CHICAGO — Anyone can teach aerobics exercise classes and the Aerobics and Fitness Assn. of America wants to put a stop to it by establishing higher standards for instructors.
As the number of aerobics classes and participants grows, so grows the number of people being hired to teach the jumping and stretching exercises. Unfortunately, many of the "teachers" have no training and are teaching far too many classes, setting up themselves and their students for serious injuries.
Also, many aerobics and fitness clubs are assigning new students to classes without properly screening them to determine what level of exercise they should be involved in.
To clear up the mess created by the exercise fad, the AFAA, headquartered in Sherman Oaks, Calif., is holding workshops in several places around the country to educate aerobics instructors and standardize exercise techniques. One such workshop will be held at the Gottlieb Fitness Center in Chicago and Dr. Mitchell Goldflies, director of Gottlieb's Sports Injuries Clinic, will be speaking to the group.
"The purpose is to provide a core information course to provide groups with examinations so they can be certified," Goldflies said. "It is important they have participated in an education program on proper instruction in aerobics exercise classes.
"Unlike other recreational activities like cycling, the individual participant (in aerobics) is at the mercy of the instructor," he said. "You have lost control. The class they put you in is determined for you. Since we have a captive audience we have to have instructors who are knowledgeable so people don't get hurt."
Goldflies said the original concept behind aerobics was a safe one, but has been altered into a more strenuous exercise without proper changes in teacher preparation.
"Aerobics classes started off as an alternative to other exercise programs," he said. "The concept was a concentrated class similar to gym classes you had as a kid that would provide you with a quick fitness activity.
"The concept was, since you were in a controlled atmosphere, there would be less injuries involved, but at some point the opposite became true. The earlier classes tended to eliminate the impact in jumping that is now present. People wanted to have an enjoyable, fun experience, and did not want to do slow, static movement. They wanted to jump around like they were dancing.
"Now we have an injury problem that was not apparent at the beginning," he said.
The lack of proper training isn't the only cause for injuries to students or instructors. Where dance studios and basketball floors were proper for the slower types of aerobics, such surfaces are too hard for the type of exercises now being done, Goldflies said.
Because of the number of classes they teach, instructors are the ones suffering the more serious injuries. Goldflies estimated 80% of all aerobics-related injuries are suffered by instructors.
Goldflies said several organizations, including the American College of Sports Medicine, wants to certify aerobics instructors, but he said having more than one certifying group is better than having none.
"Any well thought out course with a decent test is better than nothing," he said.
Goldflies said it is the responsibility of the fitness club directors to extensively question applicants for instructing positions and to monitor classes to make sure proper aerobics exercises are being taught.
Aerobics injuries are usually confined to the lower leg and foot. "We don't see as many knee, hip and back problems in aerobics like we do with runners or cyclists," Goldflies said.
Aerobics students are injured because they are not being screened to determine their proper exercise level.
"The clubs aren't going any screening of these people before they slot them into the proper class," he said. "It isn't the participant that has much control. Ideally, people get screened, plugged into the right class and then monitored and switched to different classes depending on how they improve."
Goldflies concluded that changes must be made for aerobics to continue as a group exercise.
"If things don't turn around in five years, you are not going to see this as a major fitness activity," Goldflies said.