seated on a kitchen chair, while another shows him performing arm raises with soup cans. Through online engagement teaching his SPARTA system, he hopes to remind his “mature exercisers” and others like them that exercise can have a huge positive impact on cognition as well as confidence in their physical capabilities. 

“Everyone needs lateral training, even if you’re 99,” he said. 

Many older adults shy away from exercise due to worries they won’t be able to do it and are held back by perceptions of their limitations as a result.

Salado’s advice?

“Move it or lose it. Just keep moving, it doesn’t have to be fancy.”

To learn more about Salado’s personal training work and his SPARTA Seniors program, visit fitnessfoundry.net or follow @fitnessfoundry on Twitter and YouTube.