What are the current legal limitations of a personal trainer?

Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for Exercise.com. He has his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is a former All-American soccer player and still coaches soccer today. In his free time, he enjoys reading, learning, and living the dad life. He has been featured in Shape, Healthline, HuffPost, Women's...

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UPDATED: Aug 25, 2020

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  • You should always have a proper physical with your physician before starting an exercise program.
  • Your personal trainer is not qualified to give medical advice.
  • Personal trainers can neither order nor perform diagnostic medical testing.

When you begin working out with a personal trainer, it is understandable that common topics of conversation are diet, exercise, and overall wellness. While it is okay to have a casual conversation with your personal trainer about these topics, there is a limit to what your personal trainer can say or do.

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Diagnose Medical Conditions

Never begin a new exercise program without clearance from your family physician. Although conducting a fitness assessment is an important part of your personal trainer’s job, such assessments do not diagnose underlying medical conditions.

You must have a full physical before you start working with a personal trainer.

Your trainer should then use your physician’s findings and recommendations to perform a systematic fitness analysis of both your physiological needs and limitations. Your personal trainer will use these results to create an individualized fitness plan that will meet your fitness and physiological goals while taking into account any limitations you may have.

Provide Treatment

It’s not uncommon for a physician to recommend exercise and weight loss as a means of treating certain diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension. However, it’s not your personal trainer’s responsibility to manage chronic diseases. Therefore, you need to think of your fitness program as a tool that you can use to live a healthier lifestyle.

Recommend Supplements and Specific Diets

Clients are always asking their trainers what they should be eating and which supplements they need to take. In addition to not being able to diagnose medical problems, personal trainers cannot prescribe dietary supplements.

Unless they are registered dietitians or have nutritional certification, they should not tell you which supplements to take. If you’re currently on prescription medication, taking fitness supplements without consulting your physician is dangerous. In fact, many herbal supplements become toxic when combined with prescription medication or when taken in excess.

Your personal trainer also needs the appropriate certification to create personalized meal plans. While it’s okay for them to suggest decreasing your overall fat intake, it’s not okay for them to tell you to increase your protein or other nutrients. Without a medical degree or dietary certification, a personal trainer may not have the knowledge or expertise needed to give such advice.

Provide Diagnostic Testing

Even with master trainer certification, personal trainers cannot run diagnostic studies for high cholesterol or other types of maladies. Although they should be certified in first aid, CPR, and be able to perform physical assessments, they’re still limited in what they can do. Only a trained medical professional can order and perform diagnostic testing.

Provide Physical Therapy Sessions

Unless your trainer is certified to provide rehabilitation services, he or she is not qualified to provide physical therapy services. It’s best that you view your gym only as a place to where you go to lose weight and build muscle.

Never look at your personal trainer as a cheap alternative to an experienced physical therapist. Although there are unethical trainers who will step in and attempt to fill the shoes of a licensed physical therapist, their lack of knowledge may cause more harm than good.

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Provide Psychological Counseling

Yes, regular exercise releases endorphins, which boosts your mood and makes you feel great. But you shouldn’t use exercise or your personal trainer as a substitute for qualified counseling services.

While it is recommended to exercise regularly, even when you are feeling down, it’s important that you seek out the appropriate help if you are battling depression.

Ongoing sadness warrants the help of a trained professional who can help you start feeling better as soon as possible. Your personal trainer is not qualified to give advice on psychological issues.

Final Thoughts

Your personal trainer’s job is to show you what you can do and encourage you when you feel like giving up. But they can’t be there holding your hand all of the time. Personal trainers help people make a change for the better, but they are not miracle workers.

Knowing what you want and working hard is the key to success. Personal trainers can improve your mind, body, and spirit, but like you, they are also only human.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How do I find a personal trainer?

You can either search directly online, ask your local gym, or use our PRO membership to access online personal trainers.

Can personal trainers come to your house?

Yes! Some personal trainers do train clients in their own homes.

What if I don’t like my personal trainer?

That’s completely okay! Finding a personal trainer that you connect with is important. If you do not like your personal trainer, make sure that you cancel any upcoming appointments to avoid being charged and either ask your gym for a new trainer or ask friends or family if they have any recommendations.

For access to certified personal trainers, workout plans, training logs, and more, sign up for an Exercise.com PRO plan today!

See for yourself – Meet with the Exercise.com Team today.