A New Field of Practice in Canada: Medical Fitness Exercise
If you think of a client’s fitness level as a progression on a continuum, with treatment and rehab on one end and fitness on the other end, medical fitness exercise fits into the gap between post-rehab and fitness.
This is the space where a client has progressed from being a patient, but may still be in the recovery process. They continue to need support to achieve a normal level of fitness and beyond.
Physiotherapists may work with patients after surgery as part of the rehab process, usually under the care or direction of a Physician and for a limited time.
Most fitness professionals, such as Certified Personal Trainers, work with clients on the fitness end of the continuum. Traditionally, a Personal Trainer will work with a generally healthy population that may want to lose weight for a special event or train for a sport or a personal goal such as running a 5km for the first time.
This leaves a gap in the continuum between post-rehab and regular fitness, and ultimately a large segment of the population that can benefit from medical fitness exercise. These people are functional yet compromised. They’re no longer patients, but still, require help from someone who is specialized with proper qualifications. They need Medical Fitness Specialists.
Opportunity for Professionals in Canada
The need for Medical Fitness Exercise Specialists in Canada is growing at a rapid rate.
We’re experiencing a unique time in our history. The demographics in Canada have shifted drastically over the past 20 years. Based on statistics gathered by Statista.com, the median age of Canadians has risen from 36.8 in the year 2000 to 41.3 in the year 2018.
Half of our country is over the age of 41!
Additionally, nearly one in six Canadians (about 6.3 million) are 65 years or older. This age group is growing four times faster than the overall population.
If you’re a Certified Personal Trainer or Fitness Professional, as the median age of Canadians continues to rise, so too does the average age of your clientele. With this comes the increased risk of developing cancer and other chronic diseases.
In fact, more than 20% of Canadian adults live with one, or more, of the following chronic diseases:
• Cardiovascular Disease,
• Diabetes and
• Chronic Respiratory Disease
That number jumps to 25% if you include Osteoporosis.
Not only that, but according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 33% of the population above 12 years of age reports to being limited in their activities ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’ due to disease and illness.
Closing the Gap Between Rehab and Fitness
As Canada struggles to correct an out-of-control epidemic categorized as “chronic disease”, Specialized Fitness Professionals are the best positioned to support their clients as they progress along the fitness continuum.
Traditionally, fitness professionals such as Certified Personal Trainers, Health and Wellness Coaches, even Certified Nutritionists work with a generally healthy population.
Medical fitness exercise is different. Fitness professionals who specialize in Medical Fitness Exercise can expect to:
• Help clients recover from chronic diseases or illness
• Help clients prevent disease or future illness
• Help clients keep their independence as they age
• Train clients for them to live long, functional lives.
There is a pool of clients that are underserved, and this pool will continue to grow as the population ages.
Investing in Advanced Specialist Certifications in the field of medical fitness exercise will distinguish you from your peers. Training people who are compromised with illness requires deep knowledge and skillsets. Taking the proper courses offers an opportunity for you to gain the knowledge and skillset to best support your compromised clients on their journey toward good health and fitness.
In doing so, you will be rewarded not only financially, but also in knowing that you’re changing the course of peoples lives. You become a vital part of their journey towards recovery.
Where to Start?
The Medical Fitness Exercise field can be vast. Some examples of specialized fields of training can include working with clients who may have Osteoporosis or Diabetes, maybe they’re recovering from serious injuries or recently had major surgery, or even in the field of prevention as with functional ageing.
One of the largest and most underserved specialized fields in Canada is working with clients who have or are recovering from Cancer.
That’s why we want to focus on the top reasons why becoming a Cancer Exercise Specialist should be your next career move.
The Risks of Cancer – What the numbers tell us
The burden of cancer in Canada continues to rise; in 2018, over 207,000 Canadians were diagnosed with cancer.
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, during their lifetime, nearly 1 in 2 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer, that’s an astounding number!
Cancer is predominately seen in those 50 years of age and older, with nearly 90% of new cancer cases being diagnosed in those over the age of 50.
As mentioned earlier, the median age for Canadians now stands at 41.3. As the age of your clients continues to increase, so does their risk for cancer. The possibility that you’ll be working with someone who has cancer, or is a cancer survivor, continues to grow.
The upside: Cancer death rates are declining in Canada!
This means there will be more survivors who will need the help of fitness professionals that are Cancer Exercise Specialists with the proper certification to work with cancer patients.
Are you prepared to work with this population?
Here are our 4 Reasons why becoming a Cancer Exercise Specialist should be your next career move:
1. Health and Fitness as a preventative measure
Though cancer may be one of the major causes of death, experts believe that nearly 30 to 50 per cent of all types of cancers may be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle. Survivors can reduce their risk for recurrence by:
• Eating a balanced diet
• Committing to regular exercise
• Engaging in mindful practices to reduce stress
As a Fitness Professional, you’ve already established a solid knowledge base on how to train people to live a healthy lifestyle. Now is your opportunity to use that influence to make a much greater impact.
Being the authority and expert on Cancer Exercise, clients will turn to you for your specialized knowledge and advice. Understanding what to expect will give clients peace of mind that they can do everything they can to prevent cancer, but also that they’re in good hands should they ever get diagnosed.
So, how is working with a client who has cancer, or is a survivor, different than working with your regular clients?
2. Cancer Survivors Need to Re-Think the Way They Train
Depending on where they are, either in treatment or years into survivorship, each cancer patient has unique needs that are different from a traditional healthy client.
With cancer clients, it is important to know:
• Do they have clearance from their Doctor to exercise?
• What type of cancer did/do they have, and how long ago was the diagnosis?
• What treatments were given: radiation, chemo, drug therapy, etc.?
• Did they have surgery? How long ago? Where are the incision sites?
• Has their Doctor put any limitations on their exercise program?
• Do they need to wear compression garments?
• How much are they permitted/forbidden to lift?
• Are they taking any medication? Which ones?
Why is this information necessary?
Because cancer survivors need to re-think the way they train. Better yet, they need a specialist to ask them the right questions in order to discover what will be best.
They also need an expert who will train them properly based on this information. Most survivors know what they’ve been through, but are unaware of how to properly exercise moving forward. This can cause some serious issues.
Let me provide an example:
A common exercise that Certified Personal Trainers frequently use with clients is a Lat Pulldown.
But let’s imagine your client is a breast cancer survivor. She had a mastectomy of her right breast two years ago, with radiation and 11 nodes removed, and a Lat Flap (Latissimus Dorsi Flap) reconstruction completed six months ago.
Would you add a Lat Pulldown to this client’s exercise program?
The answer is NO.
Here’s why: A Lat Flap reconstruction entails pulling the latissimus dorsi though the underarm area, to the chest area, and using it to create the breast mound, or it is folded to create a pocket where the implant is placed. Then a football-shaped piece of skin from the back is sewn into place, on the front of the chest, with the blood vessels intact.
What would happen if that client did a Lat Pulldown? The left Lat would be engaged in her back, the right Lat which is now part of the breast would be engaged in her chest. Therefore, a Lat Pulldown and certain other back exercises would not make sense as part of her program.
She may also be at risk for lymphedema because of the radiation and node removal, so other precautions should be taken with this client, such as having her perform upper body lymph drainage exercises prior to any exercise session.
3. Survivors need experts, both in Cancer Recovery and Fitness Training
Your clients expect that you have the knowledge to take them safely and effectively through their exercise program.
Without specialized training how would you know what to do? What happens to clients when they train with “professionals” who are not properly certified? What if some of the traditional practices used by trainers put the client at risk?
Cancer survivors are looking to accomplish more than simply getting into shape. As a qualified specialist, you’re helping them:
• Minimize treatment side-effects
• Correct range of motion and muscle imbalances
• Minimize pain
• Increase energy
• Improve self-confidence
• and so much more
Given that almost 50% of Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, you’re probably already training clients who either have cancer or are in recovery/survivorship.
Perhaps you have been touched by cancer personally and want to help a friend or family member but are afraid of hurting them.
Even if you have years of training experience in the fitness field, you may not be fully prepared to work with this population. Without advanced qualifications, you’re likely unaware of the issues that survivors face that are different than the typical fitness client.
4. Earn CEC’s and grow your business
Finally, a great motivator to become a Cancer Exercise Specialist is the opportunity to grow your business!
Our Courses and Certifications will provide you with valuable Continuing Education Credits. You can actively start marketing yourself as the specialist for cancer patients and survivors in your area. Almost everyone is touched by someone who has or has had cancer. Word-of-mouth will spread once clients start talking about how you changed their lives for the better.
First things first, you can get started for free by downloading our mini-course on the Essentials of Cancer Exercise.
The Cancer Exercise Specialist® Advanced Qualification and/or Breast Cancer Recovery BOSU® Specialist™ will improve your skill in designing and implementing safe and effective programs to help patients/clients recover and improve their lives.
You can learn more about becoming a Cancer Exercise Specialist at www.medexn.com and take the next steps to elevate your career!
Be prepared to help more clients change their lives as you become part of this fast-growing Medical Fitness Exercise Community in Canada!