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Fitness Tech-Knowledge-Y: Smart Fashion for Informed Performance


Just when you thought you knew it all, technology for fitness tracking raises the bar with smarter and better wearables. Following are just a few of the more notable options now trending for smart fitness fashion.

MBody Smart Shorts by Myontec: These 3D elastic compression shorts read and report information on muscle load, heart rate data, cadence, speed and distance. Designed for cyclists, duathletes and triathletes, MCell smart measuring tech delivers stats via bluetooth to the MBody Live app on your iOs or Android smart device. Priced at $885 a pair, let’s hope they are washable, because you probably won’t want to buy a spare pair.

LINX Smart Bicycle Helmet by Coros: Wirelessly connect your helmet to your smartphone to listen to music, make and accept phone calls, talk to fellow riders, and keep abreast of navigation and ride data through open-ear Bone Conduction Technology. The helmet is equipped with a precision wind-resistant microphone for clear communication, perfect for commuters who need to stay in touch. At only $200, this helmet may be well worth the investment.

Apple iWatch (Series 4): Probably the best fitness tracker on the market, especially when you consider its many other functions, the Series 4 Apple Watch is a worthwhile investment at just $399. The device is completely waterproof up to 50 m, perfect for swimmers. With a built in GPS, brighter display and a plethora of fitness tracking tools, Apple leaves its competitors in the dust with this iteration of the iWatch.

Zepp Digital Sports Training Device: OK, so this is not technically a wearable, but it does attach to your sports equipment (tennis racquet, baseball bat, golf club or soccer calf sleeve) to give you stats and feedback on your performance, along with video of each kick or swing. At only $99.99, this device may be worth it for anyone working to step up their game.

TUNE Smart Insoles by Kinematix: Place these high-tech insoles beneath your regular running shoe insoles, and embedded sensors will transmit data on your running technique and performance to your smart device. In addition to working with your GPS to track speed, pace and distance, TUNE monitors both feet, measuring ground contact time and heel contact time, helping you to improve running efficiency and reduce injury risk. Available for $199, devoted runners may find the device well worth the price.

Whether quantifying your workouts correlates with improved health, performance or weight loss remains to be seen, but wearable fitness tech will be on the scene for years to come, for those willing to pay the price.


Whether you are training the next American Ninja Warrior or doing balance training with older adults, the fundamental principle of fitness are foundational to safety and results. Staying abreast of trends and new research in sports and exercise is your responsibility as a fitness professional. Get certified with Personal Fitness Trainer, Older Adult Fitness Specialist, Lifestyle Fitness Coach, or Youth Fitness. Then back up your knowledge with continuing education. Extreme training calls for extreme knowledge, and W.I.T.S. has the courses you need to stay informed.

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Balancing Act: Preventing Falls and Injury in Older Adults

Fear of Falling

oa crutches

One of the signs of aging is slower, less coordinated movement and greater instability when standing and walking. Consequently, one of the greatest fears among older adults is taking a tumble that leads to injury. According to the National Council on Aging, falling is the leading cause of fatal injuries among older adults, and the most common cause of trauma-related hospital admissions. However, the NCOA believes that the incidence of falls can be markedly reduced by lifestyle interventions.

Things that Make You Go Boom

Many factors contribute to increased fall risk in older adults. High on the list are medications that interfere with balance and mental acuity. A sedentary lifestyle and excessive sitting bring on postural changes that affect movement mechanics and predispose older adults to falling. Bifocals and trifocals can distort vision, and loss of hearing can interfere with judgement. Loss of muscle mass, called sarcopenia, leads to joint instability and poor balance recovery. Low bone mineral density, or osteoporosis, leads to frail bones that break easily in a fall. If an injury from a fall results in bleeding, blood thinner medications can prevent blood from clotting and can lead to death from blood loss.

Falling and Fitness

wits oa dumbbells

An active lifestyle that includes fitness activities to promote balance is key to reducing the risk of falls among the elderly. Resistance training programs designed to promote optimal muscle tension at the joints can improve posture and boost the ability to recover disrupted balance. Flexibility training can likewise restore healthy posture and increase fluid movement. Water exercise provides a safe workout environment that limits the risk of falling while promoting strength and range of motion. Regular aerobic exercise can reduce disease risk and lower dependency on medications.

Balance Training

Deliberate balance training is another strategy for reducing the risk of falls. Slow deliberate movements like those done in tai chi or qui gong require balance and mental focus. There are a number of balance training exercises geared to older adults that can be easily found on the Internet. There are also many programs that offer certifications for fitness professionals who work with older adults. In addition to balance training, practicing how to get up after a fall can be life-saving.


Educating yourself about older adult health is key to successfully working with this diverse population. W.I.T.S. has got you covered with certification and continuing education courses including Certified Older Adult Fitness Specialist, Able Bodies Balance Training, Certified Personal Trainer, Older Adult Fitness Foundations, and Exercise Program Design for Special Populations.


National Council on Aging: Falls Prevention Facts

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Working with Clients with Chronic Back Pain

Back pain, especially in the cervical and lumbar regions, is a common complaint among otherwise healthy adults. However, the presence of pain does not always indicate structural injuries. Oftentimes pain comes from pressure on nerves due to spinal and pelvic misalignment. 

The presence of back pain in a new client can be a bit daunting for you as a trainer, and you may have concerns about doing more damage than good. But non-specific back pain that is not associated with any sort of trauma is often the result of physical inactivity. 

Common causes of non-specific back pain include: 

  • Excessive sitting
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Weak/unstable core
  • Obesity
  • Poor lifting technique
  • Low flexibility
  • Tech neck/text neck 
  • Poor posture

Here are some guidelines for working with clients with chronic back pain:

  1. Always insist on a thorough pre-session warm-up. Back pain often diminishes once the body starts moving, making it easier to perform weight bearing exercise.
  1. Work on core strength early on. A strong and stable core is foundational to all other fitness activities. It is not enough to train the superficial abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis and obliques). You must also focus on transverse and deep core muscles.  
  1. Teach your client to engage the core during exercise. Mastering core stability while lifting will help your client achieve goals faster, with reduced risk of injury.
  1. Teach your client deep breathing techniques and incorporate them into your exercise program. Diaphragmatic breathing pressurizes the abdominal cavity, providing support and protection for the lumbar spine. 
  1. Look for postural issues and address them. Tight hip flexors, lax gluteal muscles, rounded shoulders, tight hamstrings and tight chest muscles all contribute to spinal misalignments that compress nerves and cause pain. Stretch tight muscles and strengthen lax muscles to achieve balance. Teach good posture, especially during exercise. 
  1. Teach perfect technique. No matter how eager your new client is to feel the burn, insist on light-weight sets until they master good mechanics. 
  1. Educate about gut health. Chronic constipation and straining can contribute to pain in the lumbar spine. 

A Word of Caution

Listen to your client if they are complaining about pain, and teach them to distinguish between pain and discomfort. Never insist that they work through genuine pan. Encourage icing or cryotherapy after every session to promote recovery and reduce pain. Monitor your client carefully in the first weeks, and encourage them to seek medical treatment if their pain worsens. 


Keeping up with the latest research and learning about innovative approaches can take your training knowledge to the next level. W.I.T.S. is always here to help you grow your career with continuing education in fitness and business. Visit our online store to browse our course catalog, and see how far you can go as a fitness professional. 

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The Science of Chronic Pain

Compiled by June Chewning, MA

Fitness Learning Systems


Hey!  Did you know that all pain is all in your head?  It doesn’t mean you don’t have real pain when something to cause pain happens, or that chronic pain is not real.  Feelings of pain are very real and are initiated by the brain for a very important basic reason…to keep you safe.

The study of the neuroscience of pain has changed considerably in the past 10 years.  It is now believed that the sensation of pain is a necessary function that warns the body of potential pain or of actual injury. The process starts with the nociceptor detecting a potentially painful stimulus from the skin or an internal organ. Neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) transmit the signals through the nervous system and spinal cord to the brain. In essence, how the brain processes the signals causes an appropriate or inappropriate pain response.


One example is a child falling and skinning his knees.  He gets up and continues to play as if nothing happened.  Then another child or adult reacts to the blood running down his legs, he looks, his brain responds differently to the neurological stimulus, and suddenly there is pain.  Initially the brain did not register the experience as painful, however the next time the child falls, he will probably immediately register the skinned knees as painful. Experience plays a role in the pain response.


The pain response can also be overridden by the brain in circumstances that are life threatening. For example, a soldier who runs to safety with a serious gun-shot wound. The brain, due to past experience, can conversely register the event as much more painful or life threatening than necessary. For example, someone who was bitten by a poisonous snake may brush it off as being scratched by a stick, until they realize they have a life-threatening injury. But the next time they get scratched by a stick, they may respond as if they were bitten by a poisonous snake.


According to Elliot Krane in his Ted Talk “The Mystery of Chronic Pain,” after an injury or surgery, the nervous system can sometimes get what is going on wrong.  Approximately ten percent of the time, the nerves and glial cells (play a vital role in modulation, amplification, and distortion of sensory experiences) that interact in the pain response develop into a feedback loop that can become distorted. This altered feedback can make chronic pain become its own disease.


Dr. Maria Sykorova-Pritz in her course “Application of Water Exercise for Pain Management” describes how chronic pain is not simple, but very complicated.  The body, mind, emotions, and behavior can become entwined in the chronic pain cycle. Pain medication is often prescribed for chronic pain. Rampant prescription of pain medication is believed to play a large role in the opioid epidemic in the United States.  Although pain medication is often prescribed for chronic pain, it does nothing to unravel the combination of physical, emotional, and behavioral factors that are now believed to cause chronic pain.


There is growing evidence that chronic pain is caused by multiple factors including cognitive, physiological, and behavioral factors. If you are working with clients or interacting with a family member with chronic pain, it is important to understand that it is not just simply a physiological response to pain. It is important to effectively influence a client’s attitude, cultural background and belief system-which influences social norms and perceived behavioral control. To achieve the highest positive health/fitness results among the chronic pain population, it is important to know and understand your client as a whole person.


As we start to look for alternative ways to deal with chronic pain and its aftermath, a combination of physical therapy/exercise and emotional/behavioral counseling is emerging as the tools of choice.  Using the practice of yoga and water therapy/exercise to relieve and even cure chronic pain are proving to be viable and more effective alternatives than pain medication. Statistics from the Institute of Medicine indicate that more than 100 million Americans suffer with chronic pain, thus creating a viable niche for those wishing to work with clients with chronic pain. Now that more is known about chronic pain, its potential causes, the chronic pain cycle, and how to treat it effectively, education is key to working with this population in need.  Proper treatment and compassion for chronic pain sufferers can help end the opioid crisis and help people beat chronic pain to live pain free lives without addiction and suffering.


For more information about the psychology and treatment of chronic pain management, see Dr. Maria Sykorova-Pritz’s continuing education course “Application of Water Exercise for Pain Management





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Working with Clients with Knee Pain

New clients come to us with a variety of needs and conditions, many of which can be overcome with focused and consistent training. One of the most challenging conditions  for a trainer to work with is chronic knee pain, often seen in clients who are overweight with sedentary lifestyles. Knee pain poses a number of programming obstacles that can slow the rate of progress and make it difficult to keep your client motivated. 

Causes of Knee Pain

While some clients have already had a medical assessment and are able to specify the nature and cause of their knee pain, such as an ACL tear or other injury, many others have non-specific knee pain, meaning their medical provider was unable to pinpoint the exact cause. 

Some causes of non-specific knee pain include:

  • Core instability that causes misalignment of the lower extremity joints
  • Poor postural habits like locking the knees when standing
  • Muscle imbalances, with underdeveloped hamstrings and overdeveloped quadriceps
  • Tight hip flexors and tight hamstrings, with weak hip extensors, from excessive sitting
  • Excess body weight, with poor overall conditioning
  • Chronic systemic inflammation that causes knee osteoarthritis
  • Ankle instability that affects knee alignment

Most causes of non-specific knee pain can be overcome with targeted exercise and stretching, to promote joint stability and achieve optimal range of motion. 

Programming for Non-Specific Knee Pain

Because the muscles of the pelvic region mediate load transfer between the upper and lower body during physical activity, core training for strength and stability is fundamental to resolving knee pain. It is not enough to train the rectus and obliques: you must train the transverse and deep core muscles as well, to establish core stability. 

It is also important to remember that the quadriceps and hamstring muscles act at two joints: the hip and the knee. Many people have lax hamstrings at the hip joint and tight hip flexors, along with tight hamstrings and lax quads at the knee joint, caused from too much sitting. Establishing balance at both joints is crucial for optimal knee function.

Strategies for improving knee joint integrity include:

  • Always do a general warmup before exercise
  • Establish core stability early on
  • Strengthen the hip extensors (gluteals) and stretch the hip flexors
  • Strengthen the hamstrings from both the hip (deadlifts) and knee (curls)
  • Do extra stretches for the hamstrings at the knee and the quadriceps at the hip
  • Do not overtrain the quadriceps
  • Maintain balance between the quads and hamstrings
  • Educate about posture
  • Encourage healthy weight loss 

During training, it is important to monitor your client’s perception of joint pain, and to educate them to distinguish between pain and discomfort. Never encourage your client to “work through” pain. 


Keeping up with the latest research and learning about innovative approaches can take your training knowledge to the next level. W.I.T.S. is always here to help you grow your career with continuing education in fitness and business. Visit our online store to browse our course catalog, and see how far you can go as a fitness professional.

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Not-So-Hot Yoga: Beware the Perils of Preposterous Postures!

Over the last several decades, thanks in large part to the personal fitness movement, yoga has emerged from the dark and mysterious realm of spiritual ritual to become a mainstream and universally embraced mode of exercise. The age-old practice of mindful stretching, while it has had its variations, remained virtually untampered with for centuries, but yoga as many know it today has morphed into less of a spiritual practice and more of a challenge to practitioners who want to take personal fitness to a new level.

The Myth of Harmlessness

Many assume that because yoga postures lack velocity and momentum, they pose no risk to practitioners. While it may be true that momentum and velocity do add an extra element of risk to any physical activity, their absence does not necessarily make the practice of yoga risk-free. In fact, injuries are as common in yoga as they are in any other sport or fitness activity. Some common yoga injuries include:

  • Injuries to the cervical spine from headstands and shoulder stands.
  • Spinal injuries from back-bending postures like lotus, bridge, cobra, updog and camel.
  • Sciatic nerve pressure from heel-sitting postures.
  • Various injuries to the hips, ribs, ankles and wrists and hamstrings.

Why the Upswing in Injuries?

The upswing in yoga-related injuries no doubt correlates with its rising popularity. As yoga becomes more mainstream, it is attracting more students of low to average fitness levels who are drawn to it because they think it will be easier and less risky than cardio or weight training. People with low fitness levels face a variety of obstacles when it comes to doing yoga:

  • Core muscles that protect the spine and provide stability are weak, putting the vertebra at risk for injury.
  • Overweight students are often top-heavy, adding extra strain to the body’s structures and raising the center of gravity.
  • Sedentary lifestyle behaviors that involve long hours of sitting create imbalances in muscle tension throughout the body, with some muscles too flaccid and weak, and others too tight, setting participants up for strains and sprains.
  • Unfit populations often have metabolic disorders like hypertension and diabetes, putting them at risk for falls and dizziness during yoga.

In addition to attracting less fit participants, group yoga classes are often taught by unqualified or under-qualified instructors who do not have a sound grasp of human anatomy and biomechanics. The group class environment can also be highly competitive, encouraging participants to push themselves to the point of injury.

Tips for Avoiding Yoga Injuries

Before enrolling in a yoga class, there are a few things you should do to prepare yourself:

  • Begin a general fitness program of cardio and resistance training to build endurance and correct muscle deficits. A simple routine of 20 to 30 minutes of walking followed by a basic machine circuit and gentle stretching, performed three times per week, is a good place to start.
  • Focus on core strengthening exercises to stabilize your trunk and protect your spine.
  • Begin the practice of yoga with a non-competitive mindset. Yoga is all about self improvement. Tune into your body and listen to its messages, and tune out other students.
  • Shop around for instructors. Find someone who understands your needs as a beginner and does not promote competition among students.
  • Do not force yourself into postures that cause pain or extreme discomfort. Ask your instructor to show modifications for challenging poses.

If you do sustain a yoga injury, seek professional intervention with a physical therapist. PT can help you heal, and can teach you to move in ways that prevent injuries. With effective and educational treatment, you can begin to improve your personal fitness in ways that pose no risk for injury.


As sports and fitness become more competitive and demanding, W.I.T.S. is keeping pace with continuing education that keeps you in the know. As a fitness professional, you need to stay a step ahead of your clients and competitors if you want to be recognized as a top fitness service provider. Lay the foundation with a certification, like Personal Fitness Trainer or Older Adult Fitness Specialist. Then, get valuable renewal credits while you hone your skills with courses like Conditioning for Football or Fundamentals of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. Don’t let your competitors leave you in the dust. Take the lead by staying in step with the latest trends and research in fitness with W.I.T.S.

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How Stress and Sleep Deprivation Keep Your Client From Losing Weight

In most cases, helping our personal training clients achieve their weight loss goals is a simple matter of math and science. If they make the recommended lifestyle changes and put in the time and effort, change is inevitable. However, for some clients, adhering to your program and following your advice may not be enough to get them to their goals. When you run across a client who just can’t lose weight, you need to dig deeper to identify their obstacles.

The Chemistry of Stress

While studying to become a certified fitness professional, you learned about homeostasis, the state of balance that the body strives to achieve and maintain. Homeostasis is governed by chemical reactions within your cells, and driven by hormones. As long as you are physically and mentally in a state of relative rest, you are able to maintain a state of optimal homeostasis. 

Homeostasis becomes disrupted when you are physically active, as your body strives to meet imposed demands for oxygen and energy substrates. However, once the activity subsides and you return to a resting state, resting homeostasis is quickly reestablished. 

Homeostasis is also disrupted when your Central Nervous System (CNS) perceives a threat to your safety. In this case, your inbred “fight or flight” response kicks in, causing a dump of protective hormones that heighten your senses and prepare you to do battle or flee. Once the threat abates, your body restores its chemical balance and returns to homeostasis. 

Sleep deprivation correlates highly with stress, and its negative effects are driven by the same chemical mechanisms. When you are stressed, elevated adrenaline levels prevent your body from relaxing, and your over-active mind cannot succumb to sleep. Once stress is resolved, productive sleep patterns are restored, and you are able to get the rest you need to perform at your best, both physically and mentally. 

Ongoing Stress and Weight Loss

The problem arises when stress is ongoing, as is common in our culture. Personal training clients are often successful driven people who set high standards for themselves, and whose lifestyles are perpetually stressful. They often skimp on sleep, work long hours, and take little time for recreation. Many even plan their vacations with a grueling schedule of sightseeing and activities, trying to get the most bang for their bucks.

When stress is ongoing, hormonal levels of cortisol and adrenaline, the stress hormones, remain high. In an effort to produce more serotonin to restore homeostasis, the body begins to crave carbohydrate foods, causing blood sugar to rise and fat metabolism to shut down. A vicious cycle of food cravings, elevated blood sugar, and sleep deprivation eventually lead to weight gain, metabolic disease and depression. 

Helping Your Clients Deal with Stress and Sleep Deprivation

Sometimes people are not aware of their stress levels. In many cases, stress is such a common part of your client’s lifestyle that it begins to feel normal. A simple test, called the Perceived Stress Scale, can give you insight into your clients’ stress levels. Once you identify your high stress clients, you can begin to talk to them about how stress affects their health and interferes with weight loss. You can then work with them to devise strategies to help them manage stress and improve sleep. 


Diet and exercise are the cornerstones of fitness, but many other factors come into play when it comes to achieving weight loss and other goals. A certification in Lifestyle Fitness Coaching can help you bridge the gap between fitness and lifestyle. Plus, adding a new certification to your credentials can be a great career move for building and expanding your client base. 

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Interpreting Health History: How Drugs Affect Your Clients’ Training and Performance

As a responsible fitness professional, you understand the importance of conducting a thorough health screening before taking on a new client or participant. That being said, most of us have no formal training in medicine or pharmacology, so interpreting the information provided on a Health History Questionnaire can pose a challenge.

One area in particular that tends to be overlooked is the medications section of the questionnaire. It is easy to assume that since the drugs our clients take have been prescribed by a physician, they are safe and will not affect our programming. However, many common and popular medications have serious side effects that can undermine performance and pose safety risks. In some cases, they may cause weight gain, or make it difficult for your client to lose weight.

Common Drugs that Affect Training

Following is only a partial list of the most popular medications prescribed for metabolic disorders, birth control, depression and other common conditions.

  • Paroxetine (Paxil): Used to treat depression and anxiety disorders, this medication can cause weight gain, or can interfere with your client’s ability to lose weight. 
  • Metoprolol and other beta blockers: Commonly prescribed for high blood pressure and heart disease, beta blockers suppress adrenaline receptors, slowing heart rate and reducing exercise tolerance. Beta blockers can cause weight gain.
  • Clenbuterol and Corticosteroid inhalants: Clenbuterol is a bronchodilator that has properties similar to adrenaline, It revs up basal metabolic rate and increases aerobic capacity, but it can also cause anxiety and insomnia, and may initiate a heart attack. Inhaled corticosteroids for asthma are known to cause weight gain. 
  • Anti-allergens like Zyrtec and Allegra: Used to treat seasonal allergies, they tend to stimulate appetite, and can therefore cause weight gain. Your client may not list these meds because they can be bought without a prescription. If your client can’t lose weight, ask if they are taking allergy meds. 
  • The Depo shot (medroxyprogesterone acetate): A convenient form of birth control, substantial weight gain is a common side effect. 
  • Statins like Lipitor: Statins are often prescribed for high cholesterol. They are known to increase muscle soreness and reduce performance. Recent research reveals that statins can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, promote premature aging, and increase muscle pain. Statins have been linked to rhabdomyolysis during intense exercise, a condition where muscle cells break down and release myoglobin into your system, which in turn can cause kidney failure and death. 
  • NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs): These over-the-counter analgesics, including ibuprofen and naproxen, are probably the most common meds taken by gym goers. They should not be taken longer that three days in a row, but many people take them daily for months or even years. They can be harmful to the liver, kidneys, and GI tract, and can increase the risk of heart attack. 

The Trainer’s Responsibility

When reviewing your client’s health history, take special note of listed meds. Go online and research their side effects, and take them into consideration when programming. Educate your clients about the risks, and encourage lifestyle changes that address their condition. Never tell your client to stop taking prescription meds; it can make you legally liable for any negative consequences. However, you can encourage your client to discuss concerns about side effects with their health care provider. 


To build a successful fitness career, increasing your knowledge about health issues is a must. You cannot help your clients if you do not understand their medical conditions, and how drugs affect their performance. As always, W.I.T.S. has valuable resources to help you grow. Consider a certification in Older Adult Fitness, or get continuing education credits with Essentials of Diabetes and Prediabetes, Introduction to Cardiovascular Disease and Exercise, or any of our other MFEF courses.

We are sponsoring the CI track again this year too.

SPECIAL FOR BLOG READERS!  Join us at the Club Industry Business Conference this October 23-25th. Get CEC’s for W.I.T.S. too. As a blog reader and follower, you can use this PROMO CODE: “SAVE25” for $125 OFF the registration! Here is the link so see you in Chicago! .



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8 Popular Non-Prescription Substances and How They Affect Your Clients’ Performance

In a recent post, we talked about how your clients’ prescription medications can affect their performance and outcomes. From reduced strength and endurance to blocking weight loss, your clients’ meds may be a pivotal factor that keeps them from reaching their goals. 

Fortunately, most health history questionnaires provide a place to list prescription drugs, and some basic research can help alert you to the side effects of many medications, and give you more insight into your client’s overall health profile. 


But have you ever thought about the non-prescription substances your clients may be using, and the risks and obstacles they pose?

10 Common Non-Prescription Substances and How They Affect Performance

There are a number of products and substances that are commonly consumed by a vast variety of people, and your clients may be among the users. These substances are not listed on your client’s health history questionnaire, and often fly under the radar. Here is a partial list of substances you should look out for: 

  1. NSAIDs: Perhaps the most abused and overused substance among the fitness community, ongoing use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like naproxen and ibuprofen can have harmful side effects. Even short term use of NSAIDs can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, can cause bleeding in your GI tract, and can wreak havoc on your liver. During training, NSAIDs can mask pain that indicates overuse. NSAIDs should not be taken more that three days in a row. 
  1. Energy Drinks: With their high caffeine content (up to 100 mg per oz), energy drinks can rev up your metabolism and keep you awake and alert. But the tradeoff is serious health risks, including elevated blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, anxiety and obesity. 
  1. Ergogenic Aids: This substance category covers a broad range of pills and powders taken to enhance performance and promote post-exercise recovery. Most are not regulated by the FDA, and many have questionable effects on performance and recovery. Taking a lot of EAs over time can cause liver and kidney damage.
  1. Anabolic Steroids: Despite their bad rap for decades, ‘roids remain popular among bodybuilders because they promote rapid and massive muscle hypertrophy. However, users pay a high price in side effects, including male pattern baldness, liver damage, sexual dysfunction, shrinking testicles, lysing of muscle cells, and premature death. And let’s not forget Roid Rage, the aggression that can lead to criminal behavior.
  1. Testosterone Boosters: Testosterone is often prescribed to treat sexual dysfunction in men (they may be embarrassed to list it with their other meds), but it is also abused as a performance enhancing substance to boost strength and muscle mass. Side effects include increased risk of heart disease, enlarged prostate and male breast swelling and tenderness. 
  1. Diet Pills: There is a wide range of weight loss supplements on the market, with an equally wide range of ingredients. Many have large amounts of caffeine, which increases risk of heart disease and stroke. Fat blockers and carb blockers can interfere with nutrient absorption, leaving your client deficient in essential micronutrients.
  1. Opioids: Opioid abuse has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, causing serious life-threatening addiction. Users often get hooked from prescription pain meds after an injury or surgery. However, once addicted, they will go to great lengths to get the drugs in any way they can. Opioids can slow heart rate, increase the risk of falls, desensitize your client to pain, reduce endurance and interfere with breathing. 
  1. Alcohol: You may not expect your client to show up roaring drunk, but even a couple of beers or glasses of wine consumed at lunch or happy hour can seriously impair your client’s performance and increase their risk of injury. 

Your Responsibility as a Trainer

If you are aware or suspect that your client is abusing substances that may harm their health, there are a few steps you can take:

  • Educate your client about the harmful effects of the substance and how it affects their performance.
  • If you work in a studio or gym and you are not the owner, notify a supervisor or manager about the abuse.
  • If your client shows up for a session impaired by a substance, refuse to train them to avoid injury and protect yourself from liability.
  • If the abuse appears to be an addiction, refer them to a licensed professional who can help them. 


To build a successful fitness career, increasing your knowledge about health issues is a must. You cannot help your clients if you do not understand their medical conditions, and how drugs affect their performance. As always, W.I.T.S. has valuable resources to help you grow. Consider a certification in Older Adult Fitness, or get continuing education credits with Essentials of Diabetes and Prediabetes, Introduction to Cardiovascular Disease and Exercise, or any of our other MFEF courses.

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Work Your Legs to Boost Your Brain!

The old adage “healthy body, healthy mind” has been around for decades, and anyone who gets regular exercise can attest to its positive mental health benefits. Now, as researchers make new inroads into brain health, we are beginning to understand the specific mechanisms by which the human brain is improved by exercise. In particular, weight bearing exercise that overloads the large muscles of the legs appears to have multiple benefits for cognitive health.

How Leg Work Promotes Brain Health

Exercise influences brain health in several ways, promoting improved cognitive function while rejuvenating both muscle and brain tissue. Failure to perform load-bearing exercises causes you to lose muscle mass, and affects your body chemistry in such a way that your brain and nervous system begin to deteriorate. In fact, neurological health depends on signals from your large leg muscles just as much as movement depends on signals from your brain to your muscles.

Some specific ways brain function is affected by load bearing exercise include:

  • Weight-bearing exercise sends signals to your brain that are vital for the production of healthy nerve cells, the building blocks that enable you to manage stress and adapt to challenges.
  • Exercise boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor, responsible for rejuvenating both muscle and brain tissue.
  • Failure to exercise against the force of gravity negatively affects a gene called CDK5Rap1, which plays an important role in cell mitochondrial health and function. Well-functioning mitochondria are essential for optimal health. In fact, mitochondrial dysfunction is a root cause of chronic disease, including the degeneration of your brain and nervous system.
  • Exercise promotes the production of a protein called FNDC5, which in turn triggers the production of BDNF, a rejuvenator for both brain and muscle. BDNF helps preserve brain cells, and activates brainstem cells to generate new neurons. BDNF also promotes brain growth in the hippocampus region, which is associated with memory.
  • Load-bearing exercise increases the flow of oxygen to your brain, which in turn improves brain function.
  • Leg exercise reduces the amount of damaging brain plaques, and changes the way damaging proteins are situated in your brain, slowing the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Exercise normalizes your circulating insulin levels, lowering your risk for diabetes, which is linked to a 65 percent increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Load bearing exercise lowers systemic inflammation, which is linked to metabolic disease and cognitive decline.
  • Exercise boosts endorphins and serotonin production, elevating your mood and promoting productive sleep. It also lowers stress chemicals that have been linked to weight gain and heart disease.

The Brain Health-Fitness Connection

Any fitness professional worth their salt recognizes that fitness is largely a mind game. Motivation, perseverance, and focus are all mental resources that are needed to overcome discomfort in order to attain fitness goals. As your clients’ bodies become stronger and healthier, so do their brains, and so does their capacity to overcome mental obstacles, to get to the next level of fitness.

Digging Deep for Professional Growth

Research studies are continually digging deeper to understand the underlying mechanisms that affect our minds and bodies. As a fitness professional, you owe it to yourself to stay abreast of the latest research, so you can apply your knowledge and grow your business. W.I.T.S. is working for you daily to provide the latest information for professional development. To learn more about how exercise affects mental health, sign up for the online course, “Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention and Intervention,” provided in collaboration with our partners at the Med Fit Education Foundation.