What is Exercise Referral?
We’re often asked, “what is exercise referral” and “how will it help me as a personal trainer”. Our answers are:
- It will help increase your client base
- It will give you a variety of clients to train
- It will challenge you in a good way
- Exercise referral will make you a better PT
- Qualifying in it can improve your prospects
The National Institute for Health & Care Excellence (NICE) define the process of exercise referral as “schemes seeking to increase someone's physical activity levels on the basis that physical activity has a range of positive health benefits”
Exercise referral is a way for medical professionals to refer someone with a specific medical condition to a specialist in exercise who can give precise advice on training to help the patient lead a more active and healthier lifestyle.
Personal trainers design a suitable programme to help these individuals exercise safely, make lifestyle changes and make physical activity an enjoyable experience. Any sort of physical activity can help boost recovery, help with weight issues, improve mental state and can help manage certain medical conditions.
Why consider a course in exercise referral?
1 - Increase your client base
If you add a qualification in exercise referral to your skill set you automatically open the door to new clients. You will still maintain those PT clients you’ve secured through your hard work in the gym or through your online profile, but with exercise referral you have a stream of new clients sent to you from medical professionals. This will keep you busy whilst improving your bank balance.
2 - Variety of clients
As a PT you will eventually find yourself in the situation where, although you are dealing with individual client concerns, you will find sessions becoming very similar. You will have “go to” moves that illicit the best response, standard nutrition plans that only need tweaking depending on the desired outcome and a list of clients that generally all want the same outcome – lose weight, build muscle.
Having these clients is fine, it’s what you have chosen to do, but throw in some exercise referral clients and your daily routine will become much more interesting and challenging. With exercise referral you might find yourself working with someone who is clinically obese, is diabetic, has had joint replacement, suffers with anxiety. Your standard, “go to” moves might work in the long term, but in the short term you’re going to have to study the issue and devise a plan that actually tackles the health issues your client presents.
3 - Challenging but rewarding
Working in exercise referral can be a very challenging but rewarding job. You’ll be working with people who have real issues and find motivating themselves extremely difficult. 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 positive outlook and change can have a drastic effect on improving an individual’s quality of life and the risks associated with their condition.
4 - Exercise Referral will make you a better PT
Working with clients that have a medical condition or are recovering from a procedure are different to clients who might have some training background who are looking for a more common goal (lose weight, build muscle, sport specific training). Certain conditions will force you into more in-depth thought about your approach to training.
Dependant on the condition of the person you are working with, you may find your perception of what makes a good session and what makes a bad session will change. You might find yourself using equipment and machines you wouldn’t usually use, you will likely become more patient and aware of what constitutes real progress in a client.
Your communication skills will inevitably improve as you have to speak to these clients differently. If you are used to your usual 25-35 year old clients, with a reasonable training background, imagine the difference when you start working with a 62 year old client, post hip surgery client. Your conversation will change, you approach will change, your experience will be different.
5 - Improve your prospects
With exercise referral you may see an improvement in your situation in two ways. Firstly, you could end up with more regular clients. After the prescribed course of training, your referred clients may wish to continue their training. These additional clients are always good to have when building/extending your business.
Secondly, even if you don’t manage to convert your referred clients to long term clients you will be able to get some amazing reviews and/or testimonials from them. You should never underestimate the power of a review. How many times have you gone to buy something and have been swayed by the review? If you have a website/Facebook page flush with 5 star reviews and great comments you are more likely to pick up new clients.
How to start out in exercise referral
If exercise referral is an option you have been exploring you 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 Diploma in Exercise Referral would be considered an entry-level qualification. This very broad qualification covers the background to the exercise referral system and then outlines a number of key conditions that you will regularly come across.
If you wish to progress to a level 4 specialist trainer, you will need to have the Level 3 Diploma in Exercise Referral as it is the pre-requisite for all level 4 qualifications. Level 4 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.
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