Before You Go - February 2014
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Fitness Evolution

ACE Hires Physician to Advance Role of Fitness Pros

By Deborah L. Vence

The role of fitness professionals is evolving and ever more important in preventive health care today, as obesity in America continues to rise.

Repeatedly, statistics have shown that obesity among children and adults is increasing, with Type 2 diabetes and other related health problems on the rise as well, mainly as a result of poor diet and lack of exercise. According to information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, more than one-third (34.9 percent) of adults were obese in 2011-2012, with the prevalence of obesity being higher among middle-aged adults (39.5 percent) than among younger (30.3 percent) or older (35.4 percent) adults.

To help encourage the role of fitness professionals in preventive health care, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) recently hired Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD, FAAP, as its healthcare solutions director. The goal of her new role is to help strengthen ACE's efforts to make health coaches, personal trainers, group fitness instructors and advanced health and fitness specialists play a more central role in a healthcare system that focuses on cost-effective primary prevention.

"The role of the exercise professional is evolving. The importance of exercise in the treatment and prevention of disease is becoming more pronounced, with the publication of numerous studies showing benefit and a movement within primary care to prescribe exercise," said Muth, who is a board-certified pediatrician at Pediatric Medical Associates in Vista, Calif., a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, as well as an ACE-certified health coach.

"While the exercise professional has not routinely been a part of the healthcare team, we recognize the important role that the exercise professional can play and are committed to helping to link the clinic to the community," she said. "More and more doctors see value in referring patients to an exercise professional, and many exercise professionals want to help these patients, but currently there is a disconnect. We hope to be able to help serve as a bridge."

ACE President and CEO Scott Goudeseune stated in a December press release that "ACE is very serious about securing an invitation for the professionals we certify and serve to the broader healthcare table. Dr. Muth will play a critical role in our efforts to prepare well-qualified, ACE-certified health and fitness professionals to contribute to the prevention and treatment of obesity and its co-morbidities." He went on to say that "she'll be pivotal to our work to evolve the systems and environments that are shaping the nation's response to the obesity epidemic so that our profession may contribute in a far more integral, substantive way."

The goal in helping to evolve and advance the role of fitness professionals is to help create opportunities and offer resources and advocacy for ACE health coaches and personal trainers.

"We are faced with an epidemic of inactivity, obesity and poor health. ACE is committed to playing an integral role in helping to reverse these epidemics," said Muth, who also is the author of "Eat Your Vegetables!" and Other Mistakes Parents Make: Redefining How to Raise Healthy Eaters, and is recognized for her expertise in nutrition, fitness and obesity prevention and treatment.

"The ACE family of over 50,000 certified professionals is well-equipped to support changes from an individual, family, community and policy level in our cities across the country," she added. "We hope that greater integration of health coaches and exercise professionals in the health care continuum will help to improve the health of Americans in a very cost-effective and impactful way."

She said the foundational training through ACE's four NCCA-accredited credentials will remain the same, but "our professionals will have increased opportunities and access to additional education to help prepare them to be a part of the healthcare team."

Muth has been an ACE-certified professional since 1998 and was a senior healthcare strategist for ACE prior to her promotion. She now joins ACE as a full-time senior-level employee following years of service to the organization as a consultant and subject-matter expert.

Since 1985, ACE has grown from a small nonprofit organization that has been committed to educating people about proper fitness to a 50,000-strong network of certified personal trainers, health coaches, group fitness instructors and advanced health and fitness specialists. ACE also is the largest NCCA-accredited nonprofit fitness certification organization in the world.