When you seek a professional to give you advice or provide a service, whether it is for electrical wiring in your home or getting a haircut, what do you look for? Of course you look to a source you can trust – a professional with the required certification, training, and experience. It is important to know that the field of fitness has no requirements for professionals. Anyone can call themselves a fitness expert. Our source for advice about how to move and be well is sadly under-regulated and as a result, full of myths and mindsets that are not science-based. This means that right now, you, as a fitness consumer, need to stay educated or your exercise advice may lead you in the opposite direction of the motivation and fitness you are seeking.
Next time you listen to advice about exercise on TV or the internet, notice why they call themselves an “expert.” Are they highlighting that they a) have a personal success story, b) were successful as an athlete, or c) trained someone famous? These are all red flags! Even if they are certified, know that there are no requirements for certification programs and no one is ensuring that person’s certification is up to date. Our professional organizations for degrees and certified exercise professionals are working on this, but it is a very slow process!
Currently, there are two sites that provide helpful information about fitness professionals for consumers. Use these sites to find a qualified professional who holds a certification that is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). This means the certification exam has met set standards for the exercise professional’s role as defined by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The United States Registry of Exercise Professionals maintains a list of professionals with any accredited certification. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is the “gold standard” for certifying exercise professionals. The ACSM continuously clarifies the various levels of training for exercise professionals, defining their role and scope of practice clearly. This makes it easier to find a professional who has the right level of training for you, whether you are without health concerns and looking for a qualified personal trainer or have a health concern and need a clinical exercise professional to safely guide you with exercise. Check the ACSM ProFinder to find professionals with this level of certification and training in your area.
The myth here is that just because someone looks fit they know about how to help you get fit too. Most important is to trust your instincts. If the advice you are receiving is not leading to feeling better right away, keep searching for the right professional for you. Remember, you don’t need to suffer now to feel good later. If exercise is causing increased pain, speak up. If the professional you are working with tells you the pain is necessary to lose weight, walk away from it and find a new approach. My hope is that some day, this will be easier for you as a consumer. Until then, let’s not let the confusion get in the way of exercising consistently and enjoying movement.
Keep Moving, Be Well,
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These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.