Life After the PAR-Q

Life After the PAR-Q

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The Pre-Activity Readiness Questionnaire, or PAR-Q as it is more commonly known is used by most fitness professionals to ascertain the suitability of their exercise participants to engage in a structured programme of exercise. Originating from the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP), this almost archaic document has been around almost as long as there has been a fitness profession.

The British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) National Centre for Physical Activity and Health in conjunction with the University of British Columbia are currently developing a revised version of the PAR-Q that will be appropriately titled the ‘PAR-Q Plus’. This news was originally announced back in April but the document has since undergone rigorous testing and verification by medical and exercise professionals to ensure that the terminology is appropriate for the UK population.

The PAR-Q document is generally felt to be inappropriate to today’s health and fitness profession on the basis that it:

  • only includes participants up to the age of 69
  • does not capture hypertension, which is today a widespread and serious condition affecting millions of people
  • is so sensitive that it excludes from exercise/physical activity a large number of people considering becoming more active- as many as 95% of those referred to a medical professional following a medical referral don’t come back
  • is not a popular document with General Practitioners (GPs) because of the high number of unnecessary referrals that it generates
  • has limited evidence to support its validity

In contrast however, the PAR-Q plus is considered to be more appropriate today’s audience because:

  • it is been devised off the back of a huge research project that reviewed over 1 million papers
  • incorporates hypertension and diabetes which the PAR-Q does not
  • it is not limited to participants aged 15-69
  • it acknowledges that the risk of inactivity are considerably greater than the risks of acute exercise in participants that have controlled medical conditions or those that are asymptomatic
  • for most populations living with a chronic medical condition the risk of premature death is much greater than the acute risks of a structured and supervised programme of exercise
  • the PAR-Q plus clearly adopts the position that physical activity and exercise in the right dose, intensity and environment is good for everyone, especially those with chronic medical conditions
  • it doesn’t seek to exclude people quite so quickly as the original PAR-Q document

Where the original PAR-Q and the revised PAR-Q documents will largely differ is in their approach to signposting those considering becoming more active, or changing the type and level of activity that they currently they engage in. When utilising the original PAR-Q to medically screen participants, a positive response to any of the 7 questions instantly generates a referral to a medical professional for their consent. This model has limited clinical validity and in many cases generates an unnecessary referral to a GP, and only serves to create an additional barrier to becoming more active. With the new PAR-Q plus however, any referrals made are likely to be better aligned with the specific needs of the participant and to a professional that is better equipped assist the participant to lead a more active way of life.

Some slight amendments have been made to the PAR-Q plus and providing that the document is considered to be valid in the its final Pilot and testing phase, it is expected to be published in the UK around November 2012.

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