The True Measure of a Medical Exercise Professional: Consistency and Competence


The True Measure of a Medical Exercise Professional: Consistency and Competence

In recent years, the fitness industry has seen a proliferation of certifications for medical exercise, medical fitness, and post-rehabilitation. The growing demand for highly qualified medical exercise professionals is undeniable. However, the critical question arises: are these certifications, and the individuals who obtain them, truly prepared to work in conjunction with medical professionals and manage medical conditions through exercise?

Since its inception in 1994, the Medical Exercise Training Institute has been at the forefront of providing comprehensive medical exercise and post-rehabilitation education. METI has highlighted six essential competencies medical exercise professionals must master to deliver effective and safe exercise management.

The Six Must-Have Competencies

  1. Competence in Medical Exercise Sciences: Understanding a wide range of medical conditions is crucial. A medical exercise professional must have a solid foundation in clinical anatomy, clinical pathology, biomechanics, kinesiology and exercise physiology to develop appropriate exercise programs for clients with medical conditions.
  2. Thorough Assessment Skills: The ability to perform a detailed assessment to identify a client's deficits and determine if they are suitable for medical exercise training is essential. This ensures the exercise program is tailored to address the client's specific needs.
  3. Program Development Expertise: Developing an exercise program that targets the client's functional deficits and improves their overall functional capacity is a core skill. The program must be safe, effective, and progressively challenging.
  4. Professional Communication: Clear and professional communication with medical professionals is vital. This ensures a cohesive approach to the client's management and fosters trust between the medical exercise professional and the healthcare team. 
  5. Understanding Scope and Role: Fully comprehending the role and scope of a medical exercise specialist within the healthcare continuum is necessary. This understanding helps collaborate effectively with other healthcare providers.
  6. Impact of Exercise on Medical Conditions: Recognizing the importance of exercise in managing medical conditions is fundamental. A medical exercise professional must appreciate how exercise can positively impact a client's health and functional abilities. Recognition of exercise contraindications is also necessary.

While these competencies may seem straightforward, it is concerning how many certified medical exercise professionals fail to adhere to these guidelines consistently. The medical community expects the fitness professionals they refer clients to have a comparable understanding of clinical concepts and the ability to develop safe and effective exercise programs without constant guidance.

The Importance of Consistent Competence

Reflecting on three decades of teaching medical exercise professionals, I have seen firsthand the necessity of maintaining high standards of competence and consistency. The development of the medical exercise concept was driven by real-world needs, as exemplified by the case of Mr. Adams, a gentleman who suffered a severe lumbar injury and faced the discontinuation of his workers' compensation benefits.

Mr. Adams' story highlights the critical role of Medical Exercise Specialists. Despite excellent care from his physician and physical therapy team, the insurance carrier dropped his case just as he was making progress. This led us to develop an affordable, focused exercise program for him, bridging the gap between traditional physical therapy and ongoing functional improvement.

In this endeavor, one of our physical therapy technicians, Angelica, played a pivotal role. With a background as an athletic trainer and emergency medical technician, she worked closely with Mr. Adams, delivering a tailored exercise program that facilitated his recovery. Angelica's dedication and competence demonstrated the profound impact a well-trained medical exercise professional can have on a client's life.

A Call to Action for Medical Exercise Professionals

As medical exercise professionals, we must ask ourselves if we consistently apply the six essential competencies in our practice. Are we providing the same level of training and attention we would expect for our own family members?

The true measure of a professional is not the certifications they hold but the consistent application of their knowledge and skills. As a medical exercise professional, if you find your current skill set with a particular client or condition does not meet the highest standards of competence, it is imperative to seek further training and/or refer the client. The clients we serve depend on our expertise to improve their health and functional capacity, and they deserve nothing less than the best care.

In conclusion, certifications or degrees alone do not prove competence. Time, consistency, and a commitment to ongoing professional development are the true indicators of a competent medical exercise professional. Let us strive to uphold these standards, ensuring that every client receives the best possible exercise management.

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