September 18, 2012

Medical fitness facilities are not gyms


---- — The fitness industry has grown considerably with the increase of preventable diseases. 

There are more commercial gyms now than ever before, but the question of whether they are staying within the guidelines of evidence-based exercise should be considered. 

Most gyms hire a staff that focuses on physical appearance and developing fun exercises rather than one that actually practices safe and effective programs that focus on health and wellness. Any fitness commercial you see on TV will support this claim. This has made health-care professionals weary of where to send their patients for needed exercise. Medical exercise facilities have been taking hold for just this reason. Medical exercise is the seamless integration of health-care services, wellness and fitness programs to provide preventive and rehabilitative care to members, patients and the surrounding community. Today these medically integrated facilities create vibrant and energetic environments where personal health and development flourish through the guidance of trained fitness professionals.     There are several important differences between medical fitness facilities and other gyms. Medical fitness facilities are the next logical step in the continued care model and use evidence-based practices to reduce unwanted variations. This means that all exercise programs designed by the staff follow techniques that are approved by medical professionals and tie in perfectly with the health-care system. Many of the programs in gyms that aren’t medically guided tend to be based on what the public perceives as “the new thing” or what feels right to them. At a medical fitness facility, the staff is qualified to teach sound techniques for improving a person’s life quality.

Since medical fitness facilities are integrated with health care, they have many other resources at their disposal that other gyms simply cannot duplicate. For instance, exercise specialists have a network of medical professionals — doctors, dietitians and therapists — that they can refer a client to if needed. This also keeps them up-to-date in the health-care industry and better ensures that the exercise prescription they give ties in seamlessly to the recommendations given by the health-care professional.

The integration with health care calls for highly qualified fitness staffing. Because of this, medical-fitness staff must have a degree and certification. Other gyms are not regulated this way. In fact, the fitness industry is generally quite unregulated. At a typical gym, there are no required qualifications to become a trainer. Many gyms check for a certification, but most certifications don’t actually require a bachelor’s degree. Therefore, many fitness trainers have only a crash course in personal training and don’t understand the basic physiology of exercise.

With a qualified staff, medical fitness facilities can focus on two aspects of community wellness: prevention of disease and management of disease. Unless a gym has a qualified staff that can work with special populations, they should not be working with those who have cardiovascular, pulmonary or metabolic diseases. If you have any of these conditions, personal trainers are not qualified to work with you until you have worked with a fitness specialist. Gyms can work only on those who are perceived as asymptomatic. This allows them to work only on preventing conditions, not managing them.

Medical fitness facilities are beginning to grow just as the fitness industry did. There is a lot of misleading information out there that can create an awful amount of confusion when it comes to your health. It is just as important for the general public to know what really is “true north” in the exercise industry. If you’re looking for the correct information and the right care, a medical fitness facility is a good option because of their high standards and qualifications.

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.