The knowledge and practice of personal trainers working with people with long term health conditions

McNamara, Jack and Elliott, Anne ORCID logoORCID: (2019) The knowledge and practice of personal trainers working with people with long term health conditions. BASES Conference 2019 – Programme and Abstracts, Journal of Sports Sciences. In: BASES Conference 2019, 27-28 Nov 2019, Harrogate Convention Centre, Harrogate, United Kingdom. . [Conference or Workshop Item] (doi:10.1080/02640414.2019.1671688)


In a 2018 survey of fitness industry employers, 95% consider the skills required to engage with and support those with long term health conditions (special populations) should be included as standard in the personal trainer qualification rather than being an optional study route, with 86% of employers believing that personal trainers are inadequately equipped to work with special populations (Future Fit and UK Active, 2018, Raising the Bar). The most substantial body of research linking the fitness profession and special populations can be found in the research on Exercise Referral Schemes, though this remains predominantly focused on evaluating the success of the schemes rather than exploring the practices and effectiveness of the fitness professionals working within them (De Lyon, Neville, & Armour, 2016, Quest, 69(3), 313–330). The study aimed to develop a deeper understanding of the knowledge and practice of personal trainers working with special populations, to identify the current skills gaps associated with industry qualifications from a practitioner perspective. With institutional ethics approval, semi-structured open-ended interviews were conducted to explore the experience of 12 personal trainers who had completed either a Level 3 exercise referral or Level 4 specialist instructor course accredited by the Register of Exercise Professionals. Data analysis began after the first interview. The first stage involved initial coding, where labels were attached to lines or fragments of the data. Focused coding then facilitated the synthesis of codes to identify the most prominent and significant categories. At this stage, data analysis informed data collection, with emergent categories elaborated upon during subsequent interviews (Weed, 2009, Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 10, 502–510). Three major themes emerged. Firstly, personal trainers’ scepticism regarding the quality of exercise recommendations made by the medical profession. Secondly, the apparent discrepancy between personal trainers’ knowledge acquired through vocational and higher education, and the tacit knowledge which informs their professional practice. Thirdly, the perceived lack of clear or defined developmental career pathway for exercise professionals. The results suggest a strong belief amongst participants that the economic agendas of fitness industry employers, rather than public health guidelines, strongly influence the development of educational and career pathways within the fitness industry. Future implications for knowledge acquisition and professional practice include a need for greater cooperation between the medical and fitness sectors to establish higher levels of evidence-based practice.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology > London Sport Institute
Item ID: 28943
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Dr Anne Elliott
Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2020 11:34
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2020 21:43

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