Consumers spend billions of dollars each year to be fit and healthy. This is a worthy goal and a great use of our dollars. Or is it? Has the fitness industry truly served the needs of its clients, or has it allowed advertising gimmicks, workout “trends” and products to be the voice that educates the public and what may drive the fitness industry forward?

Unfortunately, so much of the fitness claims that circulate all over the internet, social media, or even at your local gym or studio are just untrue and unqualified and the one person that suffers is YOU, the public consumer.

As you walk through the checkout line at any grocery store, you are bombarded by health and fitness magazines displaying gorgeous models and headlines insinuating that this “5 Minute Butt and Gut Workout” is what gave this supermodel a tight butt and rock hard abs. On top of the ridiculous “get in shape in no time” claims in the media, we are flooded with the latest “fitness trends” with bad information spiraling out of control. From enormous commercial gyms to Cross-Fit to boxing and boutique studios – and everything in between – it seems that “fitness” has become “trendy” instead of staying true to what it really is … a health care industry.

But if you are looking for an effective and fun workout regimen, how do you, as a consumer, know what is going to deliver great results safely and with minimal risk of injury? The first step is to be aware!

One of the main issues with the fitness industry currently is that there is not sufficient regulation requiring certification or specific training for an individual to work with the public. Too often, as long as an individual has the drive, business savvy or can market/advertise themselves or their product, or “looks the part,” that individual can proclaim himself or herself as a “fitness professional” and/or start their own fitness business.

But without proper training, formal credentials and certifications from nationally recognized programs and/or colleges, the so-called fitness professional is really nothing more than a “fitness performer.” Would you go to a dentist just because he has nice teeth? Probably not! How can a consumer know what is “good fitness”?

The business model from a “fitness performer” is based on “trendy popularity.” You want to train with an organization whose business model is based on health and fitness integrity and tried and true scientific facts concerning body mechanics, cardiovascular and metabolic systems. You want a program that can deliver real results that can keep YOU, the consumer, truly healthy, fit and injury free.

So many of the workout trends these days are packed with “pre-packaged motivational quotes” that are meant to instill a sense of self-empowerment, encouragement and fun. But a workout program that does not have a solid foundation in kinesiology and physiology sadly ends up to be nothing more than marketing manipulation that can leave your body either physically comprised or frustrated by lack of results. Your exercise program should absolutely be fun, challenging, and inspire you; but it also should foster body awareness, functional accuracy, and progressive attainable goals.

So, after knowing all this, where should your concern as a consumer be when spending your hard earned dollars? Here are a few key points to look for and to be cautious of when searching for a fitness facility and/or trainer:

  • The workouts are taught by a trained, educated, certified fitness professional. Group exercise Instructors should have a minimum of a foundational group exercise certification from a nationally recognized organization and also should have a certification in the method/type of programming they teach specifically.
  • There is a proper warm up/ cool down. Preparing the body for the physiological changes that occur during exercise is an important part of your workout. Slowly increasing your body temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate and allowing the body to assume the supply/demand oxygen needs etc. Foam roaming, stabilization and dynamic movement are all great prior to challenge your body. Post exercise/ recovery is also essential in a all workouts and is often neglected because we are all so busy! Slowing down gradually and static stretching for all major muscle groups at is recommended.
  • The workouts are functional with proper form and alignment coming FIRST. A workout should be considerate of posture and function. Think about how you want your body to look. Evaluate if this type of exercise promoting proper posture, structure and functionality for life. If an exercise program compromises proper form, it should most likely be avoided.
  • “No pain, no gain”. UGH! Pain DOES NOT mean your body is working hard. It is essential to understand the difference between muscle soreness and muscle pain. The body sends signals when it is being compromised and is in danger, listen to the signs! Our bodies even try to warn us of this by “shaking” or feeling so painful you can barely get through the exercise. If your body is not in proper alignment and your exercises are not functional, they are not optimal and will cause dysfunction and lead to injuries. Listen to your body!
  • Watch out for buzz words, typically coming from the “hype” of fitness and not educated professionals. For example, “We are going to “tone” our muscles” – Muscles ARE tone, we don’t create that, think about how we would be able to stand up if our muscles were not “tone”. Spot reducing is another promise you hear, this is not possible. Of course this is disappointing because we all have our problem areas but it is a fact that there is no way we can do this through exercise. We cannot change the shape of our muscles, this is a very misleading statement. What we can do is become stronger, look fitter and with less fat your appearance is defined and lean.
  • Look for real fitness teachers and educators, not just an instructor reciting choreography. Does the workout provide you with progression and regression? Is the instructor able to give you the precise modifications when/if needed?
  • Workouts should vary, don’t engage in the same exercise workout routine repeatedly. Doing high intensity workouts everyday will cause you to reach plateaus and not get the most out of your workouts. You need to vary intensity and training modalities to keep your metabolic system on point and revving.
  • If you have a special consideration such as an injury, pre/post-natal, cardiac or pulmonary issues, or post rehab from an injury, you should be referred to a professional that specializes in working with the specific population. Not all exercise programs are for everyone.

Engaging in a healthy, fit and conscious lifestyle can be one of the best decisions you have ever made. Taking care of yourself from the inside out and being aware of your body’s needs can be helpful in developing a strategy to start living your fit and healthy life. You and your body are important, make sure the information you receive is beneficial and safe!