(BPT) - At a time when the country is seeing sweeping changes in the health care landscape, many Americans are realizing the benefits of taking a proactive approach to their personal health and well-being. The focus is changing to taking personal responsibility in protecting your health as you age.
Given this paradigm shift, one of the best places to start with proactive health is by working with a qualified and certified trainer who can coach you on fitness and nutrition based on your overall health and fitness objectives. Jobs in personal training and fitness instruction will increase by 24 percent between now and 2020 to help people protect their health, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.
'Personal training is no longer considered a luxury,' says Jeff Rosga, senior director of education at Life Time Academy, the training and certification organization for Life Time - The Healthy Way of Life Company. "In fact, it is becoming a way of life for many. From baby boomers down to 20-something's, there is a demand for a high quality training experience. The advent of an 'active' government approach to health care is driving personal accountability for a whole new generation of people. Both of these factors contribute to the need for fitness professionals who can deliver the expertise and knowledge needed to help the population stay healthy."
According to Rosga, there are opportunities to improve the fitness industry to ensure personal training remains a credible and growing profession. These include:
* Certification - Online certification can get someone certified but that's where it stops. The personal training industry experiences high turnover rates because many trainers aren't prepared for the real world of personal training. Whether you're one of those people in need of a personal trainer or looking for entry into the job market, look for certification and accreditation by a third party organization such as the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
* Preparation - Many people who become a certified personal trainer do not have the foundational education needed to become successful in the industry. 'Students need more fundamental education to become a qualified personal trainer,' says Rosga. 'Some students require an intensive program while others have past work or educational experiences that they can simply build upon, but having to provide proof should be a requirement.'
* Mentorship - With the increasing availability of fitness and nutrition advice available through YouTube and other websites or apps, many personal trainers struggle with their changing roles. Practical hands-on learning is missing from many certification programs, and Rosga believes it's imperative that what trainers study and learn in a certification program needs to have practical application. Research the credentials and reputation of the trainers you want to work with and evaluate their background, accomplishments, testimonials and contributions to the industry.
* Communication and coaching - In the past, there was no such thing as a life coach and personal trainers played a role when it came to fitness. Today trainers take on a much bigger role than counting repetitions and influencing behavior change by encouraging proper sleep, offering ways to minimize stress and focusing on nutrition. 'Communication is key in working with clients to help them achieve their fitness objectives,' says Rosga. 'Trainers need to be able to explain and demonstrate exercises or fitness elements, but they must also listen, have empathy and be agents of change, always focused on the client's goals. Clients have a variety of needs - some are injured, have functional issues or simply want to be more physically active or participate in an event - but anyone seeking a trainer needs assistance in learning how to overcome their challenges.'
* Nutrition - As people approach a new journey to get healthy, they look for experts who are able to provide guidance beyond exercise with nutrition and overall health information. Given the focus on nutrition to fight obesity and other diseases, it is of growing importance that trainers are enrolled in a curriculum that includes a focus on nutrition and supplementation.
Ultimately, there are significant differences between a certified personal trainer and a qualified one. 'When someone makes an appointment with their doctor, they expect a certain level of education and experience to ensure they're receiving the best care,' says Rosga. 'Qualified, nationally certified personal trainers go through hours of rigorous certifications and externships and are expected to continually learn and expand on their certifications. Imagine if one day we woke up and personal trainers were held in the same regard as our doctor - that's the real opportunity for our industry.'