Lock your trays and put your seat in the upright position, because this is going to be a bumpy ride for most of you.
The current health care system is so broken, some may say it is beyond repair. I happen to be more of an optimist however. I think there are certain things that can be done to ensure everyone benefits here.
So what’s wrong with the current system you ask? Well, aside from the fact that because of new regulations a general practitioner has about 7-10 minutes to spare for an office visit, the only thing doctors are taught to do today are write prescriptions for drugs. To compound that, personal trainers and fitness professionals do not have enough education to help offset the doctors, and truthfully, they don’t get paid enough to care to do so. There is a revolution coming, and it’s called functional medicine. It is not new by any means, but it is becoming more popular because of the issues that have arisen with the current system.
So the way the current system is laid out, doctors are really great for catastrophic events, and that’s about it. I haven’t been to a general practitioner going on 7 years, but you better believe, I have been to orthopedic surgeons, cardiologists, and dermatologists in that time. Why? Because our health care system is phenomenal at treating catastrophic events. Broken bones, torn ligaments, cancer, disease, etc. we are second to none. People travel to this country from all across the globe to be treated by neurosurgeons, plastic surgeons, and the like. However, as a country, we have turned into a reactive system rather than proactive. We don’t care about preventing disease, because we’re so good at treating it (and making money from it) when it happens.
Doctors aren’t taught to treat problems in school today. They’re taught to prescribe drugs. Most of that is because big pharmaceutical companies are the ones that are funding medical schools. But that is another argument for another day. Just check out “Prescription Thugs” on Netflix, or wherever you go for movies on the interwebs. It’s a great documentary by Chris Bell (yes the same guy who made Bigger, Faster, Stronger) that looks into the problem with the healthcare issues today.
Don’t believe me? Next time you go to your doctor ask for a blood panel and see what happens. I have friends that have requested blood work from their GP’s and were met with laughter and the “you don’t know what you would even look for” condescending remarks. Imagine that, a doctor refusing a patient's request for testing that would give a better picture of their health? But if you went in and said, “hey Doc, I’m not feeling like myself lately. It’s been hard to get up in the morning and stay motivated, I think I need Zoloft” you better believe you’d get that Zoloft faster than you can spell depression. *DISCLAIMER: not all doctors are like this. So if you are or know someone who is a great doctor, then this isn’t about you/them. However it would be ignorant to fail to recognize the unfortunate truth that the majority of doctors are like the previous example.
So where do fitness professionals come into all this? I’m glad you asked. We should be the ones that are in charge of health care. Ask any personal trainer/strength coach/nutritionist and they will tell you that they are responsible for their clients’ exercise, nutrition, rehab from injury, and also they are the therapist that listens and helps clients handle problems in their lives. Fitness professionals are the ones that interact with the general public on a daily basis, not once every 6-12 months. We are the ones who have the most influence on a person’s health. It is time that we step up and accept some responsibility. We can be the ones to start the shift toward a proactive system.
Currently, the fitness professional situation isn’t much better than the doctor’s. Our education system is subpar. Most programs do a poor job teaching exercise physiology majors how to succeed in the real world. Aside from the fact that they teach material that is 30-40+ years old (might as well be on stone tablets in the science world) they harp on things like cellular metabolism, specific bony structures, and other “textbook information” but fail to teach students how to interact with clients and how to motivate the obese 45 year-old man to come to the gym everyday and lose weight lest he succumb to diabetes or cardiovascular disease leaving behind his wife and two young children. Don’t get me wrong, textbook information is a necessary part of education, but to ignore the other side is a complete injustice and sets students up for failure when they get into the real world.
Also, the certifications for fitness professionals are too easy. The NSCA-CSCS is considered by many the “gold standard.” However, the requirement is just a Bachelor’s degree. So we see people that went to school for 4 years to learn accounting, graduate, hate their jobs, and then decide to switch to the fitness industry. They buy the book, study for the test and pass. Now all of a sudden they are technically on the same level as someone who went to school for Ex-Phys for 4 years and understands how the body works. That doesn’t seem right, does it?
So how do we fix this? We, as an entire industry, need step our shit up, that’s how we fix it. We need to stop accepting the bare minimum and begin to raise our standards. Education needs to be more comprehensive, and certifications need to be more exclusive. We are the only people that can raise the standards, no one is going to do it for us. It also begins with us demanding more money. In an ideal situation, fitness professionals would be paid almost as much as doctors. But in order to deserve that, we need to put in the work to get to that level.
If you haven’t stopped reading my ranting yet, you might remember I mentioned something called functional medicine earlier. Functional medicine is a type of practice that takes a holistic look at the body and health care and looks to treat problems at their source. For example, if you are dealing with depression, doctors will look to blood tests to look at thyroid hormone levels. And rather than taking Zoloft which just alters neurotransmitters in the brain, a functional doctor will suggest treatment for the underlying cause: fixing your thyroid hormone balance.
I truly believe that if fitness professionals want to help take the industry to the next level we need to start partnering with functional medicine practitioners, or even looking into the education for ourselves. A personal trainer/strength coach that is educated in functional medicine would surely set them apart from the rest of the fitness population. Together, we can assure complete care for our clients and also better our own standing in the industry.
So I think I’ve made me point pretty clear: the current system is broken, and it needs to be fixed. If we truly care about our clients like we say we do, it’s time to step up and take responsibility. We as the fitness industry need to step up our game and fix our education systems. Teaming up with the functional medicine doctors would provide us a great benefit and is a good place to start. Gone are the days of the meathead personal trainer. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of the personal trainer/fitness enthusiast being depicted as a big dumb meathead with big muscles and a cutoff shirt who makes $10/hr to teach people bicep curls and quarter squats. Let’s do something about it.
So you’re interested. But where do you start? Well, here are a few resources from some big names in the industry that are already pushing for something similar to what I have written about:
Dr. Kirk Parsley: Former Navy SEAL, sleep specialist, MD, doctor for the SEAL teams.
His personal website. Contains a lot of great material and also his product: Doc Parsley’s Sleep Remedy
Podcast with Dr. Parsley with the crew from Barbell Shrugged. Great information into the current healthcare system and what can be done to fix it.
Robb Wolf: Former research biochemist, NY Times best selling author, strength coach, founder of Nor-Cal Crossfit
His personal website. Chock full of information about all types of great aspects of the fitness industry
Podcast with Dr. Perlmutter that discusses the connection between the gut and the rest of the body.
Podcast the covers different aspects of nutrition and functional medicine
Chris Kresser: globally recognized leader in the fields of ancestral health, Paleo nutrition, and functional and integrative medicine
His personal website that contains great material about functional medicine
Podcast with Robb Wolf that discusses functional medicine and it’s benefits.
Chris Kresser’s website for practitioners that want to further themselves in functional medicine.
Want to look for a functional medicine doctor near you? Click here [https://www.functionalmedicine.org/practitioner_search.aspx?id=117]!