Some people might be a little concerned about completing a Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PARQ). This is the questionnaire that anyone should be asked to complete before participating at the gym or in exercise classes. The PARQ is based on the gold standard guidelines for exercise testing and prescription (ACSM, 2005). The questionnaire is confidential and helps to identify whether a person is in a low, moderate or high risk category and whether further assessment is advised before participation in an exercise programme.
We ask new participants to complete the PARQ so that, if there is an increased risk, they can self refer to their GP to ask for their advice about exercise. Participants can also book a live online assessment with our qualified Physiotherapist to see if there are any health concerns not already being addressed that may need further investigation. By having an assessment we can provide a plan that takes into consideration any health issues or past and present injuries to avoid making any problems worse.
I know from experience of teaching various forms of physical activity over more than 30 years that some people will not declare their problems. Whether this from a lack of trust or fear they may not be allowed to participate I'm not sure. I can understand however as I would also be hesitant to declare my health history to someone I didn't know. I would encourage participants to remember that this is your exercise providers job. Often I have been told "my doctor/physio/consultant advised me to do Pilates/exercise" when I've asked if a new participant has any medical complaints or past injuries. As if I am then magically able to know exactly which exercises will improve their problem and which could leave them in a wheelchair.
I am very fortunate to have been in the position to have assessed many people with complex problems as a Community Physiotherapist. One such case was a client released from hospital suffering extreme pain despite taking powerful painkillers. From the physiotherapy assessment it was evident that there was a serious problem that had potentially been missed because this was not the problem the client had been in hospital for. After explaining the results of the Physiotherapy assessment and my level of concern to the patients GP immediately after my assessment the client was reviewed by the GP, readmitted and found to have 8 new vertebral wedge fractures. Fortunately we found this in time, acted immediately and the client was provided with a back brace. The exercise plan provided was then able to begin and the client was up on their feet and pain free within a few weeks.
This is just one case at the extreme end of the spectrum but an example of how the outcome of an assessment can help guide a proper exercise plan to make sure problems improve and don't get worse.
So next time you attend classes we strongly recommend:
1. Make sure your provider is properly qualified to deal with your particular problem
2. Make sure you complete a PARQ (if you haven't already had an assessment with your provider)
3. If you are new to a class, recreation centre or gym and have not been asked to complete a PARQ, BE CONCERNED!
3. If you have a medical complaint or past injury declare this to your exercise provider (they really don't have x-ray vision:-) and have an assessment so they can make your plan evidence based and specific to you. If your provider is a health care professional they can refer you to your GP for further investigation if necessary
ACSM (2005). ACSM's Guidelines For Exercise Testing And Prescription (7th Ed.) Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, Phil.