The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Give trainer's credentials, references a good workout.

Friday, May. 07, 2010

Star-Telegram : Life & Arts : HEALTH


The people who cut Texans' hair and administer acupuncture treatments are regulated by the state, but the personal trainers who minister to our muscles are not.

"Anyone can put a shingle out and call themselves a personal trainer" in virtually any state, said Barbara Bushman, a Missouri State University exercise physiologist and fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine. "You're responsible for yourself."

Still, there are guidelines that consumers can use to find knowledgeable pros in the still-young personal training industry.

"The hallmark is earning that CPT. It's the initials you can put after your name" that stand for certified personal trainer, said Laura Fast, director of credentialing and certification at the not-for-profit Cooper Institute in Dallas. "It's like a CPA."

Make sure they're accredited

Neal Pire, a New York-based trainer and American College of Sports Medicine fellow, recommends looking for trainers with credentials from organizations accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. There are about a dozen, including the American College of Sports Medicine, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the American Council on Exercise and the Cooper Institute.

Fast calls the NCCA criteria "the gold standard," and said that although certifying organizations can follow the guidelines without being accredited by NCCA, those that use the criteria typically seek accreditation.

"Certainly the more education and training, including certifications, that one has, the more professional their experiences and knowledge should be," Jim Morrow, a professor in the University of North Texas kinesiology, health promotion, and recreation department, wrote in an e-mail. "That being said, some certifications require little formal training. I would look for a trainer with the most content-related education and experience and wed that to certification to the best personal training experiences."

Bushman recommends looking for a trainer with a higher-level certification, such as the ACSM's Health Fitness Specialist, or HFS, and a bachelor's degree in a field such as exercise and movement science or kinesiology. Trainers with such qualifications are trained to engage in pre-activity screening and to ask about potential clients' medications.

In addition, Pire stressed querying trainers about liability insurance, whether you're in a gym or not. Employees are typically covered under employer's policies; independent contractors may not be, however.

"Also, they should have no problem giving you access to one, two or three clients" they've trained, Pire said. "You need some kind of feedback."

Setting goals with a trainer

As for fitness goals, those are as varied as the people who hire trainers. Although almost anyone could benefit, experts say, highly motivated, knowledgeable folks may not need a trainer.

"Moving from sedentary behaviors to an active lifestyle is not simply a 'just do it' thing," Morrow wrote. "As in all areas, having a support system, whether that is a physician, healthcare provider, spouse, loved one or personal trainer, can help make that transition.

"That being said, not everyone is familiar or knowledgeable about how to make that behavior change," he wrote. "Contact someone who can help you.

Pire recalls the Wall Street executive who retained him to show up at his front door at 6 a.m. three times a week to train him and his wife in their home gym..

"He chose a trainer to come in at 6 a.m. when he had no excuse," Pire said. "He wanted someone who would be his conscience."

JOHN AUSTIN, 817-390-7874 

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