Like many people on Feb 25th 2010, I watched President Obama and the live debate on health care reform. A few times during the discussion I heard the term “prevention” used but unless I missed it, I never heard anyone talk about H(OW personal fitness trainers can help reduce the risk of disease and improve quality of life. This is a topic I talk about in almost every class I teach. Before some of you scoff at what I'm saying, hear me out. I consider personal trainers to be members of the health care system– and I consider them unique and undervalued members. Read on and I'll tell you why.
Personal Trainers: Part Of The Health Care Team
I believe fitness trainers can play a critical role in disease prevention and management because the simple truth is that:
1. Doctors see their patients for about 5 to 10 minutes once a year – if they are lucky.
2. Nurses usually only see people when they are in the doctor’s office or hospital.
3. Physical therapists only see people when they get hurt –and that stops as soon as insurance runs out. Many physical therapists are overworked, seeing several people at the same time. This limits the quality time to help educate people about how to stay healthy.
Fact: Personal fitness trainers see clients 3-5 days a week for an average of 30 to 60 minutes a day – sometimes for many years! Because of this, fitness trainers – more than any other member of the health care system – can have a profound effect to change the health of Americans for the better.
Exercise Is Medicine
Exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of a number of health conditions. Just a few include:
- Heart disease: the number 1 killer of both men and women
- Cancer: the number 2 leading cause of death
- Stroke: The number 4 leading cause of death in America
Think about how much money could be saved if we could simultaneously reduce the risk of just the 4 leading causes of death in America.
No drug in the word will do this and reduce all 3 at the same time – except exercise!
Exercise reduces the risk of many other conditions also.
If health care reform is going to happen in America we need to put a REAL, meaningful emphasis on prevention.
That’s where fitness trainers come in.
Researchers find most people want to hire a personal trainer because they don't know how to exercise safely. By educating people today, fitness trainers can go a long way to reducing disease rates decades later, putting less stress on the health care system.
Another part of prevention is changing the mindset of Americans. People have to take control of their health. They need to stop putting their heads in the sand, hoping that somebody will take care of them when they have a heart attack etc.
While this thinking may work in the short term, we are not Humpy Dumpty – one day they will NOT be able to put us back together again.
Again, educated fitness trainers can help here too by not only setting an example, but reinforcing healthy behavior by inculcation of the facts and fostering regular exercise sessions.
Let Me Be Clear
I am NOT talking about weight loss.
I don’t care if people lose weight, although that can help. Research shows people who exercise are healthier even if they do not lose weight. Research also shows that skinny people who DO NOT exercise die more than overweight people who DO exercise and don’t lose weight.
Exercise – not necessarily weight loss – is the key to reducing health care costs. How many lives could be saved if people would just exercise a little more and not smoke?
If health care reform is to include fitness trainers, then those who do not strive to improve their education need to step up or they will quickly fall by the wayside and be surpassed by their better educated counterparts.
Fitness trainers must know how to work with conditions and diseases like HIV/AIDS, heart disease and diabetes to name a few. Making everybody perform interval training and super sets is the wrong approach for many people with health problems.
Do I have an ax to grind here? I sure do. I want people to be healthy and I want the fitness trainers to see themselves as health and fitness educators. In addition, even more than lowering health care costs, I don’t want people to fall victim to diseases that for the most part, don’t have to happen.
As I am fond of saying, a body in motion stays in motion and a body at rest stays at rest. Those who rest long enough run the risk of debilitating and mostly preventable diseases and hardships that lead unfortunately to that person resting forever.
georgios ktenas BSc. Pharmacy, Cyprus says
You are absolutely right! I often present the fact that SEROTONIN ‘the Happy Hormone reaches new heights with exercise on my weekly radio program in Cyprus, but here you have added every benefit on a black-and-white list.
Hi from America Georgios!Thanks for reaching out. I am glad you are out there too trying to help people! Is your radio show a podcast? If yes let me know and I will tune in 🙂
Jean Brackman says
Hey Joe, great read! Glad to see another informative article on health care (too much lately on sick care).
Hope all is well with you!
Joe Cannon says
Hey Jean! Thanks I appreciate that. yes things are going well. nice to hear from you and I hope all is well with you on your side of the web as well 🙂
Thanks for writing about this. Basically, I have been ranting about this in my training studio for over a year. How is it possible that so many people in charge of making these large decisions are so clueless about the importance of proper diet and exercise? Qualified personal trainers are most definitely an untapped resource. The potential for successfully slowing or one day stopping some of these chronic diseases altogether is an incredible vision.
Is it just me or does it seem like our country is WAY better at keeping sick people alive with prescription drugs than we are at educating our own people on how to properly care for themselves? Personal Training should absolutely be covered by insurance companies and people who are staying healthy should absolutely be rewarded for it as well by paying lower costs.
Our system is completely backward. I believe it is because there is no money for PRESCRIPTION DRUG INC. in people staying strong, healthy, and sharp. We know the problems, we know how to solve them. I’m glad there are others out there who have their eyes open and are asking questions.
Joe Cannon says
Thanks TrainerJoe, Im glad there are others thinking the same way as I am! I do think the money is in the medicine (rather than in the cure) and unfortunately, some doctors dont feel comfortable about talking to their patients about this (esp if they themselves dont workout etc. A study showed this recently).
I do think eventually things will change but I dont know if we are there yet. Keep preaching the message Joe -People do listen!
Joe Cannon says
Hi Dinah, I thing one way is for trainers to approach their local senators and congressmen/congresswomen and speak to them about this.
The other thing fitness trainers need to do -and I mentioned this in my post – is to step up and worry more about being qualified and less about being certified. Certified and qualified don’t mean the same thing. The big chain gyms are full of “certified” personal trainers who don’t know the difference between circuit training and super sets.
I think there needs to be a Tea Party for fitness trainers who force this issue, so the fitness industry -and health club industry – start to see the big picture.
Ugh, Joe — you must have been reading my mind because I was ranting and raving about this when “Obamacare” was the hot topic in the beginning of the year!!!!!! You are 100% spot on!!!!!!! We are VITAL to helping shift the “cultural landscape” when it comes to fitness and nutrition, and ultimately helping mitigating diseases that are by-products of our societies “bad habits”. So, how do we get this train moving? What are the next steps? Do you have any updates regarding this on your end?
I am an NSCA-CPT certified personal fitness trainer. I was inspired to help others lead healthy lifestyles because my “program” (CV conditioning, resistance training, nutrition, and flexibility/balance training) is what has helped me conquer depression and anxiety and kept my spinal stenosis from worsening without surgery.
In 2005 I was told if I did not have spinal surgery, I would not be able to walk and would be urinating on myself within a year. Now my back pain is minimal and I am as fit as I have ever been. Not only has my spinal stenosis not worsened, but if I could afford to have an MRI I believe I could prove that it has actually improved! I loved your article and totally agree.
Personal trainers are such an untapped resource in the healthcare industry. Think of the the falls that could be prevented each year through balance and strength training with seniors! Medicare and insurance companies should pay personal trainer fees, and I believe someday they will, with the right legislation.
I myself cannot afford health insurance, because although the insurance companies cannot deny me coverage anymore because of my diagnosis of spinal stenosis, they can charge me $800 per month. Who could afford that? Not me!
Thanks for your comments Susan and congratulations on your accomplishments! You are very much an inspiration to everybody. My health insurance rates increased about 30 % last year so I know how you feel. Health insurance is now the second largest bill I pay each month, after my mortgage. Regardless, you are to be admired for what you did and for taking the initiative to contact the President. Keep me posted on your continued progress.
Susan Barbee says
I totally agree and I even wrote to the White House and got an e-mail back from Obama about reading his Health Care reform bill. I have recently gotten my Fitness Instructor Certifications and am in the process of starting fitness classes for my community. I was an overweight diabetic and with exercise and diet I am free of all medications therefore saving my insurance companies thousands of dollars each year but what do I get for those savings? An increase in my premiums!! Healthcare Reform should include tax benefits for those that strive to become healthy and help the cost of Insurance companies and state and local government with their government based programs!! People need to take more responsibility for there health!