Personal trainers hold the power to change lives. We embrace this fulfilling experience time and again by observing how introducing a healthier lifestyle to new clients sets them up for a future rife with possibilities, including improvements in health, energy, flexibility, and food choices, ideally tipping their odds in favor of a longer, higher-quality life. Where do we fit in when it comes to fitness prescription insofar is (or isn’t) advised by healthcare professionals?
Exercise: The Veritable Fountain of Youth
The evidence of the myriad benefits of exercise, as well as the potential problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle, remains strong, not merely anecdotally but also at a scientific level. Data from the extensive Aerobic Centre Longitudinal Study unearthed the shocking fact that poor levels of cardiorespiratory fitness outrank elevated blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes as the strongest predictor of premature death.
The study results highlight the premise that improving fitness thwarts cardiovascular disease even more than reducing weight and specifically adipose tissue. Medically-assisted weight loss drugs are certainly one way to reduce body weight when may previous attempts may have failed; yet now it seems as though dedication to regular movement, ramping-up endurance, and fitness levels trumps even a significant loss of fat mass. Hard to imagine, then, that some medical professionals still will not suggest–really–insist upon exercise or increased physical activity to clients who clearly lack the motivation to sit less and move more.
Exercise Prescription Overlooked by Physicians?
The House of Lords committee in England conducted a survey of 48 random London physicians, all general practitioners. When questioned about their frequency of prescribing increased physical activity to overweight high-risk patients, the overwhelming response revealed that none of the medical professionals had any knowledge or awareness of the current physical activity guidelines.
Moreover, some healthcare professionals may exhibit confidence and enthusiasm when dispensing advice, but do not possess the knowledge base to recommend or outline any specific plan of action. Clearly, the difference between generic exercise advice and an exercise prescription seems confusing enough for doctors to decide against having such conversations with clients who clearly need guidance and a push in the right direction.
Preventative Medicine versus Pharmaceutical Cures
Sadly, the United States remains one of the sole world nations that would rather prescribe to cure symptoms and disease than endeavor to prevent harmful health situations. Truly, the world of specialized surgical techniques and advances in pharmacology do save millions of lives each year. Even fitness trainers cannot argue with this indisputable fact.
However, in so many instances, preventative medicine goes a long way towards reversing and even thwarting the development of many bothersome conditions such as osteoporosis, anxiety/depression, arthritis, mobility, postural issues and just about any health concerns brought on by obesity. Many physicians continue to dismiss patients presenting with fatigue, body weakness, and a vague but increasing sense of malaise, merely encouraging them to rest on the couch for a few days, when in fact a brisk 20-minute walk and a protein-rich breakfast could work “miracles” for such individuals.
Perhaps the curriculum in medical schools worldwide should include more studies on general exercise prescriptions and sports medicine. Only by possessing enough basic knowledge of exercise physiology/nutrition to feel confident discussing these issues with at-risk patients could doctors help turn their lives around without needing to develop dependency on prescribed medications.
Where Fit Pros Come In
Fitness professionals have come to realize that the medical world needs proper instruction in the arena of “active health”. So often we hear the media tout the expression “exercise works better than most medications”, and we have come to witness this firsthand, yet a majority of physicians still hesitate to prescribe any specific activity programs to patients needing it the most. We can speculate the “why’s” but the burden is upon us as health and fitness professionals to help to pick up the slack.
After all, with the percentage of obesity in the country escalating at an alarming rate, and the subsequent debilitating medical issues driving up health care costs every year, common sense alone should dictate the dispensing of exercise as a primary line of preventative defense.
We can align ourselves with the medical spheres we know our clients are a party to—primary care physicians, physical therapists, cardiovascular specialists, etc, or we can market our skillset to burgeoning medical fitness centers, among other approaches to meet this very urgent need.
Personal trainers skilled in the art of “making exercise fun” can align themselves with health care professionals, acting as excellent collaborators and motivators, if given the opportunity. We can embody how that little ounce of prevention beats out a pound of cure almost every time!