Healing Through Exercise

Fitness Therapy Vs. Personal Training

Most disabled individuals require physical activity once formal Physical Therapy has been completed. They must implement an active physical regimen in order to maintain the advances that they have made in Physical Therapy. They must also be physically active to improve and maintain their health and to prevent hospital re-admissions. Many healthcare professionals recommend personal trainers as a remedy for this requirement. Although personal trainers are fitness professionals who holds the knowledge, skills and abilities to create safe and effective exercise programs to reach personal health and wellness goals, their work is predominantly with the healthy, able-body population. Few have the experience and/or the skills to develop and provide the needed programming for disabled individuals.

Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery (PWR!) “ exercise therapist implement neuroplasticity-principled, PD-specific exercise (rehab/fitness) programs for people with Parkinson disease that adhere to the latest European Physiotherapy Guidelines. An exercise-based program designed for all stages of Parkinson’s Disease (PD). Recent advances in basic and clinical science research suggest exercise and learning approaches may protect, repair, and optimize function in persons with Parkinson disease (PD). To be effective, proactive rehabilitation paradigms are needed that deliver ongoing programming for life, starting at diagnosis, and that are guided by the essential principles of learning and neuroplasticity. These research also suggest two types of exercise programs are essential to trigger brain health and repair mechanisms – vigorous aerobic exercise and skill acquisition (targeted practice to learn a new skill or relearn an old skill). These two essential “physiological tools” may even work best when performed simultaneously.

The National Academy of Sports Medicine states, are health and fitness professionals who perform individualized assessments, and design safe, effective and individualized exercise and conditioning programs which are scientifically valid and based on clinical evidence to clients with medical or special needs.

With a few top respected personal training institutions in the industry declaring that the scope of practice for personal trainers does not include the disabled community, what other option exists for the disabled population and the medical professionals who help them? Fitness Therapy is the answer. Fitness Therapy is defined as, “a specialized program for disabled, injured, or chronically ill individuals, consisting of physical exercises designed for specific goals and outcomes that promote total body health & wellness, which progress the individual to a greater level of independence.”

Fitness Therapy and Personal Training are often mistaken for the same service, even though the two professions are different in philosophy and purpose. A Fitness Therapist fills the void between a Physical Therapist and Personal Trainer. Fitness Therapy focuses strictly on working with special needs populations.

Fitness Therapists are required to obtain one of the following in order to practice as a Fitness Therapist:

  1. A Bachelor’s degree in an exercise science related field
  2. 2 year Associates Degree in Health, Exercise Science, or Recreation
  3. Specialized certifications geared towards working directly with the disabled community
    1. Audience: Personal Trainers and Group Fitness Instructors holding a current Nationally Recognized Certification
  4. No less than 500 hours of classroom and hands-on training with disabled individuals.
    1. Audience: Personal Trainers and Group Fitness Instructors holding a current Nationally Recognized Certification

The above criteria must be met by a Fitness Therapist before he/she is able to work independently and dedicate himself/herself to working solely with people with physical and/or disabilities.

Fitness Therapy offers medical professionals an additional resource to which they can refer their patients after they have been discharged from, or even in conjunction with Physical Therapy. A Fitness Therapy program assists the patient to gradually acclimate back to a community setting. Fitness Therapy helps to bridge the gap between Physical Therapy and a home exercise program (HEP) which unfortunately, is rarely followed for any length of time once the individual leaves the Physical Therapy program. In addition, the recidivism back to Physical Therapy once a HEP has failed wastes thousands of dollars.

Fitness Therapy and Personal Training please note the comparisons below:
Fitness Therapy = Disabled population | Personal Training = Able-body, healthy population

Now that you have the knowledge and understanding of the therapy continuums available to people with disabilities, it is hoped that you will educate others about Fitness Therapy. The personal successes which clients achieve from Fitness Therapy programs are notable by the care team who helps work with these individuals, but most of all by the client.

Fitness Therapy Hawaii Can:

  • Design an exercise program to meet your particular needs.
    • Evaluate and treat problems of mobility and walking.
    • Evaluate and treat joint or muscle pain which interferes with the activities of daily living.
    • Help with poor balance or frequent falling.
    • Teach carepartners proper body mechanics and techniques for helping someone with Parkinson disease.
    • Refer to movement and exercise programs in the community.
    • Treat difficulties accomplishing activities of daily living.
    • Recommend and teach the correct use of adaptive equipment.

Personal Training

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