Healthcare is the ultimate team sport.

Lately, as a sports and exercise scientist and a certified exercise pro, I have been on the road quite a bit, delivering speeches, workshops, and key-note presentations to people in the health, wellness, sports, and fitness fields. The health and fitness sector is rapidly growing. Health and fitness instructors are the main source of exercise-related information for the general public. They provide information and implement counseling in exercise. They also design exercise programs, prescribe exercise, carry out client fitness assessments, and provide guidance.

There is need to structure the qualifications of the Kenyan fitness sector.

The Dual Role Health and Exercise Pros Play

As certified health and exercise professionals, we can play an important role in the management, prevention, and reduction of chronic diseases. It cannot be denied that we play a crucial role in encouraging our clients participation in physical activities. In the last couple of years, it has been evident that there is a need to structure the qualifications of the Kenyan exercise and fitness sector. Due to our government’s policies on the same, we haven’t made much progress. Maybe the question we should be asking ourselves is, “Does the level of education and training of a fitness professional impact the overall success of their clients?”

Teamwork is key.

As health and fitness instructors, we were historically not considered an extension of the healthcare team. This is because we may lack adequate training to provide highly demanding information on topics such as nutrition and weight management. The health and fitness sector is also founded on principles different from those of the medical system. I might also say that general practitioner training is deficient in education on specific health-enhancing physical activity. Qualified fitness experts should be part of the healthcare team. The healthcare system should start to apply exercise prescriptions as a first line of therapy and consider alternative options. Why can’t we team up in the fight against and prevention of non-communicable diseases that are on the rise?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Adopting new habits may result in weight loss. We should focus on the adoption of healthy habits that will have an impact on our clients health, regardless of their weight. Individuals will avoid millions of shillings in healthcare costs later by becoming more physically active today. Lifestyle ailments such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, stress, and depression can all be prevented by the habits we embrace. Prevention is better than cure.

Exercise professionals should work adjacent to, or within the healthcare setting, supporting teams of doctors, nutritionists, physiotherapists, physical therapists or alternative healthcare. We need to align with allies across healthcare advocacy and physical activity promotion to push for fitness and health policies that can get more people active.

Philip-Fitness Professionals Association of Kenya Chairman.

It takes a village.

Health and wellness is a team sport. It is time all professionals in the industry came to terms with this fact. We play a very important role, but it is just one part. When prescribing physical activity to patients, who should the general practitioners consider for referrals for professional advice regarding the prescription? Should they also provide information about how and where their patients can ‘complete’ the prescription? It is very important since many clients who are seeking to implement recommendations for physical activity or lifestyle changes might have unrealistic expectations. Or they may become discouraged if they fail to reach their goals in a particular period of time. It does take a village; we make the village. Let us collaborate to promote healthier communities.