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Evidence-Based Practice for the Exercise Professional

Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) first gained attention in the 90's when its use exploded in the medical community. Before that, healthcare decisions were often based on medical training, textbooks and professional experience, all of which can become outdated quickly. It is estimated that by the time a medical text goes to print, it is already one year behind the most current evidence and best practice. The greatest advantage of basing one's practice on scientific evidence is that decisions are influenced by the most up to date information, as it evolves. This is not to say that medical training, text resources and professional experience are worthless. On the contrary, they provide the prerequisite knowledge to be able to critically evaluate new research.

The challenge comes when practitioners have a bias towards an outdated methodology, are resistant to change, unaware of how to effectively use EBP, or all of the above. Unfortunately, too many in the fitness industry fall into one or more of those categories. Nowhere is this more evident than the area of personal training, where there is a serious lack of understanding when it comes to EBP. Sadly, personal trainers aren't required to demonstrate a minimal level of competency before working with clients. And while most personal trainers are certified, not all certifications are created equal. Several certifying organizations offer credentials after just a weekend course, or allow candidates to complete an exam from home. Consequently, there are a number of personal trainers that lack formal education or training in exercise science and nutrition. The problem with this scenario is that these trainers don't possess the required knowledge, skills and abilities to properly incorporate the best evidence into their practice, putting clients at risk.

Quality exercise professionals are different. These individuals have been educated in the areas of exercise physiology, nutritional sciences, kinesiology, and research methods. Degreed professionals have spent at least 4 years learning how to practice using evidence-based principals. They have learned how to effectively gather and interpret information. Furthermore, a quality exercise professional will demonstrate his or her competency by completing an accredited certification process. Two of the most well respected certifying organizations are the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the National Strength and Conditioning (NSCA). Both the ACSM and NSCA help disseminate the best evidence through their peer-reviewed scientific journals. Each organization requires its certified professionals to meet continuing education requirements, helping to ensure a process of ongoing learning. It is this constant search for knowledge that sets exercise professionals apart from fitness enthusiasts, and helps to ensure that the services they provide are the safest and most effective possible.


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