Is “The Biggest Loser” Harming the Personal Training Industry?

Is “The Biggest Loser” Harming the Personal Training Industry?

In light of the recent start of a new season of “The Biggest Loser” and an article on, I found it hard not to take a position and stand up for the profession that my colleagues and I work relentlessly to bring credibility and ethical practices to.

From TMZ; Old Trainer Gets the Boot Replaced By Uncertified Coach

“The morbidly obese contestants on “The Biggest Loser” — some of whom are close to death — will be pushed to the limit by a new trainer who is NOT certified in California … TMZ has learned. We’ve learned Sandy Krum — who’s been on the show since 2007 — got the boot before Season 15 began taping this summer. He’s been replaced by a young gun named Ryan Applegate. Sources connected with the “Biggest Loser” tell us past contestants and several staff members on the show are extremely upset that Applegate hasn’t passed the stringent certification test — a test that is not required by law but one that many trainers take because it cements their qualifications. Quick reminder, these aren’t your average Joes who are just a tad out of shape … they’re morbidly overweight people — some of whom tip the scales at more than 500 lbs — many of whom have extremely high blood pressure and suffer from diabetes. A rep for the show’s production company tells us, “The health and safety of our contestants is our #1 priority and the show is confident that the team of professionals they have hired to work with the contestants are qualified to do so.”[1]

“Cements their qualifications?” What really qualifies a “fitness professional?”  Is it just about getting people results at any cost? What about considering current health, structural and physical abilities, biomechanics, exercise selection and progression of intensity and frequency? Is it fair that the personal training profession on a whole is represented in a way that is anything less than ethical and professional? Throughout the country you would be hard pressed to enter a credible fitness facility and find a fitness professional yelling at a client and pushing one to a point of vomiting. It lends itself to challenge the ethics and credibility of a trainer not a stringent certification exam.  A certification exam assesses knowledge, not if the certified professional will use that knowledge.

“The Biggest Loser” has created an awareness of the obesity epidemic and the associated challenges people face both physiologically and psychologically. The message the show sends is that weight loss is possible through behavior modifications and that there are positive implications for health and fitness. What it hasn’t done, is made a fair representation of the personal training profession. However, the methods and strategies’ used clearly dangerous and implausible.

For many of my colleagues on the education and certification side of the fitness industry, along with countless certified professionals in the fitness industry, there is a strong concern as to how the profession of personal training is misrepresented in the world of “reality” shows. It is an understatement to say that it is inappropriate, unethical, and a blatant misrepresentation of the knowledge, skills and ethics a qualified, credible fitness professional must have.

As TMZ reported “Applegate hasn’t passed the stringent certification test…” This is misleading in a way that it makes it seem that those who have passed the “stringent test” are using the safest and common practices of the profession.  As mentioned earlier vomiting, passing out, and being yelled at are not what would be considered safe and common practice.   

Acquiring a certification is achieved by the successful completion of an assessment with a minimum acceptable score. Certification defines competency and is intended to help industry professionals demonstrate their commitment to professionalism and ethical practice.

As far back as 2005 a recommendation by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) [2] was made to all its members: “Whereas, given the increasing importance of personal training in health, fitness and sports clubs, IHRSA recommends that, beginning January 1, 2006, member clubs hire personal trainers holding at least one current certification from a certifying organization/agency that has begun third-party accreditation of its certification procedures and protocols from an independent, experienced, and nationally recognized accrediting body.”

“IHRSA has identified the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the accreditation body of NOCA, as being an acceptable accrediting organization.”

A fitness professional is one who utilizes safe and common practices, relies on scientific principles, theories, and concepts that are associated with the human body including and not limited to: Anatomy and Physiology, Physics, Mechanics, Kinesiology, Health Screening and Assessment, Nutrition, and has a basic understanding of orthopedics, pharmacology, cardiology, neurology and psychology.

A credible fitness professional will consider the short and long-term affects an exercise may have on a client. Through exercise many goals may be achieved including performance enhancement, body building, weight loss, general conditioning, emotional well-being, vanity, rehabilitation, and structural integrity training.

Certification is intended to help industry professionals demonstrate their commitment to professionalism and ethic. Certification exams are designed to assess knowledge. The fitness professionals’ responsibility is to utilize that knowledge.

“The personal-training industry is quickly becoming part of the healthcare mainstream” [3] Many health and fitness organizations, as well as, consumers of personal training services are relying on accredited certification organizations to properly prepare fitness professionals to provide safe, effective, and efficient client centered exercise.

What to look for:

Nationally Accredited Certification – Current CRP-AED Certification – College degree in a related field –

Continued education and professional development

What to ask:

Is your certification accredited? – How did you prepare for your certification exam? – What are the safe and common practices you use as a trainer?




[3] Back to School! A growing number of universities are developing  personal training curriculums Tom Richards, IHRSA 09/06

Why Official Credentialing is Necessary for Personal Trainers

Why Official Credentialing is Necessary for Personal Trainers

According to a survey conducted by the National Board of Fitness Examiners, the best way to protect the integrity of personal training is through an official governing body. The survey asked 2720 personal trainers their thoughts on testing, licensures, and credentials. Results of the survey showed a strong desire from fitness professionals to keep standards uniform throughout the country and maintain a level of excellence in the field.

The majority of personal trainers surveyed believe they should be able to sit for a national exam, as opposed to passing exams in 50 different states. This would create consistent qualifications from state to state and require personal trainers to have the same skill set and knowledge, regardless of location. It would also make it easy for personal trainers to obtain a new license, should they move to a different state.

The survey shows a desire from those in the industry to maintain integrity through state licensure and national qualifications. There are several ways in which national credentialing would have a positive effect on the personal fitness training industry.

Eliminates Unqualified Trainers from the Industry

One of the main ways licensing helps the industry is to eliminate unqualified practitioners. Many survey respondents indicated they have come into contact with people they believed were not qualified to be working with clients. They believe licensing would weed these incompetent trainers out of the field, thus improving the overall reputation of personal training.

Improves Relationships with Other Heath Professionals

With this improved reputation comes a better relationship with other heath professionals. Approximately 75% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that licensing of personal trainers is likely to increase the perception of professionalism in the public’s eye. Practically the same amount felt it would increase referrals from healthcare professionals. Patients are also more likely to follow through on visits to personal trainers when referred by doctors and other health professionals.

This not only further establishes a solid reputation in health care, it increases the potential client pool and ultimately increases earnings for personal trainers. It should be noted, the majority of respondents do not think credentialing is likely to increase rates among personal trainers, but salaries will rise based on an increase in clients.

Increases Likelihood of Insurance Coverage for Fitness Training

This improved standing in the health care industry is also likely to increase the likelihood of insurance reimbursement for personal fitness training sessions. More than 60% of respondents believe licensure would increase insurance coverage for clients.

Moves the Industry Forward

Overall, most personal fitness trainers believe improved credentialing and licensure is likely to move the industry forward and establish greater credibility. Nearly 63% of survey respondents would like to be denoted as “licensed personal trainers,” if given the opportunity. Establishing minimum requirements to achieve the title of licensed professional, and knowing you and your peers have met these requirements boosts confidence and morale in an industry. Most survey respondents said they preferred a national exam over a state option and the majority of respondents favoring the state option indicated they would prefer national oversight of the exam material.

The survey shows a strong desire among personal fitness trainers to establish professionalism in the field. Ultimately, national credentialing would “… guide the evolution and future of personal training and move the industry forward.”

What You Need to Know Before Choosing a Personal Trainer

What You Need to Know Before Choosing a Personal Trainer

Summer is here and you are probably thinking that it’s time to get in shape. Working with a fitness professional / certified personal trainer is a great way to get started, maybe!

The human body is very efficient at adapting to stimulus (in the case of exercise we need to think in terms of force and time) in many ways. When speaking about exercise, our body will either “wear in” and adapt with positive results, or “wear out” by evidence of disinterest, excessive fatigue, joint and or muscular pain.

Exercise challenges a person’s central nervous, cardiovascular, pulmonary and musculoskeletal system and can present more risk then benefit if not initiated and progressed appropriately. Therefore exercise should be based your current level of, health, ability, and directed toward meeting your needs and goals.

“Safe, effective, efficient, exercise recommendations should be based on scientific fact, not public opinion or historical continuity of information!”

When choosing a personal trainer, here are some important factors to consider:

  • There are many types of personal training certifications currently available, and they vary greatly—from home study, online courses to University-accredited courses and nationally accredited certifications. In some cases, a certified personal trainer may have only studied textbook content, took an online course, or sat for a multiple choice exam. So be sure to ask your personal trainer if his/her education included practical, hands-on training inclusive of health assessments and exercise biomechanics.
  • Ask if the personal trainer is certified by a nationally recognized and accredited educational program. One way to make sure you receive the benefits of exercise while lowering risk is to work with a personal trainer who is knowledgeable about the musculoskeletal system and its physiological, neurological and mechanical properties. Certified personal trainers should also have the skills necessary to measure blood pressure and resting heart rate and understand the fundamental principles of exercise biomechanics, medical terminology, medical conditions and concerns, exercise program design, nutrition, and psychology.
  • Be sure your personal trainer logs exercise sessions and is able to modify and direct your program toward achieving your goals accordingly.
  • Your initial impression of the trainer is important: Is he/she neat, courteous, a good listener, and does he/she answer all of your questions and concerns?
  • Your personal trainer should be insured and have current CPR and Automated External Defibrillator certification.

It’s your body; the choices you make today are important for YOUR health.

Revving Up Your Metabolism Safely in the Summer Heat

Revving Up Your Metabolism Safely in the Summer Heat

The summer is upon us and for many fitness enthusiasts the idea of training indoors is painful!

Summer is the perfect time to go outside to rev up your metabolism and challenge your musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems. Whether you’re swimming, running or cycling; the sun, heat, humidity, and thermal regulation play a big role in how we respond.

The following are some tips for training outdoors:

  • Start and stay hydrated. When we sweat, we lose not only water, but electrolytes and sodium as well. These are critical elements to keeping our bodies ability to function optimally. Carry a bottle of water or a hydration solution of your choice. Take a drink every 15 minutes, even when you’re not thirsty.
  • Be Aware of the Symptoms of Dehydration. Dehydration can lead to light-headedness and nauseousness. Dehydration can potentially lead to kidney failure and or, in extreme cases, death. If experiencing dehydration symptoms be sure to rehydrate slowly and over time. Too much to soon can lead to Hyponatremia (lower-than-normal level of sodium).
  • Know the Symptoms of Hyponatremia – sometimes referred to as “water intoxication,“especially when it is due to the consumption of excess water, for example during strenuous exercise, without adequate replacement of sodium. This can lead to confusion, nausea, muscle cramps, seizures or even death in extreme cases (1).
  • Consider the time of day. Unless you are training for an event that takes place in the heat of day, avoid exercising during the common peak heat times 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For heat and humidity intolerant people early and late evening may be a better option. Wear loose, light colors. Light colors help deflect heat.  Some companies offer specific running shirts and shorts made from materials meant to keep you cool.
  • Wear Sunblock /Sunscreen– People with sensitive skin who burn quickly and must spend a lot of time outdoors should always apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more. The U.S. FDA is also considering a ruling that would limit the maximum SPF value on sunscreen labels to “50 +” because many scientists believe that there is insufficient evidence to show that products with SPF values higher than 50 provide greater protection for users than products with SPF values of 50 (2).
  • Check the weather forecast before you start your workout. If there’s a heat advisory, meaning high ozone and air pollution, you might want to take your workout indoors. These pollutants can damage your lungs. Consider this when walking a beach path near a parkway.

Most importantly, pay attention to and respect to your body. It will let you know when it is feeling up to the challenge or may want to take it a bit easier then you initially had planned.

Remember health and fitness aren’t gained in one workout, its a cumulative process over time.