August 28, 2012

Exercise facilities must include proper screening


---- — According to a position statement posted by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association, one out of every four Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease. 

In light of this trend, the U.S. surgeon general has been promoting physical activity. This can be seen with the huge growth of the fitness industry within the last 10 years. Many families now include exercise into their daily regimen. In short, this change is obviously a positive one. By promoting health and wellness, the United States is becoming more proactive as they aim to prevent these health issues in the first place or manage the condition long term rather than relying solely on medication to fix the problem.

Exercise, when done properly, is safe and effective at reducing disease. The American College of Sports Medicine states that those with cardiac disease, however, are up to 10 times more likely to have a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack, when exercising. The organization also shows evidence that many fitness facilities do not regularly screen for such disorders before allowing membership to their facility. Screens that can quickly identify risk factors are a valuable and necessary tool for ensuring the safety of exercise participants. Without them, many at-risk individuals will be placed in a dangerous situation that could result in serious injury or death. With this in mind, is it very important that when you go to any athletic or wellness facility you check to make sure they are doing certain types of screening. Screens should not only check for cardiovascular disease, but also for metabolic and pulmonary disorders. There are three important steps to the screening process.


The PAR-Q, or Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire, is a quick and easy screen to identify any at-risk individuals. It usually consists of seven or eight questions and will easily show immediate concerns. 

This questionnaire is easy enough to use that facilities sometimes use the sales or service representatives to initiate it, although it is preferred that an exercise specialist be present. Every exercise facility should at least require a PAR-Q in order to join their center, but the form is not always extensive enough to ensure that all at-risk individuals are identified.


The next important step in the screening process is the Medical History Form. Not all exercise facilities will use this form, but those that do are going the extra mile to help make your experience at their center safer. This form will also alert the exercise specialist to any specific limitations that you may have. 

These questions are more specific and involve inquiries about family history, current and past injuries, metabolic and pulmonary disorders, as well as some specific subdivisions of these diseases. Because this form is more specific and has to be completed by an exercise specialist, the chance of identifying conditions is much higher.


The fitness assessment — another screening tool that exercise specialists use — is essential to knowing your starting point as well as your limitations when beginning an exercise program. If they find something is wrong during one of these tests, they can refer the member back to their primary physician for further examination. 

This assessment can vary between facilities and can differ depending on doctor’s consent, age, physical condition, as well as any limitations found from the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire and Medical History Form. A well-run facility will have several tests for a diverse population. Once completed, both you and the exercise specialist will have a better understanding of the level you are currently at. The reports will also help you get started on an exercise program. 

Gyms that omit this step but offer orientations on the equipment are only guessing at what your current fitness level is, opening the door to injury. When joining a facility that includes a comprehensive screening process, you can be better assured that you are truly pr

epared to exercise. With the high number of at-risk individuals in the United States, fitness facilities must do more than just the minimum when it comes to screening for cardiovascular, metabolic and pulmonary risks to ensure the safety of their members. It is not only a liability issue; it’s a public health issue.

Ted Santaniello, CSCS, is a certified personal trainer and the fitness manager at the Wellness Center at PARC, located at 295 New York Road (next to ARC) in Plattsburgh. For more information, call him at 324-2024.