Importance of Initial Assessments

When it comes to working with a new client, it is always a smart idea to perform an initial assessment of their fitness level as well as have them fill out the required forms.  Important forms include: Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q), Waiver, and Informed Consent. These forms help the trainer screen for potential red flags (reasons to discontinue the exercise program) before beginning the assessment.  Red flags may include but are not limited to: medications, heart conditions, and pregnancy.

During the initial assessment, the trainer will observe the client’s function and mobility in an exercise environment as well as screen for other red flags not found in the PAR-Q form.  These include temperature control, fatigue, and difficulty breathing at rest. Temperature control is an important factor to understand in clients with certain medical conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Spinal Cord Injury because they’re prone to overheating easily.  If a client is showing signs of overheating, it is important to ensure proper body cooling by allowing adequate rest periods and frequent water breaks during the assessment. Extra fans or other cooling devices will help even more if accessible. Fatigue is also very important to monitor during an initial assessment because if a client gets fatigued easily, they’re at risk of injuring themselves more and the client should get clearance from a physician first before continuing the exercise program.  Fatigue is known to be associated with certain medical conditions such as MS, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Post-Polio.

Other important factors to understand about the client before completing an assessment include sleep factors such as quality of sleep and average hours per night, their age, their water intake per day, and their job occupation.  Everyday habits can make or break how healthy the client is and how ready they are to start an exercise program. Bad habits can not only be hard to change, but there is also a possibility that those habits could be leading to or have already led to physiological problems that will affect their ability to exercise.  As a trainer it is not your job to fix a client’s bad habits and it is definitely not your job to diagnose the client with any medical issues. If you are performing an assessment on a client and they express physical pain in anyway, you must stop the assessment immediately and encourage them to go see a physician to be cleared for exercise before returning.

Also, if you are working with clients with intellectual or developmental disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Down Syndrome, or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), it is recommended that you break down all that is going into the assessment into smaller steps to ensure that the client has a full understanding of what is being asked of them. Also, if the client is expressing anxiety about the assessment or if you are unsure of their level of understanding, a practice assessment might be necessary too.  Practice assessments will give the client more confidence which will likely improve their performance in the real assessment as well as build your rapport with the client as their trainer.

In conclusion, initial assessments are key in determining a client’s readiness to start an exercise program.  They will help you as the trainer understand the client’s current level of fitness, their medical conditions, build your rapport with them, and determine the best possible exercise program for them to reach their goals!!!

References

“Client Screening Questions for Personal Trainers.” National Federation of Professional Trainers, www.nfpt.com/resources/client-screening-questions.

Percia, Matthew, et al. “Getting a Professional Fitness Assessment.” American College of Sports Medicine, 7 Oct. 2016, www.acsm.org/public-information/articles/2016/10/07/getting-a-professional-fitness-assessment.

Wing, Cary. “ACSM/NCHPAD Resources for the Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer.”ACSM/NCHPAD Resources for the Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer, American College of Sports Medicine, 2012