Health and Fitness professionals are primarily trained to address the physical body and focus their studies and outcomes associated with physicality. However, recent advances in these fields have inspired the study and application of behavior change, which is primarily derived from positive psychology.
In recent years, a greater appreciation of the human nervous system has entered the awareness of many health and fitness professionals, at least in concept. The various issues associated with health and fitness, such as obesity, diabetes, pain, immobility, frailty, sarcopenia, osteoporosis, arthritis, stress management, sleep, and the like are typically thought of “from the neck down”, while in reality, these conditions all affect and are affected by the brain & behavior. In addition, the rates of mental health, neurological, and neurodegenerative issues such as depression, anxiety, chronic stress, insomnia, dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, stroke, traumatic brain injury, ADHD/ADD, and more continue to exponentially increase in their prevalence and health burden globally.
As research continues to demonstrate the value of lifestyle modification in relation to the primary prevention and management of all of these conditions and diseases, the role of the health and fitness professional is both clear and desperately needed in order to address the increasingly concerning the collective burden of these conditions. Therefore, it behooves health and fitness professionals to learn about brain health, the associated knowledge of which is not a part of the standard curriculum in undergraduate, graduate, and certification programs.
In order to better understand the clients we serve, and to increase the capacity of which clients we can serve, it is increasingly important to learn about the basics of the brain, including cognition, brain structure and function, and behavior. By understanding this information, health and fitness professionals can add value to their existing services, design programs to enhance brain health, & assist in the prevention and management of mental health, neurological and neurodegenerative conditions. This development of these skillsets will ensure that health and fitness professionals are a respected and necessary component of providing lifestyle guidance, coaching, and exercise facilitation for these populations.