By Karyn Gallivan, MS, ATC, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, NASM-CPT
Contributor, Sports+Fitness Network
Currently, I travel a great deal for work. These trips consist of continuing education seminars for Allied Health professionals such as Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Nurses, and their respective assistants. Each seminar is a single day consisting of 7-hours of talking about what amounts to Post-Rehabilitation programs for patients who are leaving traditional healthcare settings following an illness or injury. Invariably, these patients have sustained an orthopedic injury and have subsequently had surgery, rehab care, and physical therapy. But, these patients seldom enter the healthcare system with only an orthopedic injury –meaning that, in addition to this injury, they also have any number of lifestyle diseases and/or cardiovascular disease risk factors.
With this information in the forefront of my mind, I happened upon an article that talked about the top fitness “worries” for men and women in America. You would think that these issues would be related to performance, muscle mass, or body fat. However, this was not the case; the top “worries” had to do with lifestyle, or metabolic, diseases. Things like hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease (including stroke), were among the top worries.
There are so many new events and workout programs that have been popular these last few years, such as mud runs, ½ & full marathons, boot camp classes, mountain bike races, Crossfit, and triathlons of all types, among others. These events provide varying levels of competition and require increasing levels of all types of fitness. It turns out, however, that for many, these events are a great way to address their health concerns.
This brings me to the important role that the fitness professional plays in the life of each and every client. Sure, we all like to promise that we can help folks reach their body composition, fitness, and performance goals –especially if we have super compliant clients to work with. However, we must remember to design a program that will provide both health and fitness benefits. Granted, this might sound like a rather basic directive; and, on the surface, it is. But for a client to gain the long-term health benefits and avoid type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension and hyperlipidemia, we must be ultra diligent with our efforts to effect long-term change. This would include an exercise program that includes both activity-related, as well as health-related goals; in addition to a serious review of one’s nutrition habits.
The great thing about the lifestyle diseases that are discussed here is that they are all ultimately preventable, reversible, or manageable. This, however, is where the hard work comes in. Knowing the types of health histories that many clients (and patients) present with, and the fact that they tend to over-report the amount of exercise that they are doing, while under-reporting their nutritional intake (amount and/or types of foods), it is incumbent upon us to teach (lead) our clients into long-term compliance with healthier behaviors.
So, while leading/teaching the next workout or series of exercises, be sure to work in questions that pertain to your client’s long-term health goals, their current habits, where they think they need improvement, and what they are willing to change in order to get there.
It is in these conversations that I am able to really understand what one’s goals and challenges are. From there, I am able to make appropriate program modifications, as well as address the challenges they face with their daily fitness and nutrition habits. Working on these little things can actually be the most important things.