The end of the personal trainer?

Could phone apps be the end of the personal trainer and a potential for injury to the users?

My blog entry this week covers what I perceive as a dangerous trend in the fitness industry.
One which has potential for accelerating the already declining health of the population, rather than its intent of improving health.

What am I seeing? Personal Trainer phone apps replacing personal trainers.
Why is this so bad? It’s like a really poor version of Dr. Google.
Really? How can it be like that? Well let me explain.

A good quality exercise plan is important because it has to be efficient and cover the individual’s needs. We are all short of time, and we all need effective exercise one way or another.
Just as importantly the exercise plan has to safely fit the individual since everyone is unique, has different goals, limitations, abilities and postural deviations.

Since a huge percentage of the population are seated at desks, or in front of the TV, or driving for long periods of time we have developed some postural issues and as a result 80% of US adults already have or will suffer from chronic back pain. ( paper on low back pain)

Personal Trainer phone apps
Poor mechanics in the body are like a poorly hung door, its eventually going to break!

Poor mechanics in everyday movement are just like a poorly hung door. If the hinges are not aligned then the door won’t operate properly. Over time as the door is opened and closed it breaks and stops working properly as a door. The human body needs to function the way it was designed to, but prolonged periods of sitting or working in a compromised position create imbalances in muscles, just like the poorly aligned hinges on the door. Add to this an exercise plan that doesn’t take into account any of this and you are heading for a mechanical breakdown in your body at some point in the future! All because you tried to do the right thing exercising following an app that told you it was what you needed.

Why are the workouts in phone apps so bad?
It’s not so much that they are “bad” workouts (well mostly anyway), they just don’t provide the feedback and analysis on an individual’s posture and form while performing each exercise. They also lack the ability to design an individualised exercise program to balance out the damage done by the prolonged periods spent in a compromised poor posture position.
They also can’t tell your progress and safely progress, or regress you when needed.

To give a basic example and put this into context, think of the desk worker with the typical forward head position and hunched shoulders. That person goes to the gym on the way home from work and does an even balance of push and pull exercises as directed by the phone app exercise program. There’s a good chance the “pull” exercises are making things worse for the hunched shoulders and forward head position. The push exercises “might” partially help address this, but since its a “balanced” exercise plan of push/pull it simply compounds the problem.
The result is an even more compromised posture which is corrected by putting the spine into a less than ideal position which in turn leads to headaches, lower back pain and shoulder discomfort.
Since everything is connected, everything is affected!

In Summary:
The current state of the population is not in good health overall.  Between the modern lifestyle diseases, poor nutrition choices, and everything being designed to make humans more sedentary it’s a very unhealthy world.  Exercise is one of the components of lifestyle medicine which can combat and prevent these diseases. It’s unfortunate that non-specific to the individual plans in phone apps are likely to add to issues rather than prevent them!

Working with a fitness professional who can perform posture assessments and build an individualised workout based on that assessment might cost you a bit more cash up front, but what are the long term costs of adding to your poor mechanics by using an out of the box exercise plan and having lasting joint damage or injury! You wouldn’t wear someone else’s glasses. Your exercise plan should be just as individual.

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