Alexis Batrakoulis, PhD(c), MS, CSCS, CSPS, NSCA-CPT, RCPT*E; ACSM–EP, CPT, EIM II; ACE-CMES, CHC, CPT; NASM-CES, PES
It is well known and evidence-based that epidemic of obesity has grown at an alarming rate among adults and children, both at Asian and worldwide level (1). If we realize the fact that this epidemic is highly associated with the pandemic of physical inactivity nowadays (2), it is realistic and understood that health and fitness industry and its professionals are going to play a major role in the next period of time regarding the prevention, management and treatment of the most common metabolic disease called obesity.
The latest research findings show clearly that exercise and active living are the two key components for handling optimally this situation (7) and the fitness industry is able to take a big part of this strategic approach. According to available data, almost 3 billion adults worldwide will suffer from overweight or obesity by 2025. More specifically, more than 36% and almost 25% of Singaporean adults are overweight and obese, respectively (1). Moreover, 37% of the adult population are insufficiently physically active. (2).Generally and according to the definition by the World Health Organization (WHO), overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health based on the body mass index (BMI). Obesity is a major risk factor for a number of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cancer (3).
THE RATIONALE FOR SPECIALIZED EXERCISE PROFESSIONALS
Exercise professionals should be involved actively in order to help people to be healthier, with better quality of life and less chronic conditions. Therefore, instructing and supervising exercise to previously inactive overweight/obese individuals requires the development of specific training and continuous education focused on this type of special populations. Lifestyle interventions are more effective than the most recommended drugs and play the key role regarding the treatment of this chronic condition. That is why there is a need of inspired and highly motivated professionals in the global fitness industry who are trained in this specific group of people and they have as first priority the weight control, health promotion, quality of life and well-being. Let us not underestimate that exercise for weight loss is considered the number one fitness trend in Asia according to the latest survey by the American College of Sports Medicine (4).
THE ROLE OF EXERCISE SPECIALIST
Exercise professionals and especially well educated and trained personal trainers should be able to apply an individualized approach and assess and motivate clients struggling with obesity to an active and healthy lifestyle. They should also have as priority the behavior change of these people by using optimal communicative skills and empathy (5). A new era within the health and fitness industry will begin when the exercise prescription will be a reality. Of course, we know that there is a real progress towards this direction and it has been shown as one of the new trends in the global industry of fitness the last years (6) but the gap between fitness and healthcare professionals is visible and really huge in most cases and especially in developing countries. Specifically, the occupation of Weight Management Exercise Specialist was recently selected as one of the most promising future occupations for the next 10 years among certified exercise professionals registered onto the European Register of Exercise Professionals (EREPS) (7). Additionally, the annual medical cost of treating the consequences of obesity, such as diabetes and heart disease, is truly alarming. In 2017, the World Obesity Federation published a report announcing that the global cost will be $1.2 trillion every year from 2025.
THE EVOLUTION OF PERSONAL TRAINING
In summary, we should be focused extensively on the individuals who are being under attack by the most aggressive chronic condition right now worldwide. It is up to us to take action and have the opportunity to obtain integral, multidimensional and evidence-based knowledge regarding this case. The interaction among obesity, fitness industry and specialized personal trainers could be work as a big chance for the expansion and progress of this industry both in developed and developing national fitness markets. Especially with obesity rates on the rise, exercise professionals are in a position to change someone’s health for the better and for the long haul. They can also work in a variety of settings beyond the gym, from hospitals to corporate wellness departments to clients’ homes to outdoor boot camps.
The role of the qualified fitness professionals in this fight is absolutely crucial for creating more active and healthy society nowadays while promoting innovation in the health and fitness industry through customized and top-level services (8). It is quite obvious that this planet needs specialized staff under the role of an Exercise Specialist in obesity and weight management with an optimal education, training and certification, with great communication skills, high inspiration and motivation. These people need us, they cannot exercise by themselves, they are not allowed to improvise and be arbitrary and there must be a specially trained staff who will take over because everybody needs a mentor and educator in order to get results and success.
- World Health Organization. Noncommunicable Diseases Country Profiles 2018. https://www.who.int/nmh/publications/ncd-profiles-2018/en/, 2018 (accessed 1 September 2018).
- R. Guthold, G.A. Stevens, L.M. Riley, F.C. Bull, Worldwide trends in insufficient physical activity from 2001 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 358 population-based surveys with 1·9 million participants, The Lancet6(10), 1077-1086, 2018.
- American College of Sports Medicine. ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, Tenth ed., Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Philadelphia, 2017.
- V.M. Kercher, Y. Feito, B. Yates. International Comparisons: ACSM’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends. ACSMs Health Fit J. 23(6), 41-48, 2019.
- A.M. Adelman, M. Graybill. Integrating a Health Coach into Primary Care: Reflections from Penn State Ambulatory Research Network. Annals of Family Medicine3(2), 33-35, 2005.
- W.R. Thompson. Worldwide survey reveals fitness trends for 2019. ACSMs Health Fit J.23(6), 10-18, 2019.
- A. Batrakoulis, T. Rieger, R. Santos Rocha. The relationship between special populations and credentials for the European fitness professionals. In: Proceedings of the 28th Symposium of the International Council for Physical Activity and Fitness Research (ICPAFR); 2016 Aug 24-27: Kaunas (Lithuania). Lithuanian Sports University; 2016. p. 27.
- T. Rieger, A. Batrakoulis. Innovations in fitness education: The European approach of standards developments for specialist occupations. In: Middelkamp J, Rutgers H, editors. Growing the fitness sector through innovation. Brussels, BE & Den Bosch, NL: EuropeActive & BlackBoxPublishers; 2016. p. 149-163.
Alexis Batrakoulis is the Founder and Education Director of the International Obesity Exercise Training Institute presenting in 40 countries across four continents and is based in Greece. He holds a B.S. in Sports Science and an M.S. in Exercise and Health, and is working on a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology with a concentration on exercise and obesity. He also serves as a Member on several Committees for ACSM, ACE, NSCA and EuropeActive and was the recipient of the 2018 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and 2019 IDEA Fitness Innovation awards.