Who Benefits the Most from a Personal Trainer?

by Lisa Snow

 While anyone can benefit from a personal trainer, some people need a trainer more than others.  A few groups who can really benefit from the 1-on-1 attention of a certified personal trainer are busy professionals, new moms, seniors, post-rehabilitation clients, and people with disabilities.








                                                    Busy professionals could use a trainer to help them maximize the little time they have to work out by creating an individualized program based on an in-depth assessment.  Instead of adding more sets, reps, or exercises, perhaps you just need to swap out less efficient exercises for more effective ones.  Did you know that interval training burns more fat than steady state cardio?  Or that multi-joint strength exercises burn more calories than single-joint moves, and develop strength just as well?  A trainer can use these and other science-based strategies to help you reach your fitness and wellness goals.

New moms not only want to lose the baby weight, they need to regain their core strength.  A personal trainer certified in pre- and post-natal who comes to their home or their apartment building gym could save them the stress and cost of trying to find childcare during their workouts.  Small group personal training with 2 or 3 other new moms could provide an emotionally supportive environment while each woman could still get a unique workout that is customized for her.

Seniors often get lost in the shuffle of big box gyms, either joining large classes where they don’t receive personal attention, or limiting themselves to cardio machines because they are unsure how to use other machines or weights.  For older women, the most important form of exercise is strength training to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, or slow its progression if they have already been diagnosed.  For both men and women, balance training is extremely important.  Many people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s are concerned about falling.  However, loss of balance is caused primarily by having gotten out of practice, not by any biological effect of aging!  A personal trainer experienced with seniors can help you regain the strength, core stability, and movement patterning you need.  With consistent work, you will maintain or regain your ability to stand on one foot, walk without a cane, and get up from the floor with grace and ease.

Post-rehabilitation clients tend to fall into one of two groups.  The first group consists of people who were very physically active before the injury; they are often excited to get back into working out, assuming they will be able to do what they did before just because they have received a discharge from physical therapy.  They need a trainer who can help them take a slow, steady approach to prevent re-injury while maximizing performance.  The second group was sedentary before their injury.  After the hard work of physical therapy, the last thing many of them want to do is more exercise.  However, beginning a fitness regimen for the first time after finishing therapy can help raise their energy level, relieve stress, and allow them to lose the weight once and for all.  Having a trainer who understands the type of injury you sustained will allow you to reach your goals much faster than joining a class where the instructor may not be able to customize the exercises to your needs.

A trainer specializing in post-rehab can help both groups of clients work their way back to their pre-injury fitness level gradually.  The trainer should be willing to spend time on the phone with your physical therapists, getting a list of Do’s, Don’t’s, and things to focus on with you.  Some trainers will even go in person to observe one of your therapy sessions.  A test called the Functional Movement Screen, invented by nationally recognized sports physical therapist Gray Cook, is also extremely helpful.  This test can either be performed by the physical therapist just prior to discharge, or by the personal trainer on intake.  This screen looks at seven fundamental movement patterns and three possible areas for impingement, for a total of ten tests, all of which can be finished in under half an hour.  After the test, your trainer will know which areas of the body need more stability vs. where you need more mobility, and create a customized game plan for you based on the results.

People with disabilities and chronic illnesses perhaps stand to gain the most from a personal trainer.  A correctly designed exercise program can help with activities of daily living like opening heavy doors and transferring in and out of the chair, in addition to the obvious benefits like weight loss.  Having worked with teens, adults, and seniors with a wide variety of health challenges including Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and arthritis, I’ve also gotten the chance to see the difference fitness can make in a client’s energy, stress level, and self esteem.  While the ADA and similar laws have made many public places (including gyms) more wheelchair accessible, the exercise machines inside those gyms often are not accessible or user friendly.  A personal trainer can help you identify the best equipment for your ability level and goals.  Even the least accessible gyms will have at least a few pieces of equipment you would be able to use, including bands, tubing, dumbbells, stretch tables, and some cable machines.  A trainer experienced with physical disabilities may also bring their own equipment.



Missed last month’s column? Read it now:

Motivate Yourself to Better Health
Three Dimensional Fitness