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Fit Pros Face Body Image Pressures From Both Directions

How do personal trainers and fitness instructors fare in the face of body insecurities? A lot of us put pressure on ourselves—and each other—to look a certain way. Individually, fitness pros vary widely in where they fall on the body image spectrum, which extends from abject dissatisfaction to healthy self-perception. But even if our own perspective falls within the “contented range,” we must recognize that, as an industry, we have a problem. There’s tacit, and sometimes blatant, body shaming.

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Social Media Contributes to Body Image Pressure

Body image issues in the fitness industry are nothing new. But the need for a more positive philosophy and more diverse perceptions of beauty is especially relevant right now. With rising competition from fitness technologies, social media stars who plug fitness, TV trainers and an increasingly crowded marketplace within our own communities, a nice body can (and should) only get you so far in this industry. We need to emphasize qualifications more than we already do.

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Signs the Fitness Industry Has a Body Image Problem

Expectations about body image in the fitness industry crop up in different ways for different people. Some fitness pros ruminate about body image quite often (every day or even every hour), perhaps taking extreme measures to alleviate concerns. Others never really give it that
much thought.

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May I Have This Dance?

client: Bert | personal trainer: Ann Heizer | location: Oceanside, California

Doctor’s orders. “Thanks for coming into my life and helping me deal with Parkinson’s disease,” says Bert, warmly sharing his respect for his trainer, Ann Heizer. “Working out with you has helped me stay positive and flexible.”

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Learning About Lymph

Any routine visit to the physician includes the familiar cold-hands-­under-the-earlobes lymph node check. But how often do you think about what the doctor is checking for or how important the lymphatic system is? And have you told your clients that physical activity plays a key role in supporting this crucial ­system?

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A Handy Way to Count Calories

If you want to lose weight, you know that calories matter. But in most cases, meticulously counting calories is not the solution. That approach is often tedious, inexact and unsustainable—and when eating becomes too complicated, people are more likely to give up and fall back on old habits.
So what can you do? The key is to find ways to eat quality foods in appropriate amounts.

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Primed to Squat

Why is it that so few people can squat correctly, yet my 8-year-old son squats perfectly? I’ve never taught him how to squat; he innately learned how, just as he learned to roll over, crawl, pull himself up and eventually walk. He simply needed the freedom to allow his body to move. Movement before strength is key.

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Sample Class: Strength by Numbers

Do you love planning your strength training classes but need to find new ways to keep things interesting? If so, this is your class! Offer a challenge boost by adjusting your sequencing and repetitions. This approach helps students stay engaged and in the moment while getting more done in less time. As a bonus, you learn a variety of drills to apply to all your classes.

Strength by Numbers Details
Goal/emphasis: muscular strength and endurance
Total time: 40 minutes

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Special Benefits of Group Exercise

Group fitness instructors may also want to approach medical schools with an offer to provide exercise classes for medical students. To support a pitch, refer to a recent nonrandomized controlled study in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association; it found that, for medical students, group exercise can reduce stress and improve physical, mental and emotional quality of life more than training alone or not engaging in any exercise program.

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Fitter Kids Have More Brain Gray Matter

While much research has pointed to a relationship between kids’ fitness and academic performance, we now have a new piece of the puzzle: A recent study found that aerobic fitness and speed–agility levels among overweight and obese children aged 8–11 were independently associated with more gray matter in parts of the brain related to better academic performance.

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