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Trainer Q&A: Fitness Matters at Any Age

Trainer Q&A: Fitness Matters at Any Age

Janelle Duttenhoffer“Our bodies are made to move.”

Such are the words of Merritt Clubs Personal Trainer and Wellness Coach Janelle Duttenhoffer as she spoke about fitness for all ages. Whether it be for a playful 4 year-old, a sedentary 30 year-old with a desk job, or a retired 75 year-old, being active is important in having a high quality of life. 

Read on as Janelle talks about her personal experience with getting fit and healthy, the importance of educating yourself about fitness and nutrition (check your resources though!), and why active agers need strength training.

Then, see what holiday fitness and nutrition tips Janelle has in store!

What made you get into personal training?

My desire to help people to improve the quality of their lives by sharing what I have learned throughout my life is the main reason I changed careers and entered the fitness industry. I haven’t looked back!

How long have you been with Merritt?

I have been a member at Merritt almost 20 years. I began training in August of 2016. Our club at Owings Mills is diverse, which I love! Consequently, my clientele range in age from 21 to 93. Each one of them is so unique. I always say, “I have the best clients!”

Can you explain why fitness matters at any age?

Fitness matters at all ages because of the direct impact it has on the quality of life we live as well as disease prevention. Thirty-four years ago I started working out at a gym. I was in my late twenties and have worked out continuously since then. Over time I have fine tuned my diet as well as my exercise programs. Today I have an abundance of energy that I attribute to proper nutrition, adequate sleep, exercise, hydration, and setting aside 10 to 20 minutes a day to be “quiet.”

However, it hasn’t been an easy journey. I struggled with fatigue, headaches, poor health, and excess weight even though I worked out regularly; however, I never gave up exercising. I was diagnosed with Celiac disease five years ago. Eliminating all forms of gluten from my diet was life-changing for me. Had I stopped exercising when I didn’t see changes in my body, or in the way I was feeling health-wise, I would not be enjoying life as I know it today.

Janelle Duttenhoffer

Our bodies are made to move. A majority of the careers in the United States are sedentary. We sit for long periods of time. Research has shown that a sedentary lifestyle is a leading cause of disease. Exercise affects our well-being, agility, stamina, balance, and coordination. It has a direct impact on performance in sports. It affects our ability to participate in daily activities. Strength training, cardio exercising, and stretching are vital to taking care of our bodies.

Also, the obesity rate in the United States is very high affecting adults and children alike. So, fitness matters at any age. As children it is so very important to have daily exercise. Sometimes during the warm-up portion of the workout I have my clients skip. The first time that I have them do that they laugh because it’s been so long since they have skipped. It may bring back memories of what it felt like to be fit, to move the body, and have an overabundance of energy. When you’re a child, you don’t really think about doing sit-ups, jump squats, or anything like that. But you remember what it felt like to move and to have that good feeling from it. When I was a child my mother often said, “If only I could bottle your energy … “

For your senior clients, the active agers, what advice do you usually give when:

  1. They’ve just recently started working out (either by doctor’s suggestion or they simply decided on their own to start getting fit)
  2. They’ve been active their whole life and just want to keep going

I want to say, first of all, we are all active agers. It doesn’t matter how old we are, we are all aging. It’s important for us to be active in order to live a high-quality life.

But for the ones who have recently started working out or are considering it, I suggest they educate themselves about fitness. People become interested in exercising especially when they are diagnosed with an ailment that may be minor or life threatening. Education is key to taking care of yourself. Personal trainers are a great source of information. As a Personal Trainer and Wellness Coach I provide my clients with information about both fitness and nutrition.

Recently, one of my clients asked that I meet with her and her husband, both of whom are retired, about nutrition. We talked about lifestyle changes, which focused primarily on diet. The outcome of the decisions they have made as a couple related to nutrition and exercise has been a change in their energy, stamina, and flexibility to name a few.

Also, as a Johns Hopkins alumna, we were required to complete research and that has served me well. I strongly recommend you carefully check the source or sources of fitness and nutrition information you are gathering.

Janelle Duttenhoffer

I also share with people, especially if exercise is new for them, that they will increase their probability of successfully incorporating exercise into their lives if they establish a routine. Ideally, you want the routine to be a commitment of “X” amount of days a week. Make it realistic especially if you’re new to exercising. Don’t say seven days a week and possibly set yourself up for failure. If you begin with three days a week, as an example, don’t let anything interfere with them. Establishing a routine is crucial to success.

The other thing I want to suggest is that people be realistic in setting their goals. You want to make sure that you keep a positive mindset and celebrate those incremental successes and triumphs that you experience along the way because that will keep you motivated. I frequently ask my clients, “Please tell me something that you notice is an improvement compared to six months ago or three months ago.” Their faces light up and they may say, “I can do this” or “I can do that” or “I can walk with my family and they don’t have to stop to allow me to rest” or “I can’t believe how more flexible I am.”

One of my mottos is “Be patient, your body will reward you.” I don’t embrace the “No pain, no gain” slogan because you should not push through pain. It is your body communicating with you. If you are strength training and your back begins to hurt it may be because you are using an incorrect form.

Strength training is important for all ages. Having a strong muscle base, especially for active agers, helps to prevent falls. When you have a strong core, for example, that helps you to catch yourself if you begin to fall. Balance and coordination are greatly improved with a strong body.

For individuals who have been active and have been exercising for quite some time, one thing that I notice is that people will do the same type of exercises repeatedly. It is important to have an effective workout regimen and variety is a key element.

Consider participating in an appropriate group fitness class. When I say “appropriate,” I mean appropriate for your fitness level. The benefit of exercising with people who have been exercising for quite some time, and with those who are just beginning, is that you’re in an environment with like-minded people. When you are with like-minded people you are encouraged to continue exercising. At Merritt Owings Mills we are fortunate because the club is quaint and friendships are formed. When you are working out at the same time everyday, you get to know people. When you are out of town or on vacation, you are not in the club for a while, people notice and will ask about you.

The last thing is not to underestimate your abilities. Stay positive, have a diverse regimen, which includes cardio, strength training, and stretching.

What’s the age range of your clients?

Currently, my clients’ ages range from 21 to 93. Along that spectrum there are varying degrees of fitness. Even though we talk about active agers, some of those active agers are stronger and more fit than the people that may be 20 or 30 years younger. But what’s important about all of that is not so much the age, but that people are exercising. The body is magnificent! It can be sculpted at any age.

Another thing that I really think is exciting for us is regardless of our age are we are role models for others. Our family members notice our vitality. So, when a grandparent is really strong and is able to do things beyond what is expected, our grandchildren notice. If you are a young mother with children they will recognize that mom or dad work out. They are going to the gym and taking care of themselves.

Do you have any programs going on right now?

Yes, we do! Merritt Clubs’ 90-Day Wellness Program will be offered at Canton, Owings Mills, and Towson in January. The 13-week program includes weekly meetings held in a group setting including one hour of nutrition education and an hour-long specialized group fitness class. Additionally, participants receive a one-on-one session with our Registered Dietitian, a pre- and post-program comprehensive health and fitness assessment as well as a MYZONE MZ-3 Exercise Tracker and Heart Rate Monitor to name but a few benefits.

The participants form a close bond with each other because they’re all in the program for reasons that have to do with health. Some may want to lower their blood pressure, some may want to lose weight, and/or lower their cholesterol. The Program is designed to give you the necessary tools to understand how the right nutrition and fitness plan can fuel your body. Non-members are welcome to participate in the program, too.

For more information, you can contact our Nutrition & Wellness Director Charlotte Martin at

Do you have any fitness and nutrition tips for the holiday season?

Lack of sleep, alcohol, or food you typically do not eat or are trying to exclude from your diet can contribute to weight gain, fatigue, feeling bloated, and lethargic.

Regarding exercising adhere to your routine! Don’t fall into the trap that you can “work it off.” Enjoy yourself, but eat in moderation. Avoid going to a dinner or party hungry. Eat something satisfying that will help you to keep the amount of food you eat in check.

If you decide to have a dessert, as an example, control your portions. One of the things we struggle with in the United States … and I’m only speaking about the United States right now … a majority of our socialization pivots around eating. When we get together with our families and friends we may overindulge. Be mindful of what you are eating and when you are full.

To summarize, your “why” has to be bigger than your “excuse” to eat. Be kind to yourself if you eat more and/or exercise less than you intended. Don’t quit! Begin again! The benefits are enormous. Tony Robbins said it the best, “Nothing tastes as good as fit feels.”  When you have a well-balanced diet, you don’t have cravings. And that is a freedom in and of itself. You know you can go to a family event and have absolutely no desire to eat pecan pie or white mashed potatoes.

Happy Holidays! Be well!

To learn more about Janelle and her specializations, check out her bio on our website.