Sorry dude, gotta go. Zumba class starts in 15 minutes.
Photo: Tom Clifton
Photo: Tom Clifton
Health and Fitness Guidelines, Who Really Follows 'Em?
So we all know there are various groups that publish health guidelines on diet and exercise. To some of you these guidelines may seem wimpy and insufficient; to others they may seem laugh-out-loud impossible, what with real life in the way and all.
One thing we know for sure: most of the U.S. population blows these recommendations off entirely.
But what about people whose job it is train athletes? A recent study of randomly selected Certified Athletic Trainers had some interesting findings about their health habits.
Are the readers of Cranky Fitness actually healthier than a bunch of Professional Trainers? Let's find out, shall we? In fact, let's see if we can kick some Certified Athletic Trainer Ass.
First off, an important question:
What the Heck is An Athletic Trainer?
Well, it isn't really defined in the study we're going to discuss, other than as a member of the National Association of Athletic Trainers.
So I had to go to their website and dig around a bit. What did I find out?
Well, Athletic Trainers are "health care professionals who collaborate with physicians to optimize activity and participation of patients and clients. Athletic training encompasses the prevention, diagnosis, and intervention of emergency, acute, and chronic medical conditions involving impairment, functional limitations, and blah blah blah blah blappety blappety blah blah blah."
Are we all clear now? Hey, wake up!
Ah, don't worry, it wasn't just you, I also fell asleep before I made it through that paragraph. But from the photographic evidence, I'm now pretty sure that Athletic Trainers can wrap ace bandages around people's ankles!
But most importantly of all, an Athletic Trainer is not a Personal Trainer, and don't even think about confusing the two, buster.
Differences between an Athletic Trainer and a Personal Trainer
You can kind of tell this is a loaded question when you read NATA's introduction to the topic, in which they seem very sad that "the word 'trainer' has lost it's meaning" in this crazy mixed up world of ours. (Cue violins).
Anyway, for those who care, here are the differences between athletic trainers and personal trainers. Bottom line: AT's seem to be more doctory than PT's. They are also more likely to work with sports teams and less likely to hang around your gym looking fit and perky.
But for our purposes, here is the main relevant difference: NATA implies Athletic Trainers are More Educated About Health and Fitness than Personal Trainers. So, this means we should hold them to a higher standard, than the rest of us, right?
Heh heh heh heh... we'll see about that!
About the Athletic Trainer Questionnaire Study
You can real the full Journal of Athletic Training study here. For those of you momentarily impressed that I might be perusing scholarly journals with articles like "Research Methodology: Endocrinologic Measurements in Exercise Science and Sports Medicine," --um, yeah, right. Actually, I just swiped the story from Booster Shots, the L.A. Times Health Blog.
Anyway, the researchers asked 1,000 randomly selected Athletic Trainers from 6 states to fill out questionnaires (and a little less than a third responded). Note: this means the health data is self-reported, and therefore these folks are lying just like we would lie if someone asked us about our health habits. In fact, since it's part of an Athletic Trainer's job to be smart about health, let's just assume they are probably lying even more than we would so as not to look lame.
So you'd expect, like close to 100% healthy behavior, wouldn't you?
Er... not so much!
Athletic Trainers and Exercise
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 30 minutes of moderately vigorous exercise (brisk walking), 5 or more days per week. Alternatively you can do 20 minutes of vigorous activity (jogging) 3 times a week.
How many of the Certified Athletic Trainers met ACSM recommendations?
Only 41%! And seven percent reported being sedentary (no physical activity) in a given week.
(However, women were more likely to be active than men; only 39% of those meeting the fitness guidelines were male while 61% were female.)
Athletic Trainers and Diet
Nutrition looked, at first glance, even worse... none of the trainers surveyed met the USDA's recommended intake for all the individual food groups in a typical 7-day week.
However, the study listed these recommendations as: 4 servings of fruit, 5 servings of vegetables, 6 servings of grains, 2 servings of meat or beans, and 3 servings of dairy per day.
What??? I almost turned this post into "How did I not realize that the USDA guidelines are so freakish?"
Six servings of grains a day? That sounds like a lot! And what if you're allergic to dairy?
But I didn't have the patience to slog through the guidelines to find out if the study write-up misstated them, or whether I was looking in the wrong place, or whether the guidelines themselves were stupid and confusing. I did see something in there about three servings of whole grains a day, which sounded more reasonable. Whatever. Perhaps a subject for a future post.
So bottom line: I'm totally willing to cut the trainers some slack if they didn't meet dietary guidelines because they weren't eating 6 pieces of bread or whatever a day. I don't either.
But it's kinda funny that none of them met the guidelines, even the big muscleman types who presumably have lots of extra calories to throw around on gratuitous grains.
Cranky Fitness Readers, How do You Stack Up?
I was going to do a poll, but I decided I didn't like the nutrition recommendations, so I was just going to do an exercise one. And then I remembered we already did an exercise poll a couple of months ago!
The question wasn't identical, but asked whether readers did huffy-puffy, heavy breathing cardio "Pretty Religiously," "Every Now and Then," or not at all.
And a whopping Seventy Percent of you said "Pretty Religiously!"
Apples to Oranges? Maybe, but both apples and oranges are good for you! I'm personally satisfied that if it were a competition, the score would now be Cranky Fitness Readers: 1 Certified Athletic Trainers: 0.
So what do you folks think about Food and Exercise Guidelines? Do you follow them? Do you think athletic trainers should be role models for healthy behaviors?