An Introduction to Exercise Referral

HFE Tutor with student
Tutor with student

Personal training for clients with chronic illnesses can be an emotionally and financially rewarding career.  In fact, many fitness trainers are moving into the area of ‘exercise referral’ because of the new levels of opportunity that accompanies this specialist area of exercise and fitness instruction.

According to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), “an exercise referral scheme directs someone to a service offering an assessment, development of a tailored physical activity programme, monitoring of progress and follow-up.” They involve participation by a number of health and exercise professionals and may require the individual to go to an exercise facility, such as a leisure centre or health club, or to exercise from home or in the community.

When working with referred clients, there are a myriad of medical conditions that Fitness Instructors and Personal Trainers may potentially encounter, including asthma, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol), strokes, stress, spondylosis or obesity.

If you are a Fitness Instructor or Personal Trainer thinking about making that transition from the gym floor and into a referral scheme, you need to have a basic understanding of pharmacology and appreciate the interaction between the client’s prescribed medication and the exercise programme you prescribe.

The effects of exercise can be likened to that of drugs because, when the wrong exercises are prescribed, the consequences are potentially fatal. Conversely, exercise has a potent and positive effect on many chronic illnesses/diseases and helps to significantly improve the extent to which they debilitate and adversely affect the sufferer’s health. When the right exercises are prescribed at the right volume and intensity, many of those suffering from chronic illnesses describe the effects of exercise as being somewhat liberating.

Studies show that those who exercise daily for a minimum of twenty to thirty minutes per day are considerably less likely to suffer from chronic illnesses whilst those who already present such conditions are likely to experience marked improvements in their health, in most cases to a greater extent than medication alone.

Exercise professionals working with clients suffering from chronic illnesses will need to be patient, understanding and empathetic. Many clients from this population are deconditioned, have low levels of motivation and in comparison to other exercise participants, are generally quite vulnerable. Those working in exercise referral must therefore be caring, genuine and empathetic towards their clients and should adopt a diligent approach to the work they undertake.

In order to work within an ‘Exercise Referral Scheme’ you will need to possess an appropriate Exercise Referral qualification. Previously referred to as a GP referral, this programme will equip you with all of the knowledge and skills you will need in order to make a success of a career in Exercise Referral.

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