This blog is a request to my fellow health professionals and a message to the general public.
A message to doctors, physiotherapists, chiropractors, and massage therapists:
Please stop pretending you can do my job – I don’t pretend to do yours.
Nor should I.
Some people may find this hard to believe, but none of the professions listed above are qualified, or trained, to design, implement, and supervise exercise programs.
Doctors are entrusted to diagnose and treat illness and disease. Physiotherapists are trained to assess and treat injuries, both acute and chronic. Chiropractors adjust and manipulate bones and joints. Massage therapists learn to knead and apply pressure to muscles in an effort to relieve tension and stress.
None of these occupations are trained to understand the intricacies of how to create a fitness programs focused on your body’s needs and your personal fitness goals. The same is true of your nutritional needs. I always find it funny when people take nutritional advice from doctors. Doctors aren’t taught to build you nutritional programs. They should be referring out to someone who specializes in that.
Yet for some reason I deal with a constant stream of clients who have been given exercise recommendations by one of the above mentioned professions. Why they feel they can do my job better than I can I am not sure.
Research has shown that to master a profession a minimum of 10,000 hours of focused practice must be completed. For most things this equates to about 10 years. This is why you see internships, residencies, articling in most professions. The same is true for fitness programs. Let’s face it, the quality of your fitness program has the power to influence the quality of the rest of your life, more so than almost all other health activities. It shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Why is it then that so many health professionals tack on fitness services to their business? I believe mostly that it is an attempt to capitalize on the multi-billion dollar fitness business. Effectively, however, they are giving the public substandard service, often instructed by non-specialized exercises coaches. All of this in a place where people should be able to trust that the service they are receiving is created by educated professionals.
I think it is disgraceful that any professional would allow their clients and patients to receive substandard service. This is especially true when it is these professionals who are recommending and putting their endorsement behind the program. Throwing together a few workouts for a client or patient is a terrible idea. And hiring students to teach classes or allow a rookie trainer to provide fitness services is akin to letting a 4th year med student run an ER all on their own.
It is always important to work with professionals who specialize in what they do. If you have cancer, see an oncologist. If you destroy your knee playing basketball go see a physiotherapist. If your neck muscles are so tight you are getting headaches, seek out a massage therapist. If you have back issues, see a chiropractor.
If you want a fitness program to keep you strong, healthy, fit and injury free, seek out a professional personal trainer or exercise coach.
Now, I am the first to admit that my industry sucks. Unlike other professions there are no standards set for what makes a personal trainer and no license is required, which is why most so called personal trainers are a disgrace to the business. If you don’t believe me, walk into any big box gym and watch the ‘trainers’ put clients through antiquated machine circuits, or walk into small training studios where the primary features are extra oxygen, hair products, or it is simply a mini-version of the big box gyms.
A good trainer will ensure that you are mobile, healthy, fit, and a low risk for almost all diseases, conditions, and injuries. They will help make sure you never need the services of the other health professionals.
A bad trainer will hurt you and make your life miserable, in addition to taking a lot of your money. Stay away from those.
There is a general problem in the fitness industry and it is being adopted by other health care professionals. This idea that anyone can teach and coach exercise is causing issues already and if it remains unchecked the issue will only become more exacerbated. Just because you exercise or run recreationally does not mean you are now qualified to create and coach exercise programs. And becoming a doctor, physiotherapist, chiropractor, or massage therapist does not qualify you to create and coach exercise programs.
If you go through chemotherapy for 6 months, this does not qualify you to supervise others through the same process afterwards. If a physiotherapist uses ultrasound on you a few times it is not acceptable that you come back the following week and apply the treatment to other patients. Getting a few massages doesn’t mean you can open a studio on your own. And just because you get your spine adjusted by a chiropractor in no way means you can start cracking away on your friends and family.
Yes, a lot of the time the techniques and programs seem easy. But they all have years of research, practice, and training behind them. You can’t just read a book or follow along with a magazine article and expect your injury and illness is improve.
The same is true of exercise programs.
I don’t know why there is a belief that anyone can build exercise programs and teach fitness. We are playing with their long term health. Creating exercise programs is a science based art and requires years of education and experience.
Retail stores are now jumping aboard as well. Sorry, but just because you sell yoga clothes does not qualify you to teach yoga. And selling running shoes does not equate to the ability to design and coach training programs for runners. But I digress.
Your exercise program is complex and very intricate. It has to be properly assessed, designed, periodized, implemented, and supervised. After all, your fitness will dictate the quality of the rest of your life. Let me reiterate, the quality of the rest of your life will be determined by the quality of your fitness.
For all you out there looking to start a fitness program or who are currently revamping your current fitness program: doctors, physiotherapists, chiropractors and massage therapists should not be building it – it is not what they do. That is what we do. Just like we do not diagnose your disease, manipulate your spine, rehabilitate your injuries, or massage your body.
A message to my fellow health care professionals: Please stop pretending you can do my job. Refer your patients and clients to educated and experienced fitness professionals. Just as we refer our clients to the appropriate professionals.
Taylor Simon BA, MSc (cand.), CSCS
Director, Taylored Training Inc.