By referring out to Fitness Professionals, Physicians can benefit by having a well-rounded approach to helping their patients adopt healthier lifestyles. Exercise prescription can work effectively with medications that patients may be taking, and Doctors being at the front lines of the fight against chronic disease in the US, should be motivated to incorporate exercise prescription into their practice. They don’t get paid more for writing chemical medicine prescriptions, so why not exercise prescriptions too! However, only about 20% of family physicians report discussing physical activity with their patients.
A Fitness Professional can benefit by having access to new potential clientele, by learning more and improving their skills by working closely with the medical community. Also, credibility can be attained by being a physician recommended fitness professional. However, developing exercise prescription programs for individuals with one or more chronic health conditions or disabilities may require more advanced knowledge, education, and training than many fitness trainers have.
The biggest win is for the client/patient. The benefits to them are important, life changing, and numerous. Out of pocket costs for people with health insurance has gone up drastically. That number can be substantially reduced by patients/clients having their own team of Doctors and Fitness Professionals coordinating a healthy lifestyle program for them. However, many people don’t realize the return on investment in preventative medicine such as hiring a personal fitness trainer, and therefore let the cost become a barrier to optimal health.
So how does this Physician Referals to the Fitness Industry idea take on "some legs"?
1.) The fitness industry needs to organize better. There is no governing body over fitness certifications, so creating one that has a strong tie-in to the medical community should be the first step. Additionally, fitness professionals interested in working with the medical community should go beyond fitness certifications and bachelor of science degrees and successfully complete graduate programs in exercise science, kinesiology, etc.
2.) Local, state and federal legislatures must do more to introduce and pass legislation in the form of tax credits and other incentives for people to adopt healthier lifestyles, and for businesses to invest in employee wellness programs.
3.) Physicians must be more receptive and open to establishing solid relationships with fitness professionals and encouraging their patients to seek fitness professional services. The new generation of Physicians coming along are more engaged and open to working with the fitness industry, but must be more proactive to move this idea forward faster in the medical community. They should also exercise regularly themselves to set good examples and be inspiring to their patients.
4.) Patients (all of us!) must adhere to doctor prescribed exercise medicine and accept and understand that the value and return on investment of preventative medicine (such as hiring a personal fitness trainer) is well worth the cost (investment) in the long run, even if it’s not covered by their health insurance policy in the short term.