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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

Opinion: Physical trainers as health workers

Florence Nightingale played an important role in the fitness industry and if she were still with us, she’d certainly be campaigning for fitness trainers to be fully involved in combating the effects of lockdown, says Muir Gray

Published in Health Club Management 2021 issue 11
The ties that existed between physical training and healthcare have been cut and healthcare and fitness have become separate industries. This has to change

Florence was horrified at the state of health of British soldiers in Crimea, where more died of the effects of their poor conditioning than from bullets. After the war she took action and 12 “instructors” – at that time primarily focused on how to shoot and fight – were sent to Oxford.

They were sent for two reasons, the first was that Regius Professor of Medicine, Sir Henry Acland, had made it clear he was very willing to help the army improve the health and wellbeing of the soldiers. The second, more important reason, was that one of the world’s first gymnasiums of the modern era was based in Oxford.

This gymnasium was run by a Scotsman called Robert McLaren, who himself had studied physical training in Paris and brought fencing and a range of gymnastic opportunities such as rings to the Oxford undergraduates. The building can still be seen today at the corner of Blue Boar Street and Alfred Street and is quite reminiscent of the German Gymnasium in London’s Kings Cross, with its solid brick construction.

McLaren went on to fund one of Oxford’s best known schools – Summerfields – as well as developing the fitness industry in Oxford in the 1860s.

The 12 instructors, renamed the 12 Apostles, went back to the army after their training and embarked on a mission to improve the health, wellbeing and conditioning of British soldiers.

The rise of the PTI
Physical training instructors – or PTIs as they were also called – found a place outside the army when their days in service were over and physical training became a key part of healthcare in the 19th century, in part because there were so few effective medical interventions available.

In the 20th and 21st centuries the number of effective medical interventions available has increased astonishingly – in the last 50 years alone we’ve seen transplantation, hip replacement and chemotherapy, to name but three.

However, important though these are, there’s an increasing recognition that everyone with a long-term condition needs to receive activity therapy as well as drug, operative or psychological therapy – a recognition epitomised in the 2015 report from the Academy of the Medical Royal Colleges called Exercise, The Miracle Cure.

But today, the ties that existed between physical training and healthcare have been cut and healthcare and fitness have become separate industries – at least in the UK – although the pattern is different in other countries, notably Germany, where there remains greater integration.

Today the NHS desperately needs 55,000 trainers to help people deal with the effects of long-term conditions – particularly those who don’t reach the specialist NHS rehabilitation services – probably about 12 million people in all. There just aren’t enough physiotherapists and health professionals in the NHS to reach out with support.

The Living Longer Better Programme is now working with 20 branches of Sport England via activity partnerships and the experience of people from the health service when meeting trainers or people with Sport Science degrees is often one of surprise, because their culture is so close to that of clinicians. A simple and wide definition of coaching is, “to close the gap between performance and potential” – exactly the same as the mission of rehabilitation.

What’s needed now is to mobilise 55,000 trainers and deploy their commitment, skills and experience to resolve individual long-term conditions, including Long-COVID and the increasing challenge of multi-morbidity, but how is this to be done?

Recruiting trainers
One of the lessons of the pandemic has been that when we use the term ‘resources’ we need to think of more than money. Furthermore, lack of money is not the principal constraint and the health service is now clear that a much more important constraint is the time available to the workforce, as there are not thousands or even hundreds of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, exercise physiologists and sports and exercise medicine doctors waiting to be employed.

A second constraint is space and although much attention has been paid to the lack of space in intensive care, Helen Salisbury, a highly respected GP who writes weekly in the British Medical Journal, pointed out that even without social distancing the amount of space in health centres is also very limited.

For physical trainers, however, this is not a major issue. They’re used to finding a village hall, church hall or some other space to work in and are increasingly confident about managing digital sessions in groups, as well as delivering face-to-face interactions with individuals who could benefit from closing the gap between potential and performance.

Money sometimes remains an issue, but there’s a potential solution to this in England in the form of the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS), under which NHS England is providing funding for 26,000 new roles to create bespoke multi-disciplinary teams.

Reducing the pressure
Hospital services will be under intense pressure in the next few years, not only meeting new needs but also coping with a backlog of cancer treatment and elective surgery.

This, in turn, will increase pressure on primary care services, where health professionals are already coping with the implications of social distancing, the loss of staff who are self-isolating and the increasing tension of people seeking help who tend to take their frustration out on primary care staff, rather than on those who are responsible.

ARRS was introduced to help primary care teams recruit key staff such as physiotherapists, nurses and podiatrists, but although health and wellbeing coaches are on the list, there’s no mention of trainers, in spite of the fact that they could make a contribution by supporting people whose problems have been increased by the pandemic.

There are many trainers who have additional qualifications in supporting people with things such as Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease and other common causes and consequences of both disease and inactivity.

ARRS funding will be administered by The Primary Care Networks, of which around 1,200 are already in place. They’re well organised because they relate to local communities and of course understand the social prescribing opportunities that are available in local gyms and fitness centres, which is all hopeful.

We must ensure they understand the terrific contributions trainers could make and we also need NHS England to understand that most trainers are not fully focused on ‘young people in lycra’, with many having a longstanding commitment to supporting people with their health improvement and the skills and competence required to make a difference.

We need to ask the Department of Health and Social Care to meet with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport – perhaps somewhere near the statue of Florence Nightingale on Pall Mall – and reach agreement that the time is absolutely right for the rebirth of the physical trainer as a health worker, just as Florence Nightingale planned, predicted and produced.

"We need to ask the Department of Health and Social Care to meet with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport – perhaps somewhere near the statue of Florence Nightingale on Pall Mall – and reach agreement that the time is absolutely right for the rebirth of the physical trainer as a health worker, just as Florence Nightingale planned, predicted and produced," – Muir Gray

The NHS needs 55,000 PTs to help people with long-term conditions / photo: wavebreak media - shutterstock
The NHS needs 55,000 PTs to help people with long-term conditions / photo: wavebreak media - shutterstock
Nightingale commissioned the training of the first PTs to support / photo: Tony Baggett - shutterstock
Nightingale commissioned the training of the first PTs to support / photo: Tony Baggett - shutterstock
Most PTs are not merely focused on helping ‘young people in lycra’ / photo: wavebreak media - shutterstock
Most PTs are not merely focused on helping ‘young people in lycra’ / photo: wavebreak media - shutterstock
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2021/HCM2021_11p70.jpg
The bonds that existed long ago between exercise and healthcare must be reforged, says Muir Gray
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features

Opinion: Physical trainers as health workers

Florence Nightingale played an important role in the fitness industry and if she were still with us, she’d certainly be campaigning for fitness trainers to be fully involved in combating the effects of lockdown, says Muir Gray

Published in Health Club Management 2021 issue 11
The ties that existed between physical training and healthcare have been cut and healthcare and fitness have become separate industries. This has to change

Florence was horrified at the state of health of British soldiers in Crimea, where more died of the effects of their poor conditioning than from bullets. After the war she took action and 12 “instructors” – at that time primarily focused on how to shoot and fight – were sent to Oxford.

They were sent for two reasons, the first was that Regius Professor of Medicine, Sir Henry Acland, had made it clear he was very willing to help the army improve the health and wellbeing of the soldiers. The second, more important reason, was that one of the world’s first gymnasiums of the modern era was based in Oxford.

This gymnasium was run by a Scotsman called Robert McLaren, who himself had studied physical training in Paris and brought fencing and a range of gymnastic opportunities such as rings to the Oxford undergraduates. The building can still be seen today at the corner of Blue Boar Street and Alfred Street and is quite reminiscent of the German Gymnasium in London’s Kings Cross, with its solid brick construction.

McLaren went on to fund one of Oxford’s best known schools – Summerfields – as well as developing the fitness industry in Oxford in the 1860s.

The 12 instructors, renamed the 12 Apostles, went back to the army after their training and embarked on a mission to improve the health, wellbeing and conditioning of British soldiers.

The rise of the PTI
Physical training instructors – or PTIs as they were also called – found a place outside the army when their days in service were over and physical training became a key part of healthcare in the 19th century, in part because there were so few effective medical interventions available.

In the 20th and 21st centuries the number of effective medical interventions available has increased astonishingly – in the last 50 years alone we’ve seen transplantation, hip replacement and chemotherapy, to name but three.

However, important though these are, there’s an increasing recognition that everyone with a long-term condition needs to receive activity therapy as well as drug, operative or psychological therapy – a recognition epitomised in the 2015 report from the Academy of the Medical Royal Colleges called Exercise, The Miracle Cure.

But today, the ties that existed between physical training and healthcare have been cut and healthcare and fitness have become separate industries – at least in the UK – although the pattern is different in other countries, notably Germany, where there remains greater integration.

Today the NHS desperately needs 55,000 trainers to help people deal with the effects of long-term conditions – particularly those who don’t reach the specialist NHS rehabilitation services – probably about 12 million people in all. There just aren’t enough physiotherapists and health professionals in the NHS to reach out with support.

The Living Longer Better Programme is now working with 20 branches of Sport England via activity partnerships and the experience of people from the health service when meeting trainers or people with Sport Science degrees is often one of surprise, because their culture is so close to that of clinicians. A simple and wide definition of coaching is, “to close the gap between performance and potential” – exactly the same as the mission of rehabilitation.

What’s needed now is to mobilise 55,000 trainers and deploy their commitment, skills and experience to resolve individual long-term conditions, including Long-COVID and the increasing challenge of multi-morbidity, but how is this to be done?

Recruiting trainers
One of the lessons of the pandemic has been that when we use the term ‘resources’ we need to think of more than money. Furthermore, lack of money is not the principal constraint and the health service is now clear that a much more important constraint is the time available to the workforce, as there are not thousands or even hundreds of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, exercise physiologists and sports and exercise medicine doctors waiting to be employed.

A second constraint is space and although much attention has been paid to the lack of space in intensive care, Helen Salisbury, a highly respected GP who writes weekly in the British Medical Journal, pointed out that even without social distancing the amount of space in health centres is also very limited.

For physical trainers, however, this is not a major issue. They’re used to finding a village hall, church hall or some other space to work in and are increasingly confident about managing digital sessions in groups, as well as delivering face-to-face interactions with individuals who could benefit from closing the gap between potential and performance.

Money sometimes remains an issue, but there’s a potential solution to this in England in the form of the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS), under which NHS England is providing funding for 26,000 new roles to create bespoke multi-disciplinary teams.

Reducing the pressure
Hospital services will be under intense pressure in the next few years, not only meeting new needs but also coping with a backlog of cancer treatment and elective surgery.

This, in turn, will increase pressure on primary care services, where health professionals are already coping with the implications of social distancing, the loss of staff who are self-isolating and the increasing tension of people seeking help who tend to take their frustration out on primary care staff, rather than on those who are responsible.

ARRS was introduced to help primary care teams recruit key staff such as physiotherapists, nurses and podiatrists, but although health and wellbeing coaches are on the list, there’s no mention of trainers, in spite of the fact that they could make a contribution by supporting people whose problems have been increased by the pandemic.

There are many trainers who have additional qualifications in supporting people with things such as Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease and other common causes and consequences of both disease and inactivity.

ARRS funding will be administered by The Primary Care Networks, of which around 1,200 are already in place. They’re well organised because they relate to local communities and of course understand the social prescribing opportunities that are available in local gyms and fitness centres, which is all hopeful.

We must ensure they understand the terrific contributions trainers could make and we also need NHS England to understand that most trainers are not fully focused on ‘young people in lycra’, with many having a longstanding commitment to supporting people with their health improvement and the skills and competence required to make a difference.

We need to ask the Department of Health and Social Care to meet with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport – perhaps somewhere near the statue of Florence Nightingale on Pall Mall – and reach agreement that the time is absolutely right for the rebirth of the physical trainer as a health worker, just as Florence Nightingale planned, predicted and produced.

"We need to ask the Department of Health and Social Care to meet with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport – perhaps somewhere near the statue of Florence Nightingale on Pall Mall – and reach agreement that the time is absolutely right for the rebirth of the physical trainer as a health worker, just as Florence Nightingale planned, predicted and produced," – Muir Gray

The NHS needs 55,000 PTs to help people with long-term conditions / photo: wavebreak media - shutterstock
The NHS needs 55,000 PTs to help people with long-term conditions / photo: wavebreak media - shutterstock
Nightingale commissioned the training of the first PTs to support / photo: Tony Baggett - shutterstock
Nightingale commissioned the training of the first PTs to support / photo: Tony Baggett - shutterstock
Most PTs are not merely focused on helping ‘young people in lycra’ / photo: wavebreak media - shutterstock
Most PTs are not merely focused on helping ‘young people in lycra’ / photo: wavebreak media - shutterstock
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2021/HCM2021_11p70.jpg
The bonds that existed long ago between exercise and healthcare must be reforged, says Muir Gray
Latest News
The Leisure Database Company (TLDB) has revealed its State of the Fitness Industry Report UK ...
Latest News
The Gym Group’s (TGG) plans and profit forecasts were presented to analysts and investors during ...
Latest News
A new physical activity programme called Big Sister has been launched in the UK to ...
Latest News
Go Fit has been selected by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) as ...
Latest News
Ness, a US startup that is developing a range of wellness-driven credit cards, has launched ...
Latest News
Following a history of supporting US military and service members, F45 has announced a new ...
Latest News
Hyatt is piloting private gyms in five of its US hotels as part of its ...
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A young girl has died following an incident at the David Lloyd gym at Capability ...
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Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Core Health & Fitness launches Schwinn X and Z Bikes
Capitalising on Schwinn’s decades of experience and iconic leadership in commercial indoor cycling, Core Health & Fitness announces the arrival of its next generation of indoor cycling bikes – Schwinn X and Z.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: ACTIV partners with Fisikal to deliver custom branded member experience
ACTIV, a gym chain in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which operates separate gyms for men and women, has partnered with digital management solution expert Fisikal to create a custom branded experience for its members.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: New £42m Moorways Sports Village to open on 21 May
Everyone Active will open Moorways Sports Village to the public on Saturday 21 May with a grand opening weekend – in time for the half term holidays.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: Everyone Active to launch new exercise classes to reduce gender gap
As part of their work to break down the barriers that deter women and girls from participating in sport and physical activity, Everyone Active has teamed up with EMD UK to launch new exercise classes linked to the This Girl Can campaign.
Video Gallery
Mindbody, Inc
Total Vibration Solutions / Floors 4 Gyms / TVS Sports Surfaces
Sport Alliance GmbH
Company profiles
Company profile: Merrithew™ - Leaders in Mindful Movement™
Merrithew™ enriches the lives of others with responsible exercise modalities and innovative, multidisciplinary fitness offerings ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Premier Software Solutions Ltd
Premier Software was founded in 1994 and is a privately-owned UK-based company with Mark Johnson ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Management software
Premier Software Solutions: Management software
Skincare
Sothys: Skincare
On demand
Fitness On Demand: On demand
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Architects/designers
Zynk Design Consultants: Architects/designers
Fitness equipment
A Panatta Sport Srl: Fitness equipment
Whole body cryotherapy
Zimmer MedizinSysteme GmbH / icelab: Whole body cryotherapy
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: trade associations
Property & Tenders
Pendine Sands, Carmarthenshire
Carmarthenshire County Council
Property & Tenders
Runcorn
Halton Borough Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
15-16 Jun 2022
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
30-30 Jun 2022
The ICC, Birmingham, Birmingham , United Kingdom
Diary dates
12-13 Sep 2022
Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs® Resort, Lake Buena Vista, United States
Diary dates
25-28 Oct 2022
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
25-28 Oct 2022
Ibiza, Ibiza, Spain
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
Diary dates
17-18 Mar 2023
Tobacco Dock, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
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