Fitness Training Choices (cont.)

Member: My trainer is certified by the gym where he works. Is this certification OK? He seems to be helping me.

Bryant: The term certification unfortunately has lost some of its meaning, in that there are pretty precise established guidelines for what a certification is. Those guidelines have been established by an independent organization called the National Organization for Competency Assurance. It is a group that sets and establishes guidelines for professional organizations from fitness professionals to dental hygienists to CPAs, any group of professionals that need to take an exam to demonstrate a level of competency and proficiency at a given skill or demonstrating a level of knowledge with regard to a subject matter.

What these guidelines state is that the certification process must undergo or must involve certain steps. Just to highlight the most significant ones, the certification process should begin with what is referred to as a valuation study. A group of experts in that field or industry defines what are the critical tasks or job functions associated with whatever that certification will be assessing. Then once that's been established the next step is to take a group of experts to construct items or questions that assess those critical skills or job functions. Then the third step is a group of statisticians evaluate how well the constructed items of questions predict ultimate performance. Then the final step is to see how effective the test is at predicting the same result. In other words, if I give the same individual the test on repeated occasions, will I arrive at the same conclusion regarding their competence level?

Following this type of process helps to insure that the test appropriately screens and identifies individuals who have the requisite knowledge and skills to safely and effectively perform the job function.

In direct answer to the individual's question, most self-generated, or I should say club-generated, certification exams do not adhere to these processes. As a result, they tend not to be the most valid and reliable methods of assessing an individual's capabilities. But if the trainer that you are working with is helping you to safely achieve the results that you are looking for, there would be no compelling reason to seek a different trainer.

Moderator: Some people can't go to a gym to work with a trainer for a variety of reasons (cost, distance, etc.). For those people, is it possible to work out at home with the aid of a training program from a book or videotape? And how do you choose which book or tape to use?

Bryant: It's better than doing nothing at all. In terms of selecting an exercise video or tape, I think there are several questions you would want to ask:

  1. What are the instructor's credentials?
  2. Is the person certified by a reputable organization?
  3. Does that individual have appropriate training and background, or is the person simply a celebrity?
  4. Before you purchase the tape, ask the question, does a friend own the same tape or can I rent the video so that I can take it for a test drive?
  5. In the marketing of the tape, do they make outlandish claims: Things such as lose 20 pounds in two weeks or firm up in only five minutes? If such claims are made, I would be a little bit wary of the quality of the content on the tape.
  6. Do you need any special equipment or props to use the tape? And if so, are those things that are affordable within your budget and things that you have space for?
  7. Does the tape and the information shown on it match your needs and desires?
  8. Can you find reviews of the tapes by reputable experts?

But in conclusion, I think it's important that people understand that becoming physically active needn't be overly complicated, and that the real key, particularly if general fitness and weight control are your fundamental goals, is to simply move, and that movement can range from simply walking to playing games, dancing, a variety of movement activities that I think many people don't associate with exercise, can be very viable options.

Moderator: But almost all tapes and books claim to have the answer to great abs or beautiful bodies with minimal effort. Are there any that you would recommend as safe and effective?

Bryant: Probably the safest and most effective form of exercise for the vast majority of individuals is walking. That's why there's an initiative under way that's referred to as America on the Move, which is a program based upon some work that was done in Colorado that was supported by the National Institutes of Health, whereby individuals are encouraged to try to cover 10,000 steps per day. What the research clearly shows is that individuals who can achieve that level of activity tend to do a very effective job at maintaining a more normal body weight and being at a significantly lower risk for a variety of diseases, to include heart disease, certain forms of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

It's interesting, in that the average individual who has a sedentary occupation will tend to cover somewhere between 1,200 to 1,800 steps per day. So what the 10,000 steps program really does, it helps the person to become very conscious of how little we do move as Americans with the variety of labor-saving devices that we have access to. So by wearing a pedometer to measure one's steps and movements serves to motivate individuals to look for ways to be physically active. So rather than taking the walking tram, an escalator, or elevator, the individual walks or takes the stairs. Rather than sending an interoffice email, the individual leaves his or her desk and walks to the person they need to communicate with.

Moderator: How far is 10,000 steps? A mile? More? Less?

Bryant: Approximately every 2,000 steps that the average individual takes are equivalent to approximately one mile. So the 10,000 steps program, which suggests the individual is going to cover approximately five miles per day, would mean that the individual probably is going to need to be physically active for about one hour each day. But the important thing for individuals to understand is that it's one hour over the course of an entire day. It is not an hour-long exercise session, necessarily. So the individual could get 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there, and that total should add up to 60 minutes to produce those beneficial effects. The reason why that is true is that the benefits and effects of exercise are cumulative, in that much like loose change in your pocket, they all add up.