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Bracko, Michael R. Ed.D., FACSM

doi: 10.1249/FIT.0b013e3181916b0f

Qualities of Successful Personal Trainers; Exercise Advice From Humans and Computers; Protein: To Supplement or Not.

Michael R. Bracko, Ed.D., FACSM, is an exercise physiologist and director of the Institute for Hockey Research and the Occupational Performance Institute in Calgary, Canada. He is an associate editor for ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal® and works in three areas: 1) sports physiology, where he conducts research on the performance characteristics of female ice hockey players, teaches high performance skating, and serves as physiologist for the University of Alberta Women's Hockey Team and the U.S. Men's Deaf Olympic Ice Hockey Team; 2) the health and fitness industry, by contributing to fitness magazines, consulting, presenting at health and fitness meetings such as the ACSM's Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition; and 3) as an occupational physiologist, in the areas of back injury prevention, ergonomics, workstation stretching, and prework warm-up.

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The purpose of this study was to identify important qualities and characteristics of personal trainers. The qualities and characteristics were identified by personal trainers from a city in the southeastern United States. There were four themes: 1. Client Selection Rationale: qualities influencing a client's decision to hire a trainer, 2. Client Loyalty: qualities to maintain clients, 3. Credentials: formal training, and 4. Negative Characteristics: qualities considered unethical or unprofessional.

The subjects were 11 personal trainers: mean age is 36 years, 4 women and 7 men, 9 had college education, and all had fitness certifications. The study consisted of focus groups to examine the central question: "What qualities are important to be a successful personal trainer?"

The results of the focus group analysis showed the following important qualities and characteristics: Client Selection Rationale: physical appearance, sex/race, and referral; Client Loyalty: motivational skills, individuality, empathy, and social skills; Credentials: a science-based college education and certifications; and Negative Characteristics: sexual comments, inappropriate touching, and misuse of power (selling nutritional supplements).

The authors conclude that undergraduate and certification programs should include training in interpersonal skills, management, and practical knowledge (1).

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In this interesting study, the researchers investigated the 6- and 12-month effectiveness of promoting physical activity by either phone interventions given by health educators or by interventions from an automated computer system. In this study, there were 218 physically inactive men and women aged 55 years or older, all of whom were in stable health. The subjects were randomly assigned to the following: 1. human advice, 2. computer advice, or 3. health education control.



The human advice intervention consisted of an initial in-person session, then 15 biweekly and monthly phone calls. The subjects received individual information, support, and problem solving for barriers to being physically active. The phone calls were supplemented with informational mailings and a pedometer. The computer advice intervention was primarily telephone-assisted counseling by an automated phone-linked computer. The intervention was modeled after the human advice model. The subjects in this group received an initial in-person session then the same number of contacts and content, as the human advice model. The phone-linked computer "spoke" to the subjects using computer-controlled speech generation. The subjects in the health education control group were offered weekly health education classes for the 12 months of the study.

The three groups were evaluated by a 7-day physical activity recall that provided an estimate of energy expenditure and minutes per week engaged in vigorous activity. They also were evaluated by a measurement of perceived functioning and well-being. The Vitality Plus Scale assessed the following: current well-being, sleep quality, energy level, mood, constipation, morning stiffness, and general pain. There was a questionnaire that evaluated satisfaction with body function (fitness and stamina) and appearance.

The results show that at, 6 months, the human advice and computer advice groups were not significantly different from each other but were significantly greater than the control group in the following measures: energy expenditure, mean minutes/week spent in vigorous activity, number of days/week engaged in 30 minutes or more of vigorous activity, and spending 150 minutes or more per week in vigorous activity. At 12 months, the human advice and computer advice groups were not significantly different from each other but were significantly greater than the control group in the following measures: mean energy expenditure, mean minutes/week in vigorous activity, and number of days/week engaged in 30 minutes or more of vigorous activity. The human advice group had a significantly greater percentage of subjects who achieved the Surgeon General's recommendation of 150 or more minutes/week of vigorous activity compared with the computer advice group and the control group.

At six months, the three groups were not significantly different in Vitality Plus or Satisfaction with fitness scores. At 12 months, the human advice group had significantly greater improvements in both measures compared with the computer advice group and the control group.



The authors conclude that giving health and fitness advice to middle-aged to older adults by telephone-based computer systems can be effective, convenient, flexible, and maybe even desirable. This is based on the premise that many people have difficulty attending structured setting-based classes. It is clear that both human advice and computer advice can be used to help adults to become more physically active (2).

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This study was done to survey high school football players about their sources of information about protein supplementation and protein supplementation misconceptions. A total of 61 high school football players participated in the study.

A survey questionnaire was designed to identify misconceptions about protein supplements and to measure the level of misconceptions among subjects. Section 1 of the survey had open-ended questions about sources of information and advice, perceived risks and benefits, and the ability to identify food sources of protein. Section 2 of the survey was an index of eight items to measure misconceptions about protein supplements.

The results of the study showed that 39 subjects used protein supplements at some time. Seventeen of these subjects were current supplement users. Protein supplement users consumed protein supplements six times/week. The other 22 had never used protein supplements. The protein supplement users reported they received information from coaches, friends, the media, and family. Most subjects who took supplements reported that they received their information from coaches. There was a significant difference between index scores of protein supplementers and nonsupplementers, indicating that the subjects who took protein supplements had greater levels of misconceptions than subjects who did not take supplements. Moreover, subjects who took protein supplements were more likely to agree that "athletes should take protein supplements."

Coaches are respected by athletes who look to them for nutrition advice. Consequently, the authors conclude that coaches need to know correct information about protein and protein supplementation (3).

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1. Melton DI, Katula JA, Mustain KM. The current state of personal training: an industry perspective of personal trainers in a small southeastern community. J Strength Cond Res. 2008;22(3):883-9.
2. King A, Friedman R, Marcus B, et al. Ongoing physical activity advice by humans versus computers: The community health advice by telephone (CHAT) trail. Health Psychol. 2007;26(6):718-27.
3. Duellman MC, Lukaszuk JM, Prawitz AD, Brandenburg JP. Protein supplement users among high school athletes have misconceptions about effectiveness. J Strength Cond Res. 2008;22(4):1124-9.
© 2009 American College of Sports Medicine