3 Reasons Why Certified Exercise Professionals Matter

The human body was made to move. Each week our information-heavy, tech-savvy, but problematically sedentary culture provides more creative tools to incorporate movement into daily lives. A revolution of fitness entrepreneurship supported by technological resources—fitness blogs, podcasts, video games, youtube videos, specialized clothing, fitness trackers and cell-phone apps—has erupted to assist people to get moving. With this rich and diverse stream of information are certified exercise professionals even necessary?

Yes. Yes they are, and here’s 3 important reasons why.

1. You can see the screen, but the screen can’t see you. Videos, television shows, blogs, and podcasts can be tremendously useful and instructive, but they are not always created by a qualified professional. As well, a video app, podcast host, youtube instructor can’t see individual physiology, nor can they see alignment, effort level, or what is being done correctly! A video app can’t accurately tell a participant when to progress safely, or when to pull back. Observation of participants/clients is an essential element of safe and effective exercise prescription. Qualified instructors are trained to observe closely, to watch for physiological stress, and to provide effective cues and instruction based not only on what they know, but also on what they see. They can deliver subtle adjustments that can mean the difference between an activity that participants not only enjoy, but that they see improvement in, and also save them from small or serious strains, pulls and injuries. A qualified instructor is also educated in the psychology of exercise, understands motivation, and plays an important role with responsive, individualized, encouragement and praise. Furthermore recent research suggests that while many people possess fitness technology, it’s still not certain that they use it frequently enough to make a difference in their fitness level (Centre for Active Living, Report on Physical Activity, 2017).

2. Evidence-informed training makes a difference. A qualified personal trainer, class leader, or coach must continually engage in professional development to retain insurance and certification. For example, the AFLCA requires (and verifies) annual CPR, and continuing education credits in approved courses every two years to maintain certification and insurance. Your commitment to ongoing PD helps you to provide activities and strategies based on up-to-date research and evidence—not on outdated information, misguided cultural myths, or assumptions. As an example, over the last ten years much research has been done on the effectiveness of High Intensity Interval Training, and weight training as highly effective means to healthy bones as we age, brain function and overall fitness (Kravitz, 2014). It may seem simple for individuals to construct a “DIY” workout and incorporate some bursts of high-energy with short periods of rest,based on a youtube video. But, the evidence suggests that they will get a better result from a program delivered by a qualified exercise professional (Dolezal, Storer et al, 2013; McLaren, 2014). Complicating individual choices further, recent research has uncovered the non-responder phenomenon: some bodies respond differently to different types of exercise (Bonafilia, Rotundo et al, 2014; Dolci, 2016.) A qualified exercise professional can tailor a program for individual goals, expectations, accurately assess current fitness level, and monitor physiological responses. Which type of program is most appropriate? Whether individuals engage in weight training, HIIT sessions, or take an aerobics class, when their activity is supported by a qualified exercise professional, they will achieve better results.

3. “Groupness” is an actual thing. It is absolutely wonderful that individuals are getting the message and finding ways to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives. However, for two-thirds of the population, engaging in fitness activity with others provides a host of factors which help them to stay motivated and moving over the long haul (Hutchison, 2014; Spink, 1997). Common elements of group fitness such as shared goals, the use of music, moving in synchronization, or meeting new people all contribute to a sense of belonging and a ramping up of the endorphin high that engaging in activity provides (Hutchison, 2014; Spink, 1997). Positive memories also contribute to adherence and motivation (Biondillo, 2014). Combine the benefits of group cohesion, with a qualified exercise professional leading the class, and the overall potential for an individual to reach personal health and fitness goals is amplified. The class will be structured appropriately, for example, with appropriate time given to warm-up, and cool-down. Activities will be provided that are not only fun, but based in solid exercise-science, improving the effectiveness of the class on the fitness outcomes of the participants. A qualified leader will keep a watchful eye over the participants, provide clear, concise, well-timed cues, with appropriate options and adaptations for individuals of varying fitness levels in the class. Effective structure, accurate cueing and appropriate adaptations are hallmarks of a qualified exercise professional that not only keep individuals safe, but also ensure each participant can participate and feel successful.

In the overall equation for health and fitness to combat the negative health effects of our sedentary culture, self-efficacy, individual strategies, technology and accessible information are all important. However, a healthy, active society will result via a combination of factors, and be “the result of each individual’s own health practices and the impact of the physical and social environments in which they live,work, and play,” (Doyle-Baker, 2015).

The role of the certified exercise professional clearly supports all of these aspects, from contributing expertise to policy, or designing effective workplace wellness strategies, to assisting individuals in personal fitness pursuits with evidence-informed strategies tailored to their unique situation.

The meaningfully certified exercise professional will always be an important part of the solution, balancing the onslaught of information and technology-based services by creating welcoming spaces, and providing evidence-informed knowledge to improve adherence, safety, and effectiveness of physical activity strategies at all levels,

The role of the Provincial Fitness Unit in the field of healthy lifestyles and physical activity will always be to ensure that there is a range of accessible certifications, grounded in current research and evidence, and to spread the word about the critical role that qualified, exercise professionals play in supporting our community towards healthy, active lifestyles, participant needs and provide adaptations to facilitate these experiences for any body and any ability level.

- References available on request

This article appeared in the Feb 2017 Fitness Informer