Exercise is not medicine, and suggestions to the contrary do nothing to help fitness trainers improve the health of their clients.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
This popular saying portrays certain activities as having the ability to improve health. Most people accord a notion of truth to the adage, but would anyone suggest a farmer or retailer could be held out as an exemplar of a health or medical profession? Probably not.
Yet this is exactly what the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is trying to do with Exercise Is Medicine (EIM)—a media campaign, a proposed system of physician-based physical-activity prescription and referral, and a revenue-generating set of credentials offered by the ACSM.
The fitness industry is not medicine. Any organization that argues fitness is medicine is overreaching its operational scope and pandering to its members and the populace, all in hopes of weaseling into a place alongside medicine, nursing, physical therapy and athletic training as a licensed profession.
The ACSM must be encouraged to cease its attempts to confuse and misclassify fitness delivery to healthy individuals as medicinal physical activity in order to advance its own agenda at the expense of its partners, its competitors and fitness trainers everywhere. Although fundamentally different, physical activity and exercise can indeed be medicine—but only if disease or injury is present. The ACSM should concern itself with physical activity and exercise as therapy for disease and as rehabilitation. It should leave fitness for the masses to others.
CrossFit Founder and CEO Greg Glassman has described exercise training as “non-medical health care that works.” In the context of the gym, this means trainers in the fitness industry aren’t diagnosing or prescribing anything. They are teaching and training fitness, and the byproduct of their services is better health and function in their customers. In contrast to the goals of the ACSM and EIM, these are outcomes CrossFit and the evolving fitness industry can deliver.