When you seek advice about your finances, where do you go? Of course you look to a source you can trust – a professional with the required certification, training, and experience. However, the field of fitness has no requirements for professionals. Anyone can call themselves a fitness expert. Our source for advice about how to move and be well is sadly under-regulated and as a result, full of myths and mindsets that are not science-based. This means that right now, you, as a fitness consumer, need to stay educated or your exercise advice may lead you to injury and lowered motivation, rather than fitness for well-being.
Next time you listen to advice about exercise on TV or the internet, notice why they call themselves an “expert.” Often those who get the most air time are the ones who either a) have a personal success story to sell, b) were a successful athlete, or c) train the stars (sometimes all three). Even if they are certified, know that there are no requirements for certification programs and no one is ensuring that person’s certification is up to date. Our professional organizations for degreed and certified exercise professionals are working on this, but it is a very slooow process! This is a driving force for me to provide the the information I do here.
Currently, there are two sites that provide helpful information about fitness professionals for consumers. Use these sites to find a qualified professional who holds a certification that is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). This means the certification exam has met set standards for the exercise professional’s role as defined by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The United States Registry of Exercise Professionals maintains a list of professionals with any accredited certification. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is the “gold standard” for certifying exercise professionals. The ACSM continuously clarifies the various levels of training for exercise professionals, defining their role and scope of practice clearly. This makes it easier to find a professional who has the right level of training for you, whether you are without health concerns and looking for a qualified personal trainer or have a health concern and need a clinical exercise professional to safely guide you with exercise. Check the ACSM ProFinder to find professionals with this level of certification and training in your area.
Most importantly, trust your instincts. As we all know, training is only one part of the equation. If the advice you are receiving is not leading to well-being now, keep searching for the right professional for you. My hope is that some day, this will be easier for you as a consumer. Until then, let’s not let the confusion get in the way of you being healthy and well.
Be Well Now,