Posted on

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.

Posted on

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. 

Posted on

Jay’s Corner of the Industry – Time to Cast a Large Shadow.

Jay’s Corner of the Industry – Time to Cast a Large Shadow.

By Jay Del Vecchio W.I.T.S. President & CEO


Next month we will share even more to help you share all of this valuable info with your local media, clients and employers.  It is time to engage and increase your value so you are appreciated even more!!


You are a superior fitness professional by all accounts do to your collegiate training, education and NCCA Accredited testing in knowledge and practical skills.  Your fitness service will reflect it in an industry of minimalized certifications.  What do I mean by minimalized?  Unfortunately or fortunately for you as a W.I.T.S. CPT, the other certifications have not built out the infrastructure like other legitimate health occupations.  The other certifications only have prospective fitness professional candidate’s complete written exams.  There is no direct responsibility to perfecting the hands on skills nor testing it.  Why do other certifications groups that have been around twice as long as W.I.T.S. not do more for the public and the trainer’s success?  You can attend an internship with senior trainers to extend employment opportunities.  Your reward is an additional Level 2 Certified Personal Trainer certification.  So what are you going to do about it?  How are you going to increase your value in the market with clients, employers and educate the media?


Posted on

Jay’s Corner of the Industry – How We Stepped Out Of The Shadows

By Jay Del Vecchio W.I.T.S. President & CEO

A little bit of history:

25 years ago at the urging of CEO’s at a Club Industry Conference we went national.  This came about after I revealed in a roundtable that we had a regional certification with these very same titans in the industry.  The problem was simple to these CEO’s.  The other certification groups were not bringing them good overall solid employees to build their businesses.  In 1993 we set up our first site with the Virginia Beach Adult Learning Center in Virginia,  we then added Mercer County Community College in New Jersey.  Our national certification was launched  and we were ready to improve the industry.  I knew we could do better than just having candidates for this profession read a book or take a weekend review course followed by a written exam to be a “qualified” Certified Personal  Trainer.


Posted on

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! .



Posted on

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.

Posted on

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.

Posted on

When to Use Participant Registration Forms

Fitness is a people business, and getting groups of participants together for activities provides fun and motivation. But any type of physical activity has inherent risks, and gathering information about your participants prior to an activity or event is a responsible way to reduce your liability and ensure the safety of one and all.

A Participant Registration Form provides important information that you may need to screen and protect participants. It typically asks for the following data:

  • Contact information like name, address, phone and email
  • Name and phone number of an emergency contact
  • Participant’s age and date of birth
  • Participant’s medical history
  • Allergies and dietary restrictions
  • Activity-related information such as level of skill or expertise
  • Participant’s insurance information
  • Current date and signature

Information provided on Participant Registration Forms may also provide useful leads for membership drives or future events. 

Situations Where a Participant Registration Form is Used

A Participant Registration Form is unique from a waiver of liability or a health history questionnaire, although they may contain some of the same information. You may not need a new form for every event or activity you sponsor, but there are several cases where a Participant Registration form is needed, including:

  • Outings and field trips
  • Competitions
  • Sports events
  • Trial memberships
  • Workshops and conferences
  • Children’s activities
  • Seminars
  • Fitness assessments
  • Outdoor bootcamps
  • Special group classes or activities

If you are unsure if a particular activity warrants a Participant Registration Form, it is better to err on the side of caution. 

How to Use Provided Information

It is not uncommon for an organization or company to collect completed Participant Registration Forms and set them aside, unread. This can become a serious issue, especially with new participants. For example, failure to make note of a food allergy can result in a hospital visit or worse, making you liable for negligence.

Prior to beginning an activity, carefully review all participant information, and ask for clarification or additional information when appropriate. Make note of participants who may be at a higher level of risk, and keep a close eye on them. 

Also bear in mind that participants do not always disclose personal information, and they may be reluctant to share personal medical or other details. In such cases, a date and signature may help reduce your liability if an issue concerning unshared information arises. When collecting completed forms, check to see that they have been signed and appropriately dated.

For a sample Participant Registration Form, click here.


An important part of conducting a fitness-related business is protecting participants from injury or harm while minimizing your liability for mishaps. Learning more about the business side of fitness can help you successfully navigate legal and operational issues to reduce liability and optimize revenue. The W.I.T.S. Fitness Management certification course provides you with everything you need to know about operating a fitness business. You may also enjoy segments from the certification course, listed as continuing education courses, including Programming Essentials for Member Retention, Human Resources and Staffing, Facility Setup and Design, Attracting Club Members and Retaining Club Members. 



Posted on

He Said She Said: Why you need witness statements after an incident at your gym or studio

No matter how carefully you monitor your gym members, clients or group exercise participants, accidents do happen, making your facility vulnerable to lawsuits and negative PR. One way to mitigate the damage to your business after an incident is to gather eyewitness reports that paint a picture of what actually happened. Without witness statements, it comes down to the injured party’s word against yours, and a personal injury lawyer will try to get the highest possible payout for their client.

Use Only Credible Witnesses

Even if you manage to identify one or more witnesses to an incident, it is important to make sure your witnesses are credible. A witness who lacks credibility can actually do more harm than good to your case.

Some questions to ask before requesting a witness statement include:

  • Did the witness actually see the incident, or did they just hear it, or enter the scene after the incident occurred?
  • Did the witness see the entire incident from start to finish, or did they just hear about it from someone else?
  • What was the witness doing, and where were they standing at the time the incident occurred?
  • Is the witness’s vision, hearing and memory reliable?
  • Is the witness known to be honest and respectable?
  • Does the witness have any personal or financial interest in the claim?

Generally, if a witness statement is used in court, the witness must be willing to show up in person and give their testimony of what they saw. It is important to gather as many credible witnesses as possible, since some may be reluctant to testify.

Important Witness Statement Details

Remember that witness statements can be used against you, so be careful to ask for specific information that gives a realistic and truthful picture of what occurred.

Some important details to include in a witness statement are:

  • Name, age and role (e.g. gym member, class participant, instructor, trainer, front desk staff, client).
  • Date and time the incident occurred. Try to be as specific as possible.
  • Accurate details about the location where the incident occurred. For example, “In the locker room, near the showers.”
  • Accurate description of what happened and the names of those involved, including staff and members/participants.
  • A factual account of what was seen/heard. Do not speculate about what happened, or give opinions about why you think the incident occurred.
  • How was the incident responded to by staff or other members? Were emergency services contacted? Was first aid given?
  • Date and time the witness statement was completed. Ideally, you want to get witness statements as soon as possible after the incident occurred. Statements taken after several hours or days may hold less weight in court.

Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

As a business owner, it is in your best interest to understand your legal rights and responsibilities when incidents occur, and to educate your staff on how to respond. You can learn more about legal issues through any of the W.I.T.S. Certification programs, like Personal Fitness Trainer, Group Exercise Instructor, Older Adult Fitness Specialist, or Fitness Management.

Posted on

Are Changes to the Cervical Spine Inevitable as We Age?

Complaints of back pain are common among adults, and a stooped posture with rounded shoulders and a forward-jutting head is one of the markers of advancing age. Yet much of the research on spinal integrity and degeneration neglects to examine lifestyle factors that influence spinal alignment, musculature and bone mineral density. When it comes to upper spinal alignment and degeneration, there are multiple factors that contribute to changes in the cervical spine.

Factors that support cervical spinal health include:

  • Good postural habits
  • Regular physical activity
  • Weight bearing exercise
  • Balanced nutrition
  • Good sleep hygiene
  • Proper movement mechanics

Sadly, most people do not pay attention to spinal health until they experience pain, and by then there is often irreparable damage that cannot be corrected, only managed.

What New Research Says About Cervical Spine Degeneration and Symptoms

A recent longitudinal study by Daimon et al. (2018) examined changes in cervical spinal health in 193 subjects over a 20 year span, from 1996 to 2016. The research team used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify spinal degeneration. Patients were also questioned about the presence or absence of cervical spine-related symptoms.

The study revealed that 95 percent of the study participants experienced some degree of degenerative changes in the cervical spine over the 20 year period. Interestingly, the research team found no relationship between the patients’ reported clinical symptoms and spinal degeneration, except in the case of foraminal stenosis and upper-limb pain.

While this study appears to indicate that degeneration of the cervical spine is common and inevitable, the study does not attempt to identify contributing factors to spinal degeneration. A full 5 percent of the study participants exhibited no changes to the cervical spine over the 20 year period, leading to the question of why those individuals maintained a healthy spine while others did not.

Why Spinal Health Matters, and What You Can Do About It

The bones of your spine house and protect your central nervous system as it descends from your brain to the peripheral regions of your body. As the spine degenerates, nerves become vulnerable to outside forces, leading to damage, pain and dysfunction. Moreover, your spinal alignment is governed by your muscles. Too tight, weakened or too lax muscles can affect overall spinal health, and can lead to postural issues, neuromuscular problems, and faulty movement mechanics.

A healthy spine is foundational to overall physical performance, and reduces the risk of pain, falls and injuries as you age. Good spinal alignment makes you appear more youthful, and promotes healthy function of your vital organs. Over time, muscles tend to become imbalanced, pulling your spine out of alignment. Even elite athletes can develop muscular imbalances, because most sports do not recruit the muscles in a symmetrical way.

You can take measures to improve your body alignment, optimize muscle tension and promote long-term spinal health today. A physical therapist can help to identify spinal misalignment, postural defects and imbalances in muscle tension. Most people can benefit from gait analysis and retraining, and from training programs designed to correct poor posture and faulty movement mechanics.


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.


Daimon, Kenshi, et al. “A 20-year Prospective Longitudinal Study of Degeneration of the Cervical Spine in a Volunteer Cohort Assessed Using Mri: Follow-up of a Cross-sectional Study.” JBJS 100.10 (2018): 843-849.