Whether you’re answering a query about something a client heard on TV or examining a particular exercise protocol, when can you trust the research?

Determine Credibility. Scientific research begins when an investigator formulates a carefully defined question and follows a systematic process in gathering information to reach an answer. This process is a litmus test for credibility, as workplace peers and conference colleagues will scrutinize the work. Then a voluntary, “blind” professional committee reviews it for possible publication. These trials help ensure validity, objectivity and reliability. Most investigators have completed a 4-year graduate program, such as a PhD or an equivalent doctorate. Or they may be graduate students doing course research in an apprenticeship program at an accredited university or professional school. The studies are conducted at the university or in a setting such as a government agency, a private for-profit or nonprofit organization or the military.

Be Inquisitive. Beyond the quality controls already imposed on the research, fitness professionals must be investigators themselves and peruse the literature with a discriminating eye. Research today is translated from scientific jargon into mainstream language. It is then made available in industry publications and often hinted at and spun in the media. You may read that a front lunge with the knee tracking above the second toe is a valid execution of the exercise, but you have concerns about its application to your served population. If you’re uncomfortable with the article’s assertion, explore its references. Google the resources listed at the end of the article to retrieve the original document and read the abstract. An abstract prefaces the study with a brief comprehensive summary. If you are still perplexed, study the entire work or read related abstracts, found in a sidebar. As an investigator, have confidence in the validity of a scientific document, yet question its replication in your world and always consider the source referencing the study.

—Danielle Vindez, CSCS

Danielle Vindez is an ACSM- and NSCA-certified personal trainer and is certified as a coach through the International Coach Federation.