Over the past few years the area of exercise referral has become increasingly popular with fitness professionals. This has been prompted by a marked increase in the demand for exercise instructors to work in both clinical and community settings. These job roles can be very attractive to personal trainers as they generally offer salaried positions, with good working conditions and career progression. In this short article I will be looking at some of the basics of exercise referral and how you can get involved.
Exercise referral was initially designed as a system whereby a doctor or other medical professional could refer a person with a specific medical condition to an exercise specialist to give them specific advice on having a more active lifestyle. This move towards the prescription of exercise as a part of a treatment pathway was prompted by a marked increase in the amount of research and discussion into how physical activity can affect the incidence and outlook for those with specific medical conditions.
This has now evolved to also include a thriving industry covering community based health promotion, private referrals and personal trainers working in mainstream gyms specializing in medically referred populations as a niche.
For a personal trainer to become involved in exercise referral they will need a level 3 personal training qualification as a pre-requisite for the more specific training courses available. In terms of the specific qualifications for this role, a level 3 certificate in exercise referral would be considered an entry-level qualification. This very broad certificate covers the background to the exercise referral system and then outlines a number of key conditions that you will regularly come across.
This very broad qualification can then be upgraded to a level 4 specialty; these qualifications tend to look at singular conditions or a group of conditions in much more detail. Examples of qualification titles may include obesity and diabetes management, low back pain management, stroke, falls prevention, etc.. These courses offer a much deeper understanding of groups or individual conditions. A full list of these qualifications can be found on the REPs website.
As with any field, experience is preferable and those who have built up a body of experience in the exercise referral field will be at an advantage during a recruitment process. One of the key ways that an instructor can build up some post qualification experience, without necessarily working in the field is to do some volunteer work with your chosen population. For example if you particularly enjoy working with people who suffer with diabetes you can contact a sufferers charity such as Diabetes UK and try to arrange some voluntary work. This will greatly increase you prospects of gaining employment in exercise referral.
Working in exercise referral can be a very challenging but rewarding job, you will be working with populations who find motivating themselves to be more active to be extremely challenging. But there is no better feeling for a personal trainer than giving a person the motivation, skills and above all the self-belief to have a more active lifestyle. This in turn can have a massive effect in improving an individual’s quality of life and the risks associated with their condition.