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October 19, 2009, 12:00AM PT in Exam Preparation Blog  |  0 Comments

Special Populations

AsthmaAs a personal trainer or group fitness instructor you are likely to encounter clients with special needs and health concerns. This can include clients with asthma, osteoporosis or pregnancy to name a few. Some fitness professionals work exclusively with special populations, while others may never see a client type other than the average healthy adult.  Either way, understanding special populations is an important part of your certification.

Special populations are covered in chapter 14 of the ACE Personal Trainer Manual 4th ed and in chapters 6 in the ACE Group Fitness Instructor Manual, 3rd edition. Both manuals touch on multiple health conditions, with the Group Fitness Instructor Manual devoting an entire chapter to the condition of pregnancy.

Faced with so much information, where do you start? Well, the first step is know (and understand) how to work with the average healthy adult. This is considered the ‘base’ client of an ACE Personal Trainer or Group Fitness Instructor. Before you can get into special populations, you need to be comfortable with screening, risk factor assessment, fitness testing, and exercise programming for the average adult.  Know the FITT principle and methods of progression, as well as how to use them.

Once you’ve got the basics down, you can move into the special populations chapter(s). Rather than saying ‘wow, I’ve got to memorize all these different conditions and situations’, think to yourself…’how does this condition differ from the base client’. For example, hypertension; what are the special risks associated with this population? With this population you want to avoid the Valsalva maneuver, utilize circuit training rather than heavy weight lifting and be aware of changes in medication.  When programming exercise, stick near the lower end of the heart rate range, exercise at least 4 times per week, gradual warm ups and cool downs are encouraged.  How does programming for this client differ from the average base client? That is a key question to ask when you are studying special populations.

Yes, there are several different special populations covered in your manual. Do you really have to memorize them all? Well…you need to be familiar with them all, and more familiar with some of them. When considering special populations, think about what type of client an average trainer could encounter in a year’s time. Chances of having a pregnant client are pretty high (especially for group fitness instructors). Hypertension is fairly common, diabetes as well. Is the average trainer likely to have a client with cancer? Not as likely. But…it’s still good to review that information and be familiar with it.

Hopefully this helps you conquer the special populations chapter(s) with a little less worry. Remember, if you have questions you can contact an Education Consultant at 1-888-825-3636 x782.

By April Merritt
April Merritt holds a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science, a master’s degree in Health Promotion, and several ACE certifications including Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Health Coach.

April Merritt holds a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science, a master’s degree in Health Promotion, and several ACE certifications including Personal Trainer and Health Coach.