Protecting yourself as a Personal Fitness Trainer (PFT) can be accomplished in several ways. Working as a personal trainer on your own requires that you purchase liability insurance, which is usually covered by a corporate gym. But insuring that you have a proper and thorough Health History Questionnaire (HHQ) ensures that you are not only protecting yourself but your client as well.
Working in a corporate gym these forms are generally given to you and a protocol is established for you, the personal trainer, to get the information needed. A general HHQ should include questions relating to demographic, medical diagnosis (cardiovascular, pulmonary, musculoskeletal disorders, metabolic), health habits (stress, alcohol usage, diet, etc.), exercise history, pregnancy status, family history (immediate family: mother, father, sisters, brothers), and current/past symptoms for disease (chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, etc.). This information is then used to first decide if your client needs medical clearance to participate in an exercise program, and then used to create a well-balanced exercise program based off your client’s current fitness level.
After completing a thorough health screening some of the most important questions to analyze are the coronary artery disease (CAD) risk factors. The CAD risk factors are totaled and clients are classified as low risk (no more than one risk factor), moderate risk (two or more risk factors) or high risk (known CV or pulmonary disease; known metabolic disease). The American College of Sports Medicine suggests that the list be considered all-inclusive and be used as guidelines when determining if medical clearance is required.
The last step in completing a HHQ is having your client give an informed consent. Sometimes there is a signature at the end of the HHQ or a separate sheet, but this is vital to protecting yourself and your place of work. Your client is embarking on an exercise regiment that may cause them pain or injury, and therefore it is always important that you are following the proper protocol as a personal trainer.
As a Personal Trainer this is an opportunity to show your professionalism and knowledge in the field, but also create a trainer-client relationship. By making your clients aware of possible health risks, you can further increase your chances of helping your client make lifestyle changes. At the end of the day getting your client to their goals is your job, and by not properly assessing your client you may be causing more harm than good.
Please see the sample HHQ as a guideline for your assessment and check out the Personal Fitness Trainer education course offered by NESTA!
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by Tyler Valencia