Most people struggle with getting enough exercise, but not because there is a lack of information. All you have to do is open a magazine, scroll through social media, look in the self-help section of the bookstore or do a quick internet search and you can get answers to just about any question about exercise. In this sea of information, how do you know who to listen to as a guide? Here are three questions to ask yourself when you get advice about exercise:
What am I looking for from exercise?
Exercise is one word with several purposes. You could exercise to:
- improve athletic performance
- achieve a certain ‘ look’ in your body
- improve your health and function in daily life
Although you could get a bit of all three results from any form of exercise, it is difficult to get what you really want unless you exercise specifically for what you want most. Its just the way our body is designed; you get what you train for. Getting really clear about what you want most will help you narrow down the search for an expert in that type of fitness. Is looking better more important to you than feeling better? Is athletic performance more important than staying healthy as you age? These are essential questions to ask yourself before you even search for information.
Exercising for weight loss is tricky though because weight loss is not a goal, its a method for getting what you want. You might want to lose weight perform better in sports, to look better, or be healthier or function better. I have not met anyone who said they just want the scale to go down but they don’t care about how they feel, or how they function at that goal weight. This is why weight loss is not a goal, its a method for getting what you want. You might want to lose weight for all three reasons but you need to ask yourself which is most important to you about weight loss so you find the right advice to get it.
What is their experience and training?
Exercise is a field of scientific study. Just like any other field, there are specialties and levels of training. Since anyone can call themselves a fitness trainer or expert, you need to do a bit of digging to find out about their experience and training. Look at their bio, do an internet search, and if possible ask them where they went to school, what their degree was in, what types of certifications they hold. If their qualifications are based on their own personal story but no official training, be wary. If their career has been focused on training athletes and your main goal is to be healthy, that is not the expert for you. If you are looking to lose weight to be healthy and function better and you have some medical concerns or pain limitations, you want someone who knows medical as well as exercise science.
Is exercise within their scope of practice?
Scope of practice is a term used to keep professionals from wearing too many hats. For example, as an exercise professional, nutrition is out of my scope of practice. I took a nutrition course and have worked alongside some amazing dietitians, but I am not qualified to give you advice about your diet. Nutrition and exercise are two humongous fields of study with constant research to stay up to date about. This information is larger than one person could realistically master. When someone gives advice about many fields of study, you miss out.
This can seem a bit over the top because we are so used to getting advice about exercise from many sources; from chapters in books about being successful in business to improving mental health. ‘Exercise regularly’ is great advice, but the details are best left to someone who specializes only in exercise. Ask yourself if the person telling you how to exercise is out of their scope of practice. If so, head to a book or a site by someone who focuses only on the type of exercise that is right for you.
There is one last question that is helpful “what is my gut telling me?” You need to trust this person because they are helping you take care of your body. When you heed their advice, listen to your body above all else, because you are the best expert on how it is feeling. Only you know if what you are doing is giving you what you want from your investment in exercise.
Keep Moving, Be Well