What makes you an expert? Fitness edition

What makes someone an expert in their respective field? Physicians are required to endure years of formal education and practical training. We perceive physicians as medical experts. Engineers pursue years of education, followed by internships and journeymen positions, on a path of expertise. Teachers – years of education along with student teaching experience. Even religious sectors require their leaders to obtain education through Bible schools and seminaries. 

When we look at most careers, both education and experience are required for expertise. Why is the fitness industry different? Why do we allow ‘experienced’ individuals to be promoted as experts?

Would you allow a life-long cutter the opportunity to remove a suspicious mole on your body? They have years of experience with sharp objects. Would you ask the individual with multiple food allergies to help you diagnose suspected allergies? They know the signs, symptoms, and results of their own experience. Would you let me perform knee arthroscopy? I have viewed the photos and videos of two of my own and observed one other. Should the man who was raised in and lives a Catholic life be ordained Father of the church? I know how to type, maybe I could teach a keyboarding course? I have been typing for at least 20 years, that makes me an expert, doesn’t it?

Fitness ‘experts’

Heck – the guy who hit the gym as a teenager to build muscle – let us make him a personal trainer. And then – let us ask him to help individuals lose weight. Or, how about the ‘fat girl’ who lost weight, became a trainer as a teenager…let us make her THE EXPERT of fitness. If a personal trainer utilizes and promotes methods that lead to injury or lack sustainable results, should we consider her an expert?

In the weight loss/fitness industries – experience is all that is required for someone to be considered an expert. The Gabriel Method – he lost and successfully kept off weight. No Education. Jillian Michaels – supposedly lost weight by doing karate as a kid. No formal education. No respectable certifications. (And not respected by true experts in the field.) This list could be endless, but you get my drift.

Experts of the human body

When you have a heart concern or condition – you visit a cardiologist. When you have a skin concern – you visit a dermatologist. When you have a GI disturbance – you visit an internist or gastroenterologist. When you have teeth woes – you visit a dentist, orthodontist, or oral surgeon. When you have knee or hip pain – you visit a rheumatologist, orthopaedic surgeon, and/or physical therapist. When you need assistance with your hair or nails (dead body parts) – you consult a cosmetologist or nail technician – whom are required to obtain state licensure!!!!

But when you are concerned with your body composition – lean muscle mass versus adipose tissue (organs of the body) – you visit the former high school athlete at your local gym. Take a moment to think about this.

TRUE fitness experts

Exercise physiologists have a master’s degree in kinesiology – the study of human movement. These qualified professionals are often employed in hospital cardiac rehabilitation centers, physical therapy units, fitness centers, etc. Some exercise physiologists obtain doctoral degrees – making them doctors of human movement. In other words – doctors of exercise! If you are truly committed, do you not want advice from the best of the best? From the true EXPERTS?

Exercise physiologists could be considered the experts of muscles. Your heart is a muscle. Muscles support and protect your joints and skeletal system. Muscles hold your internal organs securely in place. When your muscles fail to protect the integrity of your body, you visit a doctor or specialist (i.e., expert). Seeking expertise from an exercise physiologist can prevent injuries and illness; whereas, seeking advice from an unqualified trainer can do more hard than good. Read about whether your personal trainer is qualified in my past post.

The bottomline

Be careful who you trust with your body – it is the only one you are going to get!

The good news is that many individuals are smart consumers (Szemilewicz, 2011). But I want EVERYONE to be a smart consumer. As the industry and community need continue to grow, why don’t we follow the lead of countries like Canada, France, and the United Kingdom – who heavily regulate and monitor the quality of fitness professionals (Viallon, Camy, & Collins, 2003). These countries also have lower rates of obesity, orthopaedic injuries, and obesity-related disease (WHO, 2012).

Coincidence?

References

Szumilewicz, A. (2011). Multiple Influences Affecting the Women’s Choice of a Fitness Club. Baltic Journal Of Health & Physical Activity3(1), 55-64.

Viallon, R. R., Camy, J. J., & Collins, M. F. (2003). The European integration of a new occupation, the training and education strategies of national professional organizations: the case of the fitness sector in France and the United Kingdom. Managing Leisure8(2), 85-96.

World Health Organizations. http://www.who.int/research/en/

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