With the growing rate of obesity across many demographics, the health and wellness field has become even more critical. There are emerging occupations, one of which is the role of a medical exercise specialist. Fitness professionals that focus on helping people increase their physical activity, improve their eating habits, and make healthier choices are instrumental in fighting the obesity epidemic.  

However, helping some clients can be challenging because poor nutrition habits and excess weight play a role in the development of a variety of other health conditions. This means, oftentimes, many of the clients that fitness professionals really need to help have a variety of medical conditions that need to be considered when building a program for them.

So, how do you make sure you are creating safe and effective programs for these clients? Follow along as we discuss a critical role within the health and fitness field–the Medical Exercise Specialists. 

What As A Medical Exercise Specialist?

A Medical Exercise Specialist plays an essential role in bridging the gap between the medical world and the fitness world.  

For example, let’s say a client is diagnosed by a doctor with one or more health conditions.  The doctor may recommend that the client exercise more or suggest changes in physical activity as the client recovers. But, doctors often don’t have the knowledge or time to design exercise programming for the client–that’s where a Medical Exercise Specialist comes in.

A Medical Exercise Specialist is similar to a Certified Personal Trainer but has the knowledge necessary to collaborate with a client’s medical professional to design exercise programming for clients with various medical concerns. Medical Exercise Specialists often support clients with:

  • Metabolic conditions
  • Neurological issues
  • Musculoskeletal concerns
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Or, other types of chronic disease

Medical Exercise Specialists will have a solid foundation in how different conditions affect the body and how that, in turn, affects the body during exercise. They will also be meticulous with tracking client progress and challenges and be able to identify warning signs associated with the client’s condition. In addition, Medical Exercise Specialists will be prepared to execute a variety of different types of assessments and have a solid understanding of which assessments are safe and appropriate for the client and their condition. Keep in mind, that they’ll work hand in hand with medical professionals and cannot diagnose nor treat any condition independently. 

Where Does A Medical Exercise Specialist Work?

There are a variety of facilities that an exercise specialist can work for or with. Hospitals, recovery centers, physical therapy facilities, nursing homes, and fitness facilities could all employ or collaborate with a Medical Exercise Specialist. A Medical Exercise Specialist can also work independently and travel to clients’ homes. 

The reason they work for or with these facilities is that a large focus for many Medical Exercise Specialists is designing a safe and custom exercise program. But, that programming needs to be customized specifically to the client and their medical condition. As fitness professionals, they work closely with a client’s physical therapist, doctor, or other medical professionals to ensure careful protocols are followed to ensure the safety of the client. 

What Are Some Of The Day-To-Day Tasks Of A Medical Exercise Specialist?

Like many fitness professionals, each day may look a little different than the next. However, there are some specific tasks that Medical Exercise Specialists will likely perform and must be diligent with.

A Medical Exercise Specialist will need to receive medical clearance for the client as well as guidelines that will serve as the basis of the program design. Much like a personal trainer, a Medical Exercise Specialist will need to be meticulous in their fitness exercise testing, goal setting, tracking of client data, proper technique, and safety.  

Client’s may be required to wear a heart rate monitor (or another monitoring device) throughout their entire workout so the Medical Exercise Specialist can monitor heart rate, review the data post-workout, and potentially share that data with their medical professional if needed. 

How Do You Become A Medical Exercise Specialist?

Becoming a Medical Exercise Specialist can be an incredibly rewarding fitness career. Finding the right course(s) to help you prepare for this crucial role is incredibly important. 

Because the role of a Medical Exercise Specialist is a relatively new profession, they are not licensed by the state they practice. Although, this could change in the future.

Currently, there are a few certification programs available. Oftentimes, a four-year health and fitness degree (ex. exercise science or equivalent) is required or a personal training certification from an accredited organization. In addition to that, candidates are also required to complete a CPR/AED course. 

Once a candidate meets the appropriate qualifications, typically, they will go through a Medical Exercise Specialist course with a certification exam at the end. 

5 Tips For Medical Exercise Specialists

Although Medical Exercise Specialists are knowledgeable in many chronic conditions, there are still a few things they need to consider when working with clients.

  • Stay in your lane

Safety is of the utmost importance when working with clientele. So, it’s important that you stay within your scope of practice and refer out to the appropriate medical professional when needed.

  • Find your niche

Specializing in a niche may help you become more of an expert for certain chronic conditions.  Working with one or two specific conditions can allow you to narrow your focus, expand your education and skills, and best help those clients.

  • Develop strong relationships with medical professionals

Strong professional relationships are essential in every field. As a Medical Exercise Specialist, it’s even more important. These professional connections are the people that will refer clients to you and who you can feel comfortable referring back to when you have a client in need of their services.

  • Don’t skimp on your education

The more knowledge you have about the human body, chronic conditions, medications associated with those conditions and how they impact the body, exercise testing and programming, and proper client progress, the better foundation you have to help clients who truly need your help.

  • Continuing education is key

In alignment with the tip above, keep in mind that you don’t have to know it all to start. It’s important to have strong foundational knowledge, but you can continue to learn and grow as you expand your career. In all medical and fitness professions, there is so much to learn–It’s crucial to be a lifelong learner.

It’s obvious what a critical role Medical Exercise Specialists play in the world today.  If you or someone you know is considering this very important and rewarding career, take the next steps and advance your education with an exercise science degree from Lionel University.

One of the unique things about Lionel University is that you earn your personal training certification as you go through the education program. This means you can start working as a Medical Exercise Specialist before you even graduate. Even better, Lionel offers additional certifications and specializations in their degree programs. This will earn you a Master Trainer Certificate. Even without a degree yet, this can help you get a job in the medical fitness space. The personal training certification and Master Trainer Certificate mean you don’t have to invest additional money on expensive certifications. 

Regardless of whether you’re pursuing an associates degree, bachelor’s degree, or master’s degree, at Lionel you earn multiple certifications and specializations along the way. This means you can start working in the health and wellness space in no time at all. And, with the help of financial aid, earning your exercise science degree is even more of a possibility. Check out our programs and contact Lionel today!