The health/fitness industry is constantly evolving with new scientific research and education released on a regular basis. Currently, the medical fitness track is on the precipice of explosion and expansion. Therefore, obtaining your personal training or group exercise instructor certification is only the beginning for launching your professional health and fitness career. One area of health/fitness specialization that is gaining attention is with the multiple sclerosis (MS) community. There is a huge need and demand for qualified health/fitness professionals to provide proper programming for those with MS. The National MS Society states that the MS population is more than double what was previously recorded with over one million people diagnosed in the United States alone. Health/fitness professionals can effectively work with those who have MS, providing them with a better quality of life, hope for the future and continued improvement. Education and specialization on the part of the professional is key to the success of the professional and the client through proper exercise programs, nutritional guidance and mindset training specifically for those with MS.
What Is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is considered to be an immune-mediated disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the central nervous system (CNS). With MS affecting almost three million people worldwide, MS is usually diagnosed between the ages of 20-40. But because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not require U.S. physicians to report new cases, the prevalence of MS in the U.S. can only be estimated. Symptoms of MS can be divided into two categories, common symptoms and less common symptoms. Some common symptoms include fatigue, walking (gait) difficulties, numbness or tingling, spasticity, muscle weakness and depression. Other less common symptoms include speech problems, swallowing problems, tremors, seizures, breathing problems, respiration problems and hearing loss. The cause of MS is unknown; however, scientists believe MS is triggered by a combination of factors including inflammation, bacteria, viruses, geographical location and genetics.
Nailing down your area of expertise and specializing in the area of MS and Health/Fitness will not only expand your career but could also become a lucrative part of your income. Here are a few benefits of obtaining a specialty certification and continuing education in the area of MS and Fitness.
By specializing in MS and Fitness, you’re diversifying your career, becoming more valuable to your current clients and future clients. You are also increasing your value to your future employers or business opportunities. Many health/fitness professionals with only basic foundational certifications are struggling to make actual REAL steady income. By specializing in MS and Fitness, you can turn what now may only be a part-time job into a legitimate full-time career. Specializing in MS and Fitness allows you to target a specific audience and create a revenue stream that will continue to flow through word of mouth within the MS community. The MS fitness community is growing rapidly, especially in the MS Fitness Challenge Charity which is now in 25 countries and Facebook groups like the MS Fitness Challenge GYM. With 7,000+ members with MS and who are interested in a lifestyle of fitness, this is your target audience who are looking to work with an MS-specialized trainer.
As more people with degrees and/or health science backgrounds enter into the field, the fitness industry expects more from its professionals than ever before. In addition, it is more imperative that you differentiate yourself from the rest of the health/fitness experts. It is not enough to just be a “personal trainer.” Being a health/fitness expert is about creating your brand. Specializing in your career is developing your brand and how you are going to be found and known to your potential client base. Not only are MSers looking for the expert who is going to help them with their specific need, but also MS organizations and companies are looking for that specific expert to educate and work with their constituents. You are more likely to secure that job or grow your business because you have established your brand and have gone the extra mile to expand your knowledge base.
Referral Systems and Collaborations
Establishing your brand as the go-to expert in MS and Fitness will be the catalyst for building relationships with other professionals in your area. Creating a referral system with other allied health professionals like MDs, chiropractors and physical therapists takes a tremendous amount of trust on their part. They are not going to refer their clients to just anyone. They want to ensure that they are referring to trusted health/fitness professionals with expertise and expanded knowledge in the area of MS. This is a great referral stream that will be beneficial in growing your MS and Fitness business. In addition, once that symbiotic relationship has matured, you and your allied health professionals can work on mutual health/fitness projects together, doubling your efforts to grow each other’s businesses.
Gone are the days when all you need is your personal training certification to start physically training clients. Initially, there were primarily only two main organizations that were known to provide comprehensive education and testing to achieve a certification. Now, there are hundreds of health/fitness certifying bodies and continuing education organizations. The industry is constantly changing and evolving and it is imperative that you as the health/fitness professional stay relevant and current, otherwise the industry will pass you by. Continuing education provides you the tools necessary to stay relevant in the MS and Fitness world. In addition, your clients use you as a litmus test, and they trust you to either confirm or explain what they read on the Internet. Because you have the latest education and research information, your clients will come to you with questions regarding the latest MS information. Continuing education can be achieved through attending industry conferences, reading published peer-reviewed literature, reading industry publications, taking online courses and attending webinars.
Bridge the Gap
Fitness professionals can effectively work with those who have MS, providing them with a better quality of life through proper movement and nutrition, but you need to specialize. You as the MS health and fitness coach can provide a positive experience to facilitate an effective path to better health and wellness. For more information on how you can become a MS Fitness Specialist, visit medfitclassroom.org/our-courses/
This article was featured in the summer 2020 issue of MedFit Professional Magazine. Click to read the latest issue and get your free subscription.
CarolAnn (M.S., CPT, CN) is a 30+year fitness industry veteran holding positions such as program director, studio owner, educator, presenter and author. She develops health/fitness curriculum for organizations such as FiTOUR, Hydracize, MedFit Network and PT Global. Along with producing and starring in several fitness videos, she is an expert contributor for publications such as Livestrong, Personal Fitness Professional (PFP), MedFit Professional, and New Tampa Style Magazine. She serves on the Education Advisory Board for MedFit Education Foundation. She is now spreading the gospel of health and fitness targeting churches with Chiseled Faith®. She has been selected to be a 2019-2021 National Fitness Hall of Fame Fitness Superstar. You can find her work at www.CarolAnn.Fitness and www.ChiseledFaith.com.
David Lyons (BS, CPT) has spent most of his life in the gym either training as a boxer/martial artist or bodybuilder. He owned fitness centers across the US in the late 80s/early 90s; consulted in sales/marketing/management for gyms such as Golds’ Gym, Powerhouse Gym, Anytime Fitness and others; created and manufactured his own line of supplements; trained athletes and celebrities; and, after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2006, founded The MS Bodybuilding Challenge and co-founded the MS Fitness Challenge nonprofit charity with wife, Kendra R.N. (www.msfitnesschallenge.com). He is the author of the #1 selling book Everyday Health and Fitness with MS and columnist for the largest online wellness magazine, EverydayHealth.com. David is also the Senior Fitness Director for MS Workouts, overseeing all trainer programs.