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How To Choose a Personal Trainer For Optimal Recovery

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We now live in a culture that in some respects is quickly moving toward a society of wellness. After an illness or an injury, patients are regularly prescribed physical therapy by their doctors. Hospitals are not just offering the in-hospital therapy room, but have widened the possibilities of successful recovery by opening whole exercise facilities and gyms, and enlisting the help of professional personal trainers.

Julie K. Silver, M.D., Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School and author of Super Healing (Rodale Pub. 2007), recommends that everyone traveling through the Healing Zone — the period of time after an injury or illness when additional healing can still occur — add a strengthening regimen with the aid of a physical therapist, a personal trainer, or by simply slowly returning to an exercise routine used before the illness or injury.

Within Super Healing's chapter, "Exercise To Build Strength and Endurance," Dr. Silver identifies a study published in the Journal of Gerontology (2005) regarding the significance of exercise. The preliminary study revealed that exercise promotes wound healing. In addition, daily exercise reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, and obesity. Dr. Silver also states that generally, chronic diseases such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and fibromyalgia will show improvement with regular and appropriate exercise.

The therapeutic exercise program used in a rehabilitation center will utilize a prescription from the doctor for physical and occupational therapy. It will include cardiovascular, strengthening, flexibility, coordination/balance training, and sport-specific exercises.

The U.S. Department of Labor states that a physical therapist is a graduate of an accredited educational program and must be licensed, the majority working in hospitals or private offices. Their patients, typically accident victims or those with disabling conditions, receive a thorough medical history examination and physical testing before beginning a program.

Dr. Silver recommends patients discuss with their doctors when to move from a physical therapist to a physical trainer, depending upon each person's recovery situation.

Dr. Silver includes the following six tips for how to choose a personal trainer:

Choose someone who is certified. As an example, look to the American Council on Exercise for guidance regarding training and certification of trainers. Other licensing agencies exist for trainers, but they are many and uncertified. Stick with those accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Also, consult your doctor or physical therapist for a qualified trainer.

Ask for references. Speak with other clients of the potential trainer. Ask about how the trainer addresses clients' health needs. A qualified trainer should have a basic understanding of nutrition, anatomy, physiology, exercise prescriptions, and be certified in CPR.

Julie K. Silver, M.D.Review the trainer's policies and procedures. These should be in writing and offer you a clear understanding of what is expected regarding cancellation, fees, billing, and perhaps liability insurance.

Insist on a trainer who understands your health needs. Initially you should be asked to fill out a health questionnaire, have it reviewed together with the trainer, and begin an exercise program suited to your physical needs.

Decide if this is someone you will feel comfortable working with. This includes the complete arrangement — time of day, place, and number of sessions per week.

Trust your gut. Use your instincts regarding the situation. Make sure you're comfortable with it as the two of you will be working together.

Therapeutic exercise after injury or illness is essential to optimal recovery Leading toward a better quality of life; it contributes to: enhanced immune function, bone and body strength, lower cholesterol, weight control, improved metabolism, heart and lung function, among many other physical benefits.

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