Top Fitness Trends for 2011: Educated and Experienced Fitness Professionals

Jan 04, 2011
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As mentioned in the introductory post, for the first several weeks of the year I will be discussing the results of the ACSM survey regarding the top fitness trends for 2011.

Education and professional development are two things that I get really excited about and think are absolutely critical in any field, particularly a field like fitness that has received criticism in this area, so I was floored to see that “Educated and Experienced Fitness Professionals” was once again identified as the top fitness trend for 2011. I firmly believe that building a solid foundation of well-educated fitness professionals is a vital component of efforts to improve the health of the general public, and I am reassured to see that many others in the field seem to feel the same way.

There are many exciting things happening in the education and training of fitness professionals! For example:

  • From 2003 to 2008, the kinesiology major (the study of physical activity, exercise, human movement, etc) grew by more than 50%.
  • Several states are considering legislation that will regulate fitness professionals, specifically personal trainers, in the same way that other health professionals, such as physicians, are regulated.
  • Efforts are being made to create standards for fitness and health facility practices.

Most exciting to me, though, is the recent development of training opportunities in working with people with disabilities.

One of the frequent observations and complaints of individuals with disabilities is that fitness professionals do not know how to interact with them and do not know how to design programs that will meet their needs. The facilities, programs, and services that fitness professionals design and offer are often inaccessible and not inclusive. In my opinion, much of the blame can be placed on educational and professional development programs that have, historically, neglected the importance of training in working with people with disabilities. Changes are coming, though!

Now, the most widely recognized certification for working with people with disabilities is the ACSM Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer (CIFT). What is so great about this certification is that it doesn’t only focus on the physiological and biomechanical aspects of physical activity programming for people with disabilities; it also focuses on disability awareness, accessible facility design, inclusive programming, and considerations in behavior modification for people with disabilities. Without these foundational components of training in disability, understanding the physiology and biomechanics will have little impact on the lives of individuals. More information on this certification can be found on the ACSM website.

Also exciting is the growth of undergraduate and graduate courses that prepare future fitness professionals to work with people with disabilities. There have long been courses in “special populations,” but what these new courses add is that component of disability awareness training that is so critical. At the University of Illinois at Chicago, where I attend school, Dr. Jennifer Rowland teaches a graduate course called “Disability and Physical Activity” (DHD 520) and Dr. Karrie Hamstra-Wright teaches an undergraduate course called “Modifications in Exercise Programming” (KN448) – both drive home the importance of understanding much more than the basic physiological aspects of a condition. All kinesiology students should be required to take a course of this nature before graduating!

Education in this area is critical and the opportunities are quickly growing! As the field continues to develop, fitness professionals must take the initiative and pursue these new opportunities!

Some additional resources for education and professional development in physical activity for people with disabilities:

Author: Carolyn



  • Mary Rudd

    I live in South Africa and work as a rehabilitation therapist. I am looking for any company that supplies gym equipment that is universally accessible. It would need to have wheelchair clamps and use hydraulics or somesuch so that changing the weight is done by selecting a switch or moving a dial.  Do you know of any such equipment? Mary Rudd

  • Carolyn Lullo

    As of right now, the best resource that I know for inclusive fitness equipment is the Inclusive Fitness Initiave based out of the UK.  They have a listing of fitness equipment that they have accredited as “inclusive.”  That list can be found at http://www.inclusivefitness.org/inclusive-fitness-initiative/inclusive-fitness-equipment/accredited-equipment/.  I hope this is helpful!

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