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How to find a qualified personal trainer

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Getting into shape is still high on the list of favourite new year's resolutions. It is not easy to find the time to exercise. If you need to lose weight, it can seem like a very difficult task. If you have a health condition, it can be very confusing as to what type of exercise you should be doing. Forming new habits requires the support of your family and friends, especially when you are making changes that will profoundly affect your quality of living for the rest of your life. Professional support from individuals who understand your health and fitness can be very motivating. In the fitness field, these individuals are most commonly referred to as personal trainers.



There are a few key points to consider before selecting a personal trainer. The first question you should answer is whether the trainer has the qualifications to meet your needs? Unfortunately, the term personal trainer can be used by any individual regardless of training background, so the consumer has to beware of unqualified practitioners.

If you are healthy with no medical conditions and you are looking for basic exercise advice, you may not need an individual with advanced qualifications but you should look for some credentials. Ideally, you want a trainer who has a university degree in exercise science or kinesiology. Additionally, the trainer should have further certification beyond the university degree.

In Canada, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) has a personal trainer certification program, known as the CSEP-CPT. It is important not to confuse exercise class instructors with personal trainers. Although class instructors may be fully qualified to conduct an exercise or yoga class, this training does not make them personal trainers. They should have personal trainer qualifications to conduct personal training.

If you do have a medical condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure, look for a trainer with the CSEP-CEP (certified exercise physiologist) designation. Fitness professionals with this designation are educated in prescribing exercise to those with various medical conditions.

It is not uncommon in today's competitive marketplace for personal training to find instructors with masters degrees in exercise science and other certifications. For example, if you want to focus on strength training, some trainers will have a CSCS (certified strength and conditioning specialist) designation. Do not hesitate to ask the trainer how much experience they have in a particular area of personal training and what they can offer you with their experience and personal training style.

If you are looking for training related to injury recovery, consult a certified athletic therapist or physiotherapist. If you need a diagnosis of a bone/joint/muscle or other medical problem, then you need to see a physician first before you start your personal training sessions. Exercise medicine is now a recognized practice in sport medicine. Seek out a sport and exercise medicine physician or physician with a special interest in this area.


Screening and insurance

All personal trainers should carry liability insurance. There are no acceptable reasons for a trainer to be uninsured. Before you start any exercise with the trainer, you should undergo screening and fitness assessment. In Canada, the PAR-Q form is used to make sure it is safe for you to undertake an exercise program. If you have a known medical condition, a PARmedX should be completed. A PARmedX should also be completed if you start a training program during pregnancy. Your trainer should also be certified in first aid and CPR.


Collaboration with health professionals

A good personal trainer will be familiar with various health professionals and seek their input when their client need other professional help. This includes knowledge of the role of dieticians, physiotherapists, family physicians, sport/exercise physicians and others. For more information on how to find a qualified personal trainer, check out the MEPA (Manitoba Exercise Professionals Association) website at


Dr. Maureen Kennedy MD, CCFP, FCFP, MSc, PhD(c)Kinesiology, Dip. Sport Med., is a sport and exercise medicine physician at Pan Am Sport Medicine in Winnipeg.

Readers can ask Dr. Kennedy questions, but due to the volume of requests, replies are not guaranteed. Email:

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 4, 2011 C1

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About Dr. Maureen Kennedy

Born and raised in The Pas, Dr. Kennedy graduated from the University of Winnipeg Collegiate, earned a BSc and BA from the University of Winnipeg and an MD from the University of Manitoba in 1994. After certifying in family medicine at the University of Manitoba, Dr. Kennedy was awarded a two-year fellowship in primary care sport medicine at the University of Calgary Sport Medicine Centre. She completed this fellowship along with a MSc in Kinesiology at the University of Calgary. Her research focus was exercise counselling by family physicians. Dr. Kennedy further explored the use of exercise in medicine with PhD projects examining aerobic exercise in individuals scheduled for total hip or knee replacement surgery. She holds a diploma in sport medicine from the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine and has served on numerous provincial and national committees for organizations such as the Alberta Medical Association, Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine, College of Family Physicians of Canada and Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.

For the past 11 years, Dr. Kennedy has practised as a consultant in primary care sport medicine.

Dr. Kennedy's practice focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of injuries, muscle, bone and joint problems, orthopedic triage, weight management, osteoarthritis and dance medicine. She has served as the head physician for Alberta Ballet for the last nine years and has worked with the national women's hockey team along with many elite and amateur athletes in various sports. She points out that sport medicine physicians provide a tremendous service to the general public and the health-care system by shortening orthopedic waiting lists and providing non-surgical treatment options. "It's great to be back home in Manitoba and Winnipeg is a fantastic city," she adds. Readers can expect coverage on a wide range of fitness and health topics, including insider's tips on how to navigate the health-care system.


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