In an op-ed column in the New York Times, Frank Bruni wrote about the influence of personal trainers. I too have noticed that people will zealously follow every recommendation of their trainers, convinced that following the personalized advice will lead to better health. I am all in favor of better health, but let’s examine who is doing the recommending. As Mr. Bruni points out, all it takes to become a personal trainer is $400 and a pulse. All it takes to be an internist is 8 years of classroom work and at least 3 years of supervised training (and passing nightmarish exams).
The ascension of personal trainers is a direct challenge to evidence-based medicine, the shown to be effective tenet of the conventional medical establishment. In other words, rather than getting the advice that really works the patient would much prefer to get the advice that he or she really wants to hear. Why actually sweat in the gym – just work on the “core.” It’s much more fashionable to undertake a colon cleanse than to just cut out overly processed food.
I am always pleased when my patients commit to an activity program. It’s a good idea to get some instruction when using a new piece of equipment. However, it should be buyer beware when purchasing nutritional and health advice. The trainer may have the best of intentions – but doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.