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.