Purdue News

November 18, 2004

Purdue students to be first to get fit as personal trainers

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Students planning to pursue a career in personal fitness training have a new option at Purdue, which will be the first university in the nation to offer a four-year degree with a concentration in this area.

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"More people are turning to personal fitness trainers to design exercise programs and serve as guides to combat obesity and obtain healthy lifestyles," said Ken Baldwin, program coordinator for personal fitness training at Purdue's Department of Health and Kinesiology. "The certification industry for personal fitness trainers has exploded. As a result, it has become easier for anyone, even without the necessary health background, to acquire a certification because there is no nationally recognized set of standards for performance, ethics, certification and practices.

"Purdue will set the standard for educating students with the necessary and preferred skills, competencies and background for personal fitness trainers. Because students will be learning from a medically based fitness model, they will have the skills and expertise, especially in skeletal and muscular structure, to work as part of a client's integrated health care team," said Baldwin, who also is assistant director of the A.H. Ismail Center for Health, Exercise, and Nutrition at Purdue.

Personal trainers are responsible for fitness management by designing and leading exercise programs in group or individual settings, as well as providing health education to improve lifestyle behaviors, Baldwin said. Trainers, typically thought of as being employed at health clubs, also can be found in corporate, commercial, community and university wellness settings.

Starting in the 2005 fall semester, Purdue undergraduates pursuing the health and fitness major can concentrate or specialize in personal fitness training. Current students are eligible to add the concentration to their plan of study, said Roger Seehafer, associate professor and division chair of health promotion.

"Purdue currently offers a major in health and fitness, and 70 percent of these majors identify personal fitness training as their career objective," Seehafer said. "The health and fitness major already focuses on exercise physiology, basic health studies, fitness evaluation and program management, psychology, and nutrition. In addition, the personal fitness trainer concentration will cover topics related to aging, biomechanics, anatomy, risk factors, injury prevention, nutrition and weight management."

The personal fitness trainer concentration will include a course on personal training education. Students also will participate in eight different six-week rotations in commercial health clubs, as well as centers for cardiac rehabilitation, physical therapy, athletic training, senior fitness, children's fitness and worksite wellness. Students will need to be certified by the American College of Sports Medicine to work as personal fitness trainers during rotations. They also will need to be certified as health fitness instructors during their senior years so they can work with specialized clients, such as those who have been in physical therapy rehabilitation.

A four-year degree in personal training is not offered anywhere else, but other universities team with the American College of Sports Medicine as part of a University Endorsement Program, which provides guidelines for colleges.

"The Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that personal fitness training will be one of the fastest growing professions in the next few years," said Mike Niederpruem, national director of certification for the American College of Sports Medicine in Indianapolis. "Anticipating the need for personal trainers with relevant academic training results in safer and more effective outcomes both for individuals and public health overall."

Other universities offer a degree in exercise science, which is similar to personal fitness training, but fitness training will work on perfecting exercise movements and cover the business practices often needed for working in fitness facilities or health clubs, Baldwin said.

Personal fitness trainers currently can seek certification with more than 100 programs online, Baldwin said. Some groups certify based on participation in weekend courses or on passing an online test.

"Not all of the different certifications out there reinforce proper procedure for analyzing risk factors, such as injuries," Baldwin said. "For example, a certification program may suggest that the trainer should have the participant complete a health-related questionnaire. But the trainer is not educated to analyze the results, including risk factors, or address them appropriately during the training session."

The Department of Health and Kinesiology, which is located in Purdue's School of Liberal Arts, also offers majors in health promotion, health and safety secondary teaching, movement and sport sciences, and physical education. A concentration also is offered in athletic training. Areas of faculty research include physiology of exercise, human movement and sport; psychology of sports, exercise and motor behavior; and health promotion and disease prevention. Approximately 650 undergraduate students and 100 graduate students are enrolled in the department.

Writer: Amy Patterson-Neubert, (765) 494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Sources: Ken Baldwin, (765) 496-6887, kbaldwin@sla.purdue.edu

Roger Seehafer, (765) 494-3159, seehafer@purdue.edu

Mike Niederpruem, (317) 637-9200, ext. 123, mniederpruem@acsm.org

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

 

PHOTO CAPTION:
Stacey Jackson, a senior studying health and fitness from Goshen, Ind., and a fitness supervisor at the A.H. Ismail Center for Health, Exercise and Nutrition at Purdue University, assists her client, Chris Strantz of Lafayette. Starting in the 2005 fall semester, Purdue undergraduates pursuing the health and fitness major concentrate or specialize in personal fitness training. Personal trainers are responsible for fitness management by designing and leading exercise programs in group or individual settings, as well as providing health education to improve lifestyle behaviors. Purdue will be the first university in the nation to offer a four-year degree with a concentration in this area. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger)

A publication-quality photograph is available at http://ftp.purdue.edu/pub/uns/+2004/baldwin-fitness.jpg

 

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