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Finding a Personal Fitness Trainer

They're popular and they get results, but making a good match takes effort.
(continued)

The Costs

The National Strength and Conditioning Association conducted a recent survey of prices and found an average of $50 per hour with a range of $15 to $100 per hour. Prices do vary depending on region, according to Hagerman, and naturally, they will be higher in urban areas than in rural ones.

Hagerman and Klinge both agree that getting a trainer at a commercial health club is probably the cheapest way, since a personal fitness trainer in a private studio will inevitably have to charge more. The number of sessions a person needs can vary, but both Hagerman and Klinge recommend at least two a week. Although sessions are typically an hour, Hagerman says that some people opt for half-hour sessions, both to save time and money.

Hagerman emphasizes that money isn't everything when it comes to choosing a personal fitness trainer. "Don't just shop for the lowest price," he tells WebMD. "Cheaper trainers aren't necessarily better trainers. They may not be worse either, but there are other things to consider."

Checking Credentials

Just about any trainer you find is likely to have an impressive-looking diploma or certificate indicating that he or she has been certified as a personal trainer; in fact, the lobby of your fitness center may be lined with them. But don't be dazzled by just any degree. Instead, it's very important to find out just what organization performed the certification.

According to Hagerman, there are about 400 organizations in the U.S. that purport to certify personal fitness trainers. Of that number, about a handful are considered legitimate by most professionals. Among the most respected are the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), and the American Council on Exercise (ACE). The better organizations have specific requirements based on tested and practical knowledge, mandatory retesting at renewal periods, and continuing education. The ACSM has recently begun to require that its certified trainers have a formal educational degree in exercise science or a related field.

The requirements for other organizations may not be so strict. Some award certification after an Internet correspondence course or as little as a weekend retreat, according to Hagerman.

"Unfortunately, all you need to become a certifying organization is an acronym, advertising, and employees," Bryant tells WebMD.

And be sure to read those acronyms closely, since many dubious organizations have chosen names and initials that are very close to the well-known and legitimate groups. If you're not sure about them, Klinge recommends writing down the names of the organizations that certified your trainer and looking up their requirements on the Internet.

"A lot of these organizations like to throw in words like 'national' or 'international' in their names even though it doesn't mean anything," says Hagerman. "There's a 'national' one in Oklahoma City that nobody outside of the city recognizes. In fact, I'm in Oklahoma City and even I don't recognize it."

Hagerman also suggests that you make sure your personal fitness trainer's certification hasn't expired by phoning the certifying organization.

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