Exercise Consumerism: Let the Buyer Beware!

Article excerpt

How much money is wasted each year on exercise and weight loss gimmicks that fail to produce results? How many people purchase exercise devices or buy into the latest fad in an attempt to reap the benefits of exercise without making the effort necessary to attain these goals? These are difficult questions to answer, but the general consensus among exercise experts is that too much money is wasted, and too many questionable products are purchased.

Fitness professionals and educators who complain that too many Americans do not participate in regular exercise attribute this inactivity to a lack of motivation. The authors propose that the problem is not purely motivational, but, largely, educational. The American public has not been taught how to be discerning consumers of exercise information. So when typical sedentary Americans get the urge to exercise, they turn to tabloid magazines, infomercials, and so-called exercise "experts" to determine what to do, what to buy, and how much to spend. They frequently make uniformed decisions about exercise. It should be no surprise then, that sedentary individuals develop a bad taste for exercise when they realize that the things they have been trying do not work and the money they have spent has not helped them to fulfill their expectations.

Most people realize that they should be exercising. They also seem to know the benefits of regular exercise and proper nutrition. What is lacking is the knowledge of how to exercise properly, how to make healthy food choices, and the realization that there are no quick fixes or miracle solutions. In this article, we provide readers with suggestions about how they can become (and teach others to become) informed consumers of exercise information.

Suggestions and Guidelines

How do fitness professionals and educators determine what works and what doesn't? And how can they better prepare their clients and students to become savvy exercise consumers?

First Step: Education

The best method of becoming an enlightened exercise consumer is to educate-ourselves about exercise and about exercise products and programs. Although we, as fitness professionals and educators, may know a great deal about exercise, we should never reach the point where we think we know everything. Learning is a lifelong process. We should remember we can always learn something new, even in areas in which we consider ourselves expert.

To excel professionally and to prepare clients and students for a lifetime of healthy exercise, fitness professionals and educators must learn to differentiate fitness fact from fiction. We need to teach our clients and students where to find exercise information and offer them appropriate advice and suggestions. Teachers should integrate instruction about exercise consumerism into their health and physical education curricula. Fitness professionals should discuss with their clients the pros and cons of the various exercise products available on the market. Fitness professionals and educators can encourage their clients and students to bring advertisements to their exercise sessions or classes to discuss whether or not the products advertised bring about the results they claim. It is helpful to keep a file of advertisements and articles on exercise products. When concepts of fitness are discussed, clients and students should be instructed not only how to exercise properly, but also how to evaluate the various products being marketed to improve fitness. Fitness professionals and educators can more effectively teach individuals how to differentiate between fact and fallacy by constantly evaluating which products produce advertised results. Staying abreast of the latest research available on exercise equipment, gimmicks, and industry trends is a necessity.

The most reliable sources for information on exercise and fitness are peer-reviewed articles, published in nationally recognized professional journals. …