Special needs require special fitness training

Although exercise has a positive effect on everyone’s health, people with special conditions and special needs have a more difficult time trying to incorporate good, healthy exercise choices into their lifestyle.

Many medical conditions — high blood pressure; diabetes; Parkinson’s; Alzheimer’s disease; fibromyalgia; arthritis; obesity; recovering from accidents or from athletic surgery; or heart surgery — require a thoughtful and knowledgeable approach to becoming fit or regaining fitness. Even pregnancy, as natural as it is, requires special considerations for workout scheduling and appropriate exercise and format choices.

Of course, anyone with a special consideration should check with their physician before engaging into a new exercise program. This is not because exercise is especially dangerous — statistics show that not exercising is far more dangerous. Instead, it is just to make sure that the client and the doctor agree that certain conditions must be made known, and if a trainer is involved, which is always a very good idea, that everyone is aware of any special requirements or limitations that exist.

Certified trainers will ask clients about any conditions and will ask for a letter of explanation and a medical release form from the attending physician before going ahead with an exercise prescription, if there are areas of concern. Some certified trainers also begin with a fitness evaluation that lets them know where their new client stands on certain measures, such as balance, flexibility, cardio-vascular fitness, power, strength, body percent fat, body girth measurements and abdominal strength. This is great information to have as trainers check back on a client’s progress. It also ensures that the exercises and level of exercises are appropriate and helpful at the onset.

Clients love it when they can see how much leaner and fitter they have become over just a few weeks!  

I have told people many times with special requirements or limitations that the best investment they can make is to have at least a few personalized sessions to get them started down the path toward fitness — correctly and safety.

A generalized class is not the place to start back or get started. Classes are for those who are “apparently well” and have no outstanding medical or physical conditions that would hamper them during a generalized fitness class. Even very easy classes may not be appropriate for someone who has blood pressure issues or is pregnant, for example. Going down to an exercise mat on the floor may not be appropriate or safe for some, and working with arms elevated over the shoulders may not either. Books, magazines, TV shows and videos are worse yet. Who knows who they were created for, and who knows if you are doing things correctly?

As baby boomers age and develop more medical issues, and as more schools cut physical education classes, specialized exercise for all ages is becoming more and more important. Whether the client needs help becoming the next varsity athletic hero or help keeping their balance and muscularity to prevent falls, a few training sessions with an experienced and educated personal fitness trainer is always the best choice.

It is interesting in this day and age that many medical insurance companies have largely decreased the number of physical rehabilitation sessions that they cover even though the numbers of baby boomers and numbers of people with special medical conditions are increasing. People recovering from strokes, heart attacks or falls are in need of specialized personal fitness training before returning in full force to the gym. The more formal education, certifications and experience that a trainer has, the more likely they will be able to help, and the more likely they have had successful sessions with someone just like you, who has special concerns and conditions.

• Jane Riley, M.S., B.A., C.P.T., Certified Nutritional Adviser, can be reached at janerileyfitness@gmail.com, 212-1451 or www.janerileyfitness.com.

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