Fitness Training Choices -- Cedric X. Bryant, PhD -- 05/08/03

WebMD Live Events Transcript

The fitness choices are out there: personal trainers, group instructors, video instructors and online personal training. Who can help you get the most benefit from your workout plan? Cedric X. Bryant, PhD, chief exercise physiologist of the American Council on Exercise, joined us to discuss how to evaluate your options and set a course for fitness.

The opinions expressed herein are the guest's alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Hello Dr. Bryant. Thank you for joining us today. Would you recommend that someone starting a fitness program work with a trainer?

Bryant: There are several reasons.

  • The first and perhaps most important is that personal trainers can provide the necessary and proper instruction for a novice trainee.
  • They can assist them with basic program design.
  • They can monitor that they're exercising at an appropriate intensity level.
  • They can also provide instruction regarding proper exercise technique and form.
  • A trainer can provide motivation and improve the individual's long-term commitment and adherence to an exercise program.
  • They can also monitor and assess your progress and further refine the exercise program.

Member: Where are good places to find a trainer who won't break the bank? The Y?

Bryant: Well, the Y is certainly a viable option. But in addition to just simply looking at the cost, it's important to consider the quality of the training that will be provided. What would probably be a smart option is to consult some of the leading reputable certification bodies, all of which have web sites with directories for competent, affordable personal trainers. And those reputable certification bodies would include the following organizations:

  • The American Council on Exercise
  • The American College of Sports Medicine
  • The National Strength and Conditioning Association

Just in terms of establishing a benchmark of what would be reasonable in terms of fees, generally speaking they will range anywhere from $35 to $50 per hour and what determines where you are in that range will be geographic location, in that the fees tend to be higher in the metropolitan areas, the largest cities, and so forth.

Member: I can't afford to work with a trainer very often. After we set up an initial program, how often should I work with my trainer?

Bryant: What would be a wise approach is to utilize the trainer's expertise to help you establish the program and then after approximately 10 to 12 weeks of following the program is to meet with the trainer again for a follow-up session to assess the effectiveness of the program and determine if any modifications or adjustments need to be made. So what is occurring is you're using the trainer to initiate the program and then at periodic intervals thereafter you're utilizing the trainer's skills to assess the effectiveness of the program to determine if any modifications or adjustments need to be made.

Member: I am considering joining the local gym. However, the trainer wanted to advise me about diet and supplements, too. What kind of training do fitness trainers have to advise about those issues? Or is the gym just trying to sell me supplements (which they do sell)?

Bryant: Generally speaking, most trainers do not have the necessary education, training, and background to offer advice regarding nutritional supplements. It tends to be beyond what is defined as a personal trainer's scope of practice. Unless that individual possesses a credential such as being a registered dietitian, they would be offering advice outside their sphere of competency. The potential result would be placing the client at potential risk for some form of adverse reaction as well as placing themselves at some form of liability risk. And just a general note is that most of the nutritional supplements that are widely seen in health and fitness facilities tend to be substances that have not been well researched and that are not without potentially serious side effects. So in most cases any potential or perceived benefit tends to be greatly outweighed by the risk.

Member: I was a member of a gym chain briefly, but the personal trainer seemed more interested in "upselling" me to more expensive training and classes. Kind of like a car salesman in spandex. Is this a typical experience for the big-name fitness chains?

Bryant: While it wouldn't be fair to indict all the big-name fitness chains, it is unfortunately true that many such chains require that their trainers be focused on selling a variety of products and services to their clients, in many cases, taking unfair advantage of the unique relationship and trust that is often established between personal trainer and client. And if your personal trainer is constantly attempting to "sell you" I would consider that to be a red flag and probably seek out a different trainer.