Defining the Profession
As we seek to develop a clear role within the pathway protocol for the prevention, treatment and management of chronic disease, it’s time we define what is a Medical Fitness Practitioner. In doing so we create a foundation for creating a job description, performance measures, quality assurance and career path for the profession.
As a first step we must collectively recognize Medical Fitness as a service and articulate what it represents. For this service to be classified as medical, it must be relating to the science of medicine or to the treatment of illness and injuries. Next it’s important to note that the definition of fitness is the condition of being physically fit and healthy. Therefore, we can apply deductive reasoning to define Medical Fitness as the application of a medicinal science to produce a condition of health.
Now of course in order to provide Medical Fitness we must identify who is qualified to provide this service in a meaningful context to provide a positive outcome for the patient and value within the healthcare continuum. These individuals should have a formal education in health, exercise and or nutrition science and be trained to work with individuals with chronic diseases. While this describes a variety of degrees, it creates a baseline for credibility for this new career. In addition, it’s important that while there is not a license for this specific career path; there is an accredited credential that can be obtained to secure the necessary specialization for using exercise and nutrition science to treat and or manage chronic disease.
In 2007, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Medical Association teamed up to create the Exercise is Medicine ® Credential. This credential was designed to serve as a beacon to healthcare that these individuals have been verified as credible healthcare providers ready to work with physicians and patients to collaboratively produce positive health outcomes for those battling chronic disease.
ACSM’s Exercise is Medicine Initiative with AMA has made this profession a viable career path and credible healthcare ancillary that can be identified under the Center of Medicaid and Medicare Services Health Care Provider Taxonomy Codes. These Codes define a health care service provider type, classification, and area of specialization and if you look closely at Respiratory, Developmental, Rehabilitative and Restorative Service Providers you will find taxonomy code 224Y00000X. This code states that these individuals are classified as Clinical Exercise Physiologist. A classification that is clearly suitable for the knowledge, skills and capabilities of the medical fitness professional and appropriate for the profession.
At this point the argument could be made that we should simply identify as Exercise Physiologist however it has been proven that exercise alone is not enough. Nutrition science must be an essential component of any viable medical fitness service to produce optimal health outcomes. A science that is inclusive of most if not all exercise science/physiology curriculum leading to a degree at an accredited university/college.
Can a physician be a Medical Fitness Practitioner...Yes! A nurse practitioner...Yes! A physical therapist...Yes! It’s important to note that a Medical Fitness Practitioner is not exclusive of those with an exercise science degree. A medical fitness provider is a practitioner of Medical Fitness.
Today we define the Medical Fitness Practitioner as a credentialed health care professional who is formerly trained to work with patients with chronic conditions where the application of evidence-based exercise and nutrition science has been shown to be of therapeutic value, including but not limited to cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, and orthopedic disorders.