Throughout history, mankind has endeavoured to pursue the ultimate fitness goal: survival. The meaning of the term survival has changed over the years, with it’s interpretation becoming largely individualised based on personal needs and lifestyle demands. Despite this, at it’s most basic level, survival is still the same.
In prehistoric times, survival meant being fit enough to hunt for and gather food. Physical health and fitness were required to enable to protect and feed you and your family, avoiding famine and defending against wild animals. Most of the time this was achieved with little more than a spear and the food offered by the land.
By the 6th century, fitness was being pursued for the purpose of vanity and improved performance. Strength training was predominant in the 6th Century, in Greece. with the first Olympic Games recorded in the 8th century (776 BC), in Greece.
However, survival was still a strong contender with records of the entry of gladiators into Rome in the 3rd century BC, highlighting the crossover between survival and competition as motivation for fitness. In addition to this, the physical conditioning and performance elements of exercise and fitness, would have been imperative over the centuries for any country at war.
In modern times, there are those still actively addressing their health and fitness shortcomings to ensure their survival. These days however we are rarely up against wild animals or pandering to the whimsical, yet bloodthirsty demands of rich aristocrats but that of obesity, Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and cancer. In addition, society as a whole has to contend with the media advertising the perfect body and our requirement for it.
Although the Greeks used a structured approach to training, the process of creating a personalised exercise programme in its current iteration is recorded as far back as 100 years ago, although modern day terminology such as; personal trainer and fitness professional, were not used or indeed as prevalent in the fitness/exercise industry as they are today.
The 1950’s had a huge impact on the fitness industry in terms of its growth and development, when in 1954, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) was founded. The aim of the ACSM was, and still is, to promote health and fitness and certify fitness professionals. The ACSM certified some of the very first personal trainers.
It is important to note that at this time, society was experiencing a growth in cardiac disease, almost to the point of an epidemic. Research on the correlation between exercise/physical activity and heart disease was expanding to help demonstrate the link between exercise and physical activity and a reduced risk of heart disease. As the significance of this research began to filter through to the population through clinical interventions, (from GP and hospitals), more and more people began to take part in regular physical activity and exercise....or at least, they planned to.
The 1970 and 80’s were an era of body awareness, with people becoming more conscious of their appearance as fashion and music icons became more heavily publicised. People began to take an interest in training and wanted to be educated in the area. This period gave birth to the leisure club along with the acceptance of women and non-athletes exercising for fitness goals in gyms and with personal trainers, rather than just Olympic lifters and male body builders. Many fitness celebrities (who remembers the Green Goddess, and Mr Motivator?) jumped on this wave and made a fortune selling fitness videos, further adding to the growth of the industry.
Today, although we are well aware of purpose and necessity for exercise and fitness, many of us still lead sedentary lifestyles, with unhealthy diets. This is generally due to automation, a growing fast food industry and more demanding work patterns. Modern society is crying out for the guidance and motivation to lead a healthy lifestyle. Many of us need a personal trainer to manage not only the complexities of our lifestyle (with the daily stresses and temptations it offers), but also to devise an effective plan and deliver an enjoyable exercise experience to ensure we meet our needs and goals, using current and effective training and nutritional principles.
Personal training has seen an impressive growth rate in the last 20 years and today personal trainers are becoming recognised and respected health professionals across the world. This is a great achievement as the industry is still maturing and looks to do so for the foreseeable future.
This is where the necessity and development of personal training courses comes into focus. Because of the increasing demand for personal trainers across the world, it is important to ensure that all fitness professionals are appropriately certificated in accordance with the national standards recognised by their professional body, i.e. REPs (Register of Exercise Professionals).
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With the increase in demand for certified personal trainers comes an increased demand for quality courses that fit the needs of an ever evolving and expanding industry. Thanks to improved course development and the resulting range of innovative courses developed by providers of personal training education, personal trainers can continue to expand their services beyond the basic tenets of physical fitness and provide complementary services such as life coaching, behaviour change, nutrition advice and periodised goal setting.
Today, governing bodies such as SkillsActive create and establish guidelines and standards based on ongoing research to produce working documents from which, courses can be written. In turn, the awarding bodies guide and verify the training provider’s work. Those education providers then deliver current, accredited and professionally recognised personal training courses to learners.