What is an Exercise or Physical trainer?
An physical or exercise trainer has education and training that focuses on assessing an individual's fitness level and then customizing an exercise program to meet both the goals of the person and to optimize health. Benefits include improved strength, flexibility, cardiovascular, endurance and health. A physical trainer can reduce physical injury by insuring you do exercise correctly. For many of us, an exercise trainer can help us keep up with our exercise program- providing motivation, fun and assistance in increasing the intensity when appropriate.
Most exercise trainers prefer clearance for regular exercise by the individual's primary care physician.
How are they different from physical therapy (PT)?
Physical trainers are trained in the development of exercise programs that are well rounded for general health or competition. Physical therapists earn either masters or doctoral degrees that focus on medical knowledge of injury and disease and are adept at treating problems related to muscle, tendons, ligaments and bones. Physical therapists may also specialize in sports related injury or medical conditions related to the heart, lungs or neurological disease. Physical therapy is considered a medically supervised treatment.
How can they help people with PD?
Both the physical trainer and physical therapist can help people with PD. The following strategy is the safest way to use a train plus insures that you are getting the most out of your exercise program.
- Start by seeing your primary care physician or neurologist for a referral and prescription to see PT to develop a home exercise plan unique to your needs.
- The physical therapist completes an evaluation that reviews both your physical strengths and weaknesses and recommends further treatment if indicated. You will be discharged from PT once you meet these goals.
- Ask your physical therapist for an exercise program that you can do with your trainer. It is most helpful to get this program in writing. Also request your PT to list problems you and your trainer can watch out for and/or problems or changes that would require you to return to PT in the future.
- Some individuals have brought their trainer to a PT session to insure exercises are done appropriately once discharged.
- Once you have met your goals and are discharged from PT, your physical trainer can take over to develop a well rounded exercise program that focuses on the changes in the body related to Parkinson’s as well as overall optimal health.
- Most importantly work with your trainer to develop a plan that will keep you motivated and insure you stay on track with your exercise and goals!
How can I find one?
Physical trainers can be found in fitness clubs, wellness centers, and community centers. You may also ask your PT, health care provider and support group members for a referral. Because you have Parkinson’s disease it is especially important that you work with a trainer that has the right experience and education.
Author: Sierra Farris, PA-C, MSPAS. Deep Brain Stimulation program Coordinator Booth Gardner parkinson's Care Center, Kirkland WA. Prior to her positon as a physician assistant, Ms. Farris was an certified exercise and wellness trainer.