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Elder woman training with physiotherapist

Time to Make House Calls?

As more healthcare companies see the benefits, it presents a huge opportunity for qualified medical fitness practitioners

Studies have shown that the number of physicians making house calls is increasing. One of the reasons house calls might be back on the rise is because the senior population of the U.S. is growing at a rapid pace. Years ago, most physicians would make house calls for their patients.

feet sneakers

The Feet: The Body’s Foundation

The feet are one of the most overused and taken for granted parts of the body. Since the feet are the foundation for the rest of the body, it would only be logical to begin developing strong, aligned, and full functioning feet from the start when developing a personalized fitness program. The feet should be a priority for developing sound fitness education in order to prevent injuries. Most fitness and sport injuries usually involve the feet. Even when the injury is to the knee, hip or back it can usually be traced back to a misaligned foot pattern.

In the fitness and wellness world there is hardly ever a designated focus on the feet. Since the feet are involved in almost all fitness activities it would make sense that starting with a careful assessment of a person’s feet would be the best place to start. Observing how a person stands, walks, runs, and moves normally can tell you why a person might have a hip, knee, or lower back problem. People who have difficulty with balance almost always have a foot alignment and gait which cannot support the body in movement. Maintaining and working foot function is crucial for insuring continuous mobility, and independence in populations who are handi-capped, have had strokes, who have M.S. or Parkinson’s, or diabetes.

Feet often are good indicators for what is going on in other parts of the body. Abnormalities or pain in the feet can often be a precursor for more serious health conditions. This means that we as wellness practitioners and fitness experts need to pay attention to the feet so much more than is commonly done today.

As wellness/fitness educators it makes sense to understand the anatomy of the feet. It is easy to understand and be able to explain to clients that there are three posterior muscles which go into the plantar foot, three muscles into the dorsal foot. There are three muscles which attach at the calcaneus stabilizing the ankle, heel and lower leg to knee. Both the tibialis posterior and anterior are major stabilizers and the flexors and extensors can only reach their insertions based on the full function of these two muscles. It is not difficult to give people simple and clear understandings of these basic muscles and how they need to be in balance in order for the muscles of the legs to work correctly.

Throughout the body we train muscle groups and chains to function and support the body in movement. These muscles are largely unrestricted by outside forces. Only in the feet are the muscle insertions cut off and thus, restrict the muscles from their full function.

This means that over time the muscle chains will slowly contract upward from these restricted insertions. Wearing shoes to train restricts full function of the feet and legs. This in no way means you should train people barefoot, however, it does mean that part of each training session should be focusing on the feet without shoes worn.

Here are simple facts about the feet:

  • There are 52 bones in your feet which makes up 1/4 of the bones in your body. This means that it pays to focus on the anatomy of the feet and to best understand how to transfer weight through them.
  • Each foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, and 19 muscles and tendons which are supposed to hold the structure and allow it to move the rest of the body. The more you can analyze a person’s gait and standing position and observe which muscles are not being used properly and where weight is impacting and damaging the foot, the easier it can become to correct the problem and prevent injuries.
  • 75% of all Americans will experience foot problems at some point in their lives. This is epidemic. More people are living active lives and more foot injuries are occurring annually. Starting at the feet is essential for avoiding foot injuries.
  • With a foot injury, without education about how to change the way a person is using his feet, the injury will continue to occur and worsen with time. Using orthotics and other devices does not re-educate the feet. They are temporary fixes. Over time a person will continue to breakdown in the same pattern while weight bearing into the orthotic.
  • When walking the feet receive more pressure into them than the actual weight of a person and when running it can be up to four times the weight of a person. Learning how to use the entire foot when walking allows a transfer of weight throughout the foot. This can mean a person stops walking into the same point repetitively breaking down. Weight needs to be transferred equally through the feet.
  • Only a small percentage of people are actually born with foot problems. People blame foot problems on their genetics. Genetics in the feet as well as in any other structural part of the body can be identified and improved upon to avoid repeating the family pattern.

Bringing the Best Foot Practices into the Medical Fitness Community

It is important to bring the feet into your client’s fitness/wellness program. Learn how to break foot education down so it is mindful and allows a person the ability to understand how to use his/her feet. Here are some pointers:

  • Observe how your client stands, walks, and runs to see the most used foot pattern.
  • Observe where this pattern might be repetitively stressing and impacting the joints of the feet and above in the body.
  • Teach a client how to walk and stand in parallel with feet at hips distance a part.
  • Train people how to transfer their weight from the heels, through the outside of the feet, through the transverse arch from lateral foot to medial, from fifth toe to big toe. The knee must stay in line with the middle foot when the big toe presses down into the floor.
  • Explain what pronation and supination are. Explain the difference between pronation and collapsing the feet medial breaking down the arch.
  • Train clients how to activate and strengthen and stretch their toes.
  • If your client is weight bearing into the medial knee, focus on the feet to realign the knees and avoid a knee injury.
  • The more you bring a foot practice into your program, the better your results will be and the less injuries will be experienced.

Learn more from Yamuna on this topic! Register to watch her webinar, Rebuilding Healthy Foot Function.


Yamuna Zake is a visionary healer dedicated to demystifying the body and providing simple, powerful tools that make lifelong fitness and well-being a reality for everyone. She has developed her deep knowledge of how the body works over forty years, starting at sixteen, when she became a certified hatha yoga instructor. She is the founder of Yamuna, a leading source of education for teachers, therapists, and fitness instructors interested in expanding their knowledge in BodySustainability which can enhance their core expertise, and often lead to a longer term interest in becoming a certified Yamuna instructor.

 

References

  • Information taken from Illinois Pediatric Medical association – Simple facts
  • Yamuna Foot Fitness Training Manuals – Bringing best foot Practices
trainer-client-crutches

Closing the Trust Gap: Are personal training certifications failing medical fitness?

For over 30 years, the alphabet soup of letter-bearing personal training certification companies like ACE, NASM, NSCA and ISSA have focused on providing education leading to a fitness certification. While the companies have differing audiences and missions, collectively they have failed to truly make the connection between the fitness industry and the healthcare industry.

Personal trainers tend to be health advocates (and sometimes zealots) who show up as the face of the fitness industry. They tend to actually live and practice the life they espouse. Most leave the industry quickly, but even as they leave personal training and continue throughout their careers they tend to retain their core values around fitness.

Listen to almost any group of personal trainers and you’ll hear them speak passionately about the value of fitness and the ability to help control or eliminate diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart diseases and some forms of cancer. For their more affluent customers, personal trainers are frontline soldiers in a battle for healthier living.

So, how is it that well-intentioned organizations that believe that healthier living improves lives and who have over 350,000 personal trainers working in America alone have been unable to connect those trainers to the next higher level of their mission? What has gone so wrong that the average consumer would more likely connect a personal trainer to an Instagram or social media influencer than to their healthcare provider?

In a recent ISSA survey, personal training buyers were asked what education or qualifications were required to become a personal trainer. Nearly 80% of those surveyed did not know. Fortunately, nearly everyone surveyed believed that some form of education or certification was required. Perhaps consumers would have the same answer if the question was asked regarding nursing or other healthcare positions other than that of a doctor.

In this situation and those like it in America, we are accustomed to trusting the person in the job has the knowledge, skills and abilities to do the job. We may not know how or why, but we have given them the magic ingredient — trust.

In our society, we fundamentally trust that by achieving the title of doctor, the holder will do no harm and will have the secret to curing what ails us. Do we trust that our personal trainer will do no harm and will have the secret to help us achieve our fitness goals? Not so much.

In the same ISSA survey, buyers of personal training were asked if personal trainers could help clients lose weight and 90% answered yes. When asked if personal trainers could help cure type 2 diabetes only 10% answered yes. There was an 80% difference when asked the same question in the context of personal training goals versus medical goals!

It would seem logical that if the same question was asked in the context of knee pain or joint pain and heart disease or blood pressure the results would be the same.

We trust that personal trainers understand how to improve our fitness, but we don’t connect our fitness to our healthcare. This is a trust gap.

This trust gap is the most fundamental issue preventing all of the subsequent steps which need to happen in order for medical fitness to thrive. There can be no insurance reimbursement or physician prescription of exercise as medicine as long as we don’t first believe our health is in our control and that fitness professionals can help their clients achieve results.

Today, even physicians who believe in exercise as medicine are reluctant to refer clients. Despite some of the most forward-looking physicians and groups bringing exercise and personal training into their medical practice, compliance remains spotty and reimbursement varies widely.

A recent study provided insights around prescribing exercise as medicine in the treatment of 26 different diseases: psychiatric diseases (depression, anxiety, stress, schizophrenia); neurological diseases (dementia, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis); metabolic diseases (obesity, hyperlipidemia, metabolic syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome, type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes); cardiovascular diseases (hypertension, coronary heart disease, heart failure, cerebral apoplexy, and claudication intermittent); pulmonary diseases (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, cystic fibrosis); musculoskeletal disorders (osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, rheumatoid arthritis); and cancer.

But, how much of this is studied by medical students and applied by physicians? Why does the majority of our society doubt fitness? Is it because we don’t trust fitness professionals? If so, what is the fitness certification world to do?

If we are to close this trust gap, the industry needs to achieve three milestones:

  1. Personal trainers need to have a common standard of professional knowledge and skill
  2. Required continuing education and training must be in place
  3. We need to have standards of care for fitness programming.

This requires that the industry through leadership such as IHRSA combined with companies like ISSA, NASM, ACSM, ACE and others eliminate the need for individual exams and certifications and move to a common standard of excellence for all.

In the absence of the fitness industry creating an environment where all parties can trust their personal trainer to provide safe and effective training programs, none of us can expect medical schools to teach fitness or doctors to prescribe exercise or insurance companies to reimburse for exercise.

COVID-19 has finally created a broad national awareness of the incredible risks of obesity and underlying medical conditions which largely could be controlled through diet and exercise. Now is the time to take action and help a new generation live healthier lives.

This article was featured in the summer 2020 issue of MedFit Professional Magazine. Click to read the latest issue and get your free subscription.


Andrew Wyant serves as the President of the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) after having helped successfully build and grow a series of businesses in a wide variety of industries. Since becoming ISSA’s leader in 2018, the ISSA has grown by over 400% and has become the No. 1 rated and reviewed personal training company in the world. Andrew is passionate about the potential personal trainers have to help improve our world by reducing the rates of preventable diseases. He has been deeply involved in the health and fitness industry since 2011.

meditation

Meditation for a New Normal

Regardless of how you’ve been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and racial justice movement, it’s likely you’ve felt it  in some way. Maybe on a small scale your grocery store trips have become less (or more) frequent. Or maybe you haven’t been able to go to events with friends. Or maybe it’s been further reaching, and your day-to-day work situation is upended. Maybe your financial situation is too. Or maybe you or a family member is sick. And in the past few weeks, glaring racial inequality has caused an awakening to injustice that’s shaken people’s worlds.

There are countless ways 2020 has changed our lives (can you believe we’re only halfway through!?). Amidst the upheaval–  the disruption of routines and habitual ways of thinking also creates an incredible opportunity. For some, this time can be beneficial for introducing practices and habits that can help a person in all aspects of their life. As people spend more time alone, introducing or deepening a meditation practice can be a powerful way to not just survive, but also grow, through this unprecedented time.

Relieve Stress and Improve Health

A new study from researchers at San Diego State University and Florida State University found that in April 2020, during the pandemic, roughly 70% of Americans experienced moderate-to-severe mental distress – triple the rate of 2018. Racial injustice and the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic are creating the perfect storm for even more severe mental health disparities.

As people attempt to deal with the real and imagined dangers of their current situations and the unrest in the world, many of us can become filled with anxiety, fear, and insecurity. The resulting physiological effects can then negatively impact our physical health. Meditation offers us the opportunity to better deal with disempowering thoughts and emotions that arise, while also improving physical well-being (Note: sometimes beginning a meditation practice while experiencing intense difficulty or trauma can intensify the discomfort and leave us feeling worse than before. It’s important to find a meditation practice that meets you where you are and supports your needs). 

Many meditation apps and in-person studios have responded by making their offerings more widely available online or curating them for certain groups. Los Angeles-based meditation app Headspace is offering free services and guides to help people cope with stress by introducing Headspace for Healthcare Professionals, Headspace for Work, and Headspace for Educators, in addition to teaming up with the Office of New York Governor Cuomo to offer free meditation and mindfulness content for all New Yorkers. Kaiser Permanente announced that it added meditation app Calm to its digital self-care portfolio, so Kaiser Permanente members can access it at no cost.

Guided meditations through apps are wonderful entryways into meditation for many people. However, they’re also an example of the external stimuli which so many of us have become addicted to. Because of this, it’s extremely beneficial to learn a meditation technique with a teacher. With a teacher, you’re better able to create a sustainable practice that evolves with you and doesn’t rely on external tools. They can also help navigate stumbling blocks. It’s important to keep in mind there are many different types of meditation. Similar to “sports” serving as an umbrella term, meditation encompasses different categories that engage and affect your brain differently. Some also require more mental effort and nuanced practice than others. 

Learn more about different meditation categories and physiological effects in the MedFit webinar “The Meditation Landscape”)

Transform Isolation Into Solitude

Regardless of how deeply one’s mental state has been affected during this time, many people have found themselves spending more time alone. And while physical distancing, by nature, is isolating and can take a toll on one’s mental health, being alone and lonely are two different things. During meditation, when we’re alone and become still, our emotions and thoughts rise to the surface. This can be difficult. By developing a meditation practice, we’re able to cultivate a sense of solitude and deepen our relationship with ourselves. Meditation is a powerful gateway into self-acceptance, stillness, and gratitude.

It’s common for weeks, months, years, and even decades to pass by while being engulfed in the busyness of our lives. The demands and responsibilities can seem endless. It may not feel like there’s time or it’s not the best use of our time to meditate. However, meditation is often most beneficial for those who think they don’t have time to meditate.

It’s by creating the space in our day that creates the space in our minds to pause. And through this brief pause we’re able to develop a more finely tuned awareness of ourselves, our thoughts and emotions, our needs, and our behaviors. We also become more aware of what our priorities are and how we can make adjustments in our inner and outer lives to meet our needs. By becoming more aware, we’re able to cultivate the patience, resilience, and compassion to make better choices.

The extended pause or disruption to our day-to-day lives is a powerful time to adopt or deepen a meditation practice. Many of our current habits are linked to cues from our environment and schedule. So when your life changes, it can be a great time to establish new routines because your environment and schedule are changing anyway. It might feel easier to adopt a meditation practice when it’s moving along with a larger transition, especially when it includes more time alone.

Cultivate Compassion and Deepen Communication 

Even though many people are practicing physical distancing for public health reasons, thankfully social interactions with friends and family can continue. Zoom, FaceTime, and even a quick phone call or text can make a big difference in our daily lives. Meditation gives us the opportunity to not only deepen our relationship with ourselves, but also improve our relationships with one another. As we cultivate a deeper sense of peace, happiness, and compassion within, the people around us benefit as well. 

Meditation can help curb stress, which can prevent negative environments that lead to tension between people. By taking responsibility for and curbing your stress you can also benefit your relationships with others. Certain meditations can even help strengthen feelings of connection. Regardless of the physical distance between people, the feeling of connection and belonging can remain strong.

In particular, compassion and loving-kindness meditations can literally train your brain to feel more compassionate and loving. And research shows that empathy and compassion also have tremendous benefits for health and wellbeing — improved happiness, lower inflammation, decreased anxiety and depression, and even a longer life. 

Meditation for a New Normal

Living through a pandemic and racial justice revolution can bring up a wide range of emotions, fears, and challenges. There’s no right or wrong way to feel or deal with it. If you’re looking for a way to use the disruption to change habits and create a meditation practice, remember that the mind, just like a muscle, can be strengthened. While there won’t be an overnight transformation, you can begin to develop the neurological pathways that will help you now and in the future.

As cities and countries begin to reopen, a push toward the old way of doing things and being in the world arises. Be vigilant and strategic about making room for the things you’ve found and cultivated during this time, such as meditation, so they can become part of your new normal. Old habits and patterns can get locked inside of us. Be clear about what you want to bring into this next phase of your life. What did you discover about yourself or life you want to hold onto? Write them down so you have a place you can come back to and remember. Developing a meditation practice isn’t a sprint – it’s a marathon – so be patient as you discover what works for you in each phase of your life.


Angela Singer has been studying and practicing meditation and mental wellness for 8 years. Through earning meditation and wellness coaching certifications, she’s created a toolbox of accessible mental wellness workouts for all levels. She is the founder of Traverse Meditation Studio, a boutique, virtual studio.

She teaches her students and clients to unlock their natural intelligence and creativity, reconnect to their flow state, and achieve professional and personal resiliency. Through her research of neuroscience, neuroplasticity, meditation, positive and perceptual psychology, and the mind-body connection, she’s found that human beings can have an immense amount of power over how we experience life. When we develop and practice this superpower daily, it can become a habit that transforms how we live our lives.

Among many other things, meditation and mental wellness workouts have helped her step into her expression as a voice actress, painter, and entrepreneur. It brings her so much joy to share these practices with clients to help them experience more of what they want in life.

male-trainer-male-client

The Roles of a Medical Fitness Practitioner: Scope of practice, prevention and interprofessional collaboration

Physical activity is any bodily movement produced by voluntarily contracting skeletal muscle that results in energy expenditure above a basal level. Physical activity has been demonstrated to positively affect over 30 chronic conditions and is considered the best deterrent of chronic disease in primary and secondary prevention. The main goal of a Medical Fitness Practitioner (MFP) in the healthcare continuum is to prevent the onset of chronic disease and bridge the gap between clinical intervention and conventional fitness programs. This is achieved by developing exercise programs for those who have, or are at risk for chronic disease or dysfunction, have health conditions that may be mitigated or managed by exercise and activity, are newly diagnosed with disease and need exercise guidance, or have completed a medically supervised rehabilitation program and need to continue to progress. A fitness professional versed in medical fitness protocols, such as an MFP, can work with those who are at risk for chronic disease.

Scope of Practice

Scope of practice refers to boundaries set by knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs), as well as education, experience and demonstrated competency, such as a program of study, or an exam to measure proficiency. A basic personal training certification suggests the holder can develop exercise programs for apparently heathy clients. Unfortunately, considering the overweight and obesity rate is near 70%, and 50%-60% of the adult U.S. population has at least one chronic disease, adhering to scope of practice becomes increasingly important, yet at the same time many fitness professionals may be providing services outside their scope of practice, and beyond their level of certification. By accepting a client, the trainer is proposing a safe workout will be developed and implemented, and the client will not be at risk of injury. If advice is given that is not within the trainer’s scope of practice, the trainer and the facility may be subjected to a lawsuit.

An MFP who integrates medical fitness into practice has the KSAs, based on education, experience and demonstrated competency to conduct pre-participation interviews, perform fitness assessments and to design and implement health and fitness programs for disease management to avoid future injury and to improve activities of daily living. Unlike an MFP, unless otherwise educated, a fitness trainer who promotes medical fitness is not a licensed healthcare provider and does not possess the KSAs to diagnose an unknown condition, suggest supplements, design meal plans, physically touch a client or provide behavioral counseling.

Prevention

In the United States, medical care tends to focus on treatment rather than prevention. Whereas treatment is given for a diagnosed disease or injury, the goal of prevention is to avoid, improve or slow down the progression of a probable or possible disease or injury. Prevention can be categorized as primary, secondary or tertiary. The goal of primary prevention is to foster a life of wellness and therefore avoid or reduce the chance of disease or dysfunction. Primary prevention includes immunizations, targeted types of exercise, balanced nutrition and wellness and education programs. Secondary prevention is managing a symptomatic disease in the hopes of slowing down or reversing the progression. Examples include treatment for hypertension, asthma and some cancer treatments. Tertiary prevention involves the management and treatment of symptomatic disease with the goal of slowing progression and severity, as well as reducing disease related complications. Tertiary prevention includes treatment for late stage cancer, coronary heart disease and some types of rehabilitation to include orthopedic, cardiac and pulmonary. Physical activity has been demonstrated to effectively treat over 30 chronic conditions, mostly in primary prevention but also in secondary and tertiary, making it the number one intervention against chronic disease.

Interprofessional Collaboration

Due to the growing incidence of obesity and chronic disease, leveraging the skills of various providers who can collaborate to deliver the best possible care, based on clinical needs, is necessary to manage the complex health care demands of a population with an increasing incidence of comorbidities. Due to a worldwide shortage of health workers, in 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized interprofessional collaboration as means to mitigate the global clinician shortage, strengthen health systems and improve outcomes. Interprofessional collaboration refers to health care teams, made up of trained professionals with various backgrounds, who work alongside patients and their families to provide high-quality care, based on the needs of the patient. Consequently, as medical providers begin to recognize the need to prescribe evidence-based exercise as an intervention in the management of chronic disease, MFPs, who are on the front line of health care, are trained and educated to be part of a clinical team that complements and leverages the strengths of each team member to improve population health. As health-science and technology advance, it is imperative for fitness professionals who work with clients who have one or more chronic disease to remain up-to-date on emerging fitness protocols. An MFP is required to participate in continuing education in areas including cardiopulmonary disease, metabolic disorders and orthopedic dysfunction.

Although the scope of practice of many allied healthcare fields overlap, the role of the MFP is to work with the client’s team of other healthcare providers, while staying within the scope of practice, based on KSAs. Regardless of the collaborative health team, the client’s physician is always the center, and as such should be provided regular updates as to the client’s progress.

An MFP is uniquely qualified to work with individuals within the healthcare continuum. Some KSAs associated with MFPs are:

  • Knowledge of basic chronic disease pathophysiology
  • The use and side effects of common medications taken by someone suffering from a chronic disease
  • The knowledge to perform and analyze basic assessments related to movement and anthropometry
  • The knowledge to design a safe and effective workout based on information received via assessment results, and the clinical recommendations from other healthcare providers
  • FITT protocols, exercise progressions and regressions
  • The implications of exercise and activity for individuals with chronic disease
  • Contraindications of chronic disease, and signs and symptoms of distress related to chronic disease
  • Knowledge of signs and symptoms that require expertise outside of the scope of practice for medical exercise
  • The ability to recognize a medical emergency
  • Current CPR and adult AED are required

This article was featured in the summer 2020 issue of MedFit Professional Magazine. Click to read the latest issue and get your free subscription.


Dan Mikeska has a doctorate degree in Health Science and a master’s degree in Human Movement, as well as certifications from NASM, ACE, the Cancer Exercise Training Institute and the Exercise Is Medicine credential from ACSM. He currently owns NOVA Medical Exercise and Medical Exercise Academy and is adjunct faculty for A.T. Still University’s Master of Kinesiology program. Dan’s mission is to improve population health and to increase the quality of life by connecting education, medicine and fitness. 

calcium-food-sources

Osteoporosis Prevention Diet

Osteoporosis Prevention Diet? EEK! One more thing to worry about? Sounds like more bad news but it’s not. True, our bodies can lose up to 40% of their bone mass in the 10 years following menopause. And true, if we don’t do something we could easily end up with osteoporosis. But also true, the fix for this is both easy and delicious.

trainer-senior-client-stretch

Why Fitness Professionals Should Join the MedFit Network

It is safe to assume that not everyone a fitness professional works with is injury- or disease-free. As a fitness professional, it is your responsibility to ensure that you provide your clientele with safe and effective programming. The question you have to ask yourself is: are you truly qualified and up to date on the latest information to work with your current (and future) clientele? A second question to ask is: are you marketing yourself to those who need you most in this healthcare crisis? If you’re honest, you should at least say that perhaps you are not.

Well, this is where the MedFit Network (MFN) can help! The MFN is both a professional membership organization for fitness and allied healthcare professionals and a free online resource directory for the community to locate professionals with a background in prevention, treatment and rehabilitation in working with those with chronic disease or medical conditions. As a fitness professional, here are three reasons why you should join the MedFit Network.

1: Raising the Fitness Professional Standards by Becoming a Medical Fitness Practitioner

MFN is dedicated to making sure fitness professionals are highly educated and prepared to work with any medical issue. The name given for this person is a Medical Fitness Practitioner (MFP). The MFP helps make the transition from medical management and/or physical therapy to a regular physical activity program following a surgery, an injury, a medical diagnosis or exacerbation of a pre-existing condition. They also possess the training and skills to work with medical conditions like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, neuromuscular disorders and heart disease. So, a medical fitness practitioner is not just a personal trainer but includes wellness- and health-related disciplines such as chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists, nutritionists, etc.

2: Continuing Education

The MedFit Education Foundation (MFEF) is the nonprofit partner of the MedFit Network dedicated to elevating the quality and amount of available education for the medical fitness professional and the entire fitness and wellness community. For example, there is a Multiple Sclerosis Fitness Specialist and A Women’s Health, Fitness and Hormone Specialist course that are both one-of-a-kind. Continuing education is required for all their specialty courses. This is typically not the case. It is usually continuing education only for your certification. All of their continuing education courses are approved by a medical advisory board of some of the brightest professionals in the nation. MFEF also has weekly educational webinars that are included with your membership. These webinars are presented weekly (50 in total) by industry experts on such topics as medical fitness and active aging.

The MFN is an organization filled with people from all walks of the wellness professional spectrum. For example, they have MDs, PTs, chiropractors, dieticians, fitness and massage therapists to name a few. As a result, opportunities to network are endless. Because of this, current members have developed their own educational courses and even started their own blogs. Also, members have been able to designate their facility as medical fitness facilities by working with a member who specializes in helping people achieve this status.

The MedFit Network is a unique organization dedicated to improving the standards of the fitness and allied healthcare professional. The ability for the diseased community to go to a directory of qualified medical fitness professionals is something unheard of anywhere else. The three reasons given are just the tip of the iceberg as to why you should be a part of this movement, the MFN!

Click to learn more about joining the MedFit Network as a professional member.


This column was featured in the summer 2020 issue of MedFit Professional Magazine. Click to read the latest issue and get your free subscription.


Maurice Williams offers a rare combination of advanced academic training, personal experience as a competitive athlete, entrepreneur skills and 22 years of experience in personal fitness and training. He has a BS in Exercise/Sport Science from Elon College (Now Elon University) and an MS in Clinical Exercise Physiology from Ohio University. He currently serves as the Director of Membership Services for the MedFit Network. 

broccoli

Building a Better Vegan/Vegetarian Sports Diet

Among athletes, “turning vegan” (or vegetarian) is not a passing fad. Given the most popular ages for embarking upon a vegan lifestyle are 19, 20 and 21, many college athletes are asking me how to eat a meatless sports diet.

First, I want to understand why they are choosing to cut out animal-based foods. The standard reasons are:

1. Vegan and vegetarian diets tend to be healthier than a diet based on burgers and bacon. Indeed, plant-based meals with beans, veggies, and whole grains are nutrient dense, fiber-rich, and abundant in healthful phytochemicals and healthy fats. (Yet, vegan diets are not always healthier. Coke, Oreos, Skittles, Doritos are vegan-friendly…)

2. Vegans/vegetarians are leaner than omnivores, so some athletes embark upon a vegan lifestyle in hopes of losing weight. That might happen if your vegan/vegetarian diet coincides with limiting your intake of calories. Knocking off 300 calories of ice cream and replacing it with 100 calories of berries creates a significant calorie reduction.

3. Plant-based diets address concerns about animal rights and the environment. Hence, vegan/vegetarian diets appeal to animal lovers and folks who want to help save the planet. Reducing animal agriculture is one small way to curb global warming (and every little bit helps). But according to Frank Mitloehner PhD professor and air quality specialist at UC-Davis, industry and transportation are far bigger polluters— as is wasted food. (Forty percent of food we produce never gets to the table.) This podcast with Dr. Mitloehner offers science-based climate-change facts.

4. Though not verbalized as a reason to go vegan, meatless diets, unfortunately, are a popular way for athletes with anorexia to cut out chicken, beef, fish, eggs, dairy to the point they are living on little more than fruits and veggies. Eating disorders can change healthy vegan meals into diets deficient in not only protein, but many nutrients, including iron, calcium, zinc, B-12, vitamin D, iodine, and omega-3 fats. Within a few months, good health can dwindle into injuries, hair falling out in clumps, low energy, and poor athletic performance.

Considerations when building a vegan sports diet

The busy lifestyle of vegan athletes can create nutrition challenges. For example, when eating on the run, vegans may find Oreos are more readily available than, let’s say, roasted chickpeas. Grab-and-go snacks of just a bagel or a banana should get balanced with some protein — but is hummus or soymilk readily available? All this means vegan athletes have to be responsible and plan ahead.

When listening to my vegan/vegetarian clients, I often hear “red flag” statements that signal misinformation. Let’s take a look at some common misconceptions and correct some myths related to vegan/vegetarian sports diets.

“Carbs” are fattening, a waste of calories? False! 

Plants are carbs! While you want to limit nutrient-poor carbs (like Frosted Flakes, Pop-Tarts, ramen), wholesome carbs (preferably called grain-foods) should be the foundation of every meal to fully fuel muscles. Athletes who train one to three hours a day can easily end up with needless fatigue if they try to thrive on fruit and salads. Grains (and all “carbs”) are NOT inherently fattening. Excess calories of any food can be fattening.

As a vegan/vegetarian athlete, you would be wise to eat grains (such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread, brown rice) as the foundation of each meal/snack. Combine them with a colorful assortment of fruits and/or vegetables for more muscle-fuel, and of course, a dose of protein.

Lunchtime salads are a healthy vegan meal? Sometimes.

While salads can be nutrient-rich, they can also be protein and carb-poor—but high in calories given a “little bit” of olive oil on a big salad ends up being a lot of dressing. Filling up on calories from fat will not refuel depleted muscle glycogen. Vegan athletes could better refuel their muscles with a grain-protein combination such as a hummus wrap or beans and rice.

Quinoa can be the “protein” in a vegan meal? No!

Quinoa is reputed to be a protein-rich grain, containing all the essential amino acids needed to build muscle. It is not a stand-along protein-rich food. If you compare quinoa to other grains, you’ll see it offers only 6 grams of protein per 200 calories, similar to rice (4 g), and less than pasta (7 g). Most athletes should target 15 to 25 grams of protein at each meal. That means, you want to add more than just quinoa to your salad. How about tofu? beans? lentils?

Almond milk is a replacement for dairy milk? No way!

Almond juice (it is not milk) has far fewer nutrients than dairy milk. Milk’s 8 grams of high-quality protein is life-sustaining. The 1 gram of low-quality protein in almond beverages is not. Soy or pea milk are acceptable dairy-free alternatives to cows’ milk.

Soy causes cancer and man-boobs? Wrong.

The latest research indicates soy is cancer preventive and is safe— even for women with breast cancer. As for man-boobs, the one case study about unusual male breast development refers to a person who routinely drank three quarts of soymilk a day. That is a LOT of soymilk. For the latest soy updates, enjoy this podcast.

Protein bars and powders can replace real foods? Not really.

Protein-rich foods are preferable to highly processed bars and shakes. Nutrients in natural foods interact synergistically Instead of yet-another bar or shake for a meal or snack, how about cereal + (soy) milk, crackers + hummus, or banana + nut butter? Aren’t these real foods more in keeping with the spirit of veganism?


Sports Nutritionist Nancy Clark, MS, RD counsels both casual and competitive athletes in the Boston-area. Her updated (2019) Sports Nutrition Guidebook can help you optimize your eating. Visit NancyClarkRD.com for information about appointments, books, and teaching materials.