A personal trainer may not have the qualifications to diagnose an illness, prescribe medication or create a diet, but they can save your life in so many ways. Let’s look at the facts.
All certified personal trainers can administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and operate an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). But hopefully it won’t come to that.
Personal trainers are hired for their expertise in muscle building, weight management, health promotion, fitness improvement, and post-rehab abilities.
Before designing a new exercise program, a trainer will assess the client’s baseline fitness. This begins with a review of the client’s health history in order to determine the level of risk. It is during this risk stratification process where a trainer may discover something that should be reported to a medical doctor. Oftentimes, this can be a life-saving event for a client.
The trainer then records height, weight, body composition, heart rate, and blood pressure – the resting measures. If the blood pressure is recorded at 140/90 or higher, and the client was not aware of having elevated blood pressure, a visit to the primary care physician is encouraged. At that point, the doctor might diagnose hypertension and recommend a course of medication. Again, had this screening not been done, the client may have allowed it to go on long enough to cause serious life-threatening concerns.
Personal trainers can help prevent illness. Regular exercise prevents hypokinetic diseases. These are the diseases of inactivity and include obesity, type-2 diabetes and heart disease. A trainer who designs a safe and effective exercise program can help prevent early and unnecessary decline in health.
An initiative called Exercise is Medicine was launched in 2007 by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Medical Association (AMA). The goal is to encourage physicians to review patients’ exercise habits during regular office visits, and to refer patients to qualified fitness professionals. In England and New Zealand a doctor can prescribe exercise, allowing patients to attend fitness facilities at a discounted rate.
SilverSneakers is another initiative that benefits the patient, the fitness centers and the insurance companies. It’s a win win situation when all parties are promoting exercise.
Personal trainers are instrumental in the maintenance of health after rehab. People who have suffered from a heart attack or who have had an accident-related injury need rehab. But what happens after rehab? Back to the sofa? Not a good idea. This is where having a certified personal trainer can help maintain the physical progress that was initiated by the physical therapist or the cardiac rehab specialist.
Cancer patients need exercise specialists to help rebuild muscle that was lost during treatment. Stroke patients need regular physical activity following rehab so they can retrain the motor units and practice controlled muscular movements. Heart patients need to continue what they started in phase 1 and phase 2 cardiac rehab. Rehab can’t go on forever. Financially it is not feasible. And eventually people have to get discharged.
Personal trainers are affordable. They are no longer a luxury of only the rich and famous. They work hard and love what they do. They usually are not in it for the money. They are personal trainers because they get joy from helping others reach their goals. And they can prolong lives!
Louise So is a member of the faculty at Glendale Community College in the Fitness & Wellness Department. Our programs include: Personal Trainer Certification and Associate in Applied Science in Strength, Nutrition and Personal Training.