Dr. Lonnie Lowery and Dr. Tommy Boone
for Increasing Awareness of ASEP
Dr. Lonnie Lowery
to the Mind of the ASEP Member
Dr. Tommy Boone
of Exercise Physiology: A Student’s Perspective Jason
Brabec, MA, EPC
of Ambition Over Professionalism
Editorial: Select Strategies
for Increasing Awareness of ASEP
Lonnie M. Lowery, MA, MS, PhD
ASEP National Secretary,
Co-editor ASEP Newsletter,
President, Nutrition, Exercise & Wellness Associates,
Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44222
A primary drive of recent Board of Directors (BOD)
meetings has been improved promulgation (i.e. marketing) of the American
Society of Exercise Physiologists. Stimulated by more than self-interest
(ASEP growth for its own sake), the marketing of ASEP goes beyond the singular
goal of business marketing that hopes to increase its "bottom line". The
expansive new ASEP marketing plan is meant to save a profession from extinction.
Several approaches have been included in the recently-formalized business
plan, each with specific measurable objectives. Following are just two...
Expanded use of the ASEP E-News (email version of
the longstanding web Newsletter) will be used to invite a wide variety
of potentially interested students and professionals into ASEP. This invitation
will include 10 critical reasons to join as well as benefits for those
who make the commitment to ASEP and the Profession. Exercise science graduates
looking to practice in the field need to know WHY they should join ASEP
and become true exercise physiologists (EPCs).
Part of this marketing initiative can eventually
focus on faculty "gatekeepers" as well... A "faculty education" campaign
on was also seriously considered at the recent National Meeting. Awareness
among exercise-related faculty that recent graduates are entering a nebulous,
unlicensed and multi-certification-polluted "profession", with extremely
poor earning potential relative to other health professions, (Wattles,
M. ASEP Annual National Meeting, April 1-3, 2004) is a key goal for this
campaign. Is an exercise science degree currently worth its LARGE monetary
/ time investment when EP licensure is nearly non-existent among states?
Is it worth it when other, established legalized professions are simply
certifying themselves in our hard-earned, 4-6 year education/ skill set?
Indiana recently considered legislation that would
move EP opportunities to PTs. And despite a position paper that diet itself
is ineffective for weight control, RDs have created weight management certificates
that include physical activity. And why shouldn't these professions want
to branch out from their traditional roots and get a piece of the growing
wellness/ prevention/ treatment markets? They are simply protecting and
expanding their charters. We must do the same to create a climate of proper
referral to the best trained professional for each specific client's/patient's
But back to the faculty awareness initiative. Without
full disclosure to incoming students of the legally rare, underpaid and
threatened exercise physiology profession, doesn't it become an ethical
dilemma then, for universities to accept tens of thousands of dollars in
tuition payments (and related Departmental benefits)? This question can
be asked because ultimately, the unlicense-able exercise degree conferred
is often unworthy of supporting even a lower-middle class lifestyle. Without
ASEP, advisor referral to other Programs (PT, RD, and various associate
degree programs) may well become the only ethical advice for any incoming
student wishing to make a living in exercise, commensurate with his or
her education/ time/ money investment.
Although the BOD and many ASEP members at the faculty-level
are aware that some students pursue knowledge for its own sake, as common
to the humanities (indeed noble), it is also recognized that many (most?)
students entering a health-related profession expect to earn a better living
by actually utilizing their chosen profession. Exercise Science faculty
advisors who eventually recognize this potential conflict of interest in
which they participate should gain interest in ASEP. Hence the proposed
"faculty education" initiative. That is, ASEP's informational flyers, meetings,
structure, accreditation, and legal initiatives will create legal value
and subsequent earning potential to an exercise physiology degree - and
faculty can know they are justified in recruiting hopeful new students
into their programs. Presently, however, accepting money/ enrollment and
unwittingly encouraging an over-positive career outlook in an unrecognized
"profession" (that is rapidly being annexed by other licensed health professions)
The faculty education initiative, in whatever form
it takes, should open many eyes. The resulting "trickle-down effect",
from fully-aware faculty "gatekeepers" to their students, of the REAL job
market and its legalities should increase ASEP membership as this ethical/
legal awareness grows. It'll be an uphill battle; "fighters" are welcome.
In summary, you can see that much discussion has
gone into the new and sweeping marketing initiatives of ASEP. Their results
- which will be measured in various ways - should help everyone.
An Introduction to the Mind of the ASEP Member
Tommy Boone, PhD, MPH, MA, FASEP, EPC
Professor and Chair
Department of Exercise Physiology
The College of St. Scholastica
Duluth, MN 55811
“ASEP is not work; it is a labor of love.”
– William T. Boone
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak about the American
Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP). I acknowledged the members
for the assistance and support in the professional development of exercise
physiology. Without them, the organization would not exist.
Their unselfish patience has helped transform exercise physiology from
a discipline to an emerging healthcare profession. The ASEP leadership
owes a special thank-you to every member, and all exercise physiologists
are indebted to the members for their extraordinary support and encouragement.
Passion and belief in exercise physiology is their
approach to independence as healthcare professionals . Neither
recognition as a personal trainer nor a fitness instructor equals the professional
title of an exercise physiologist. This doesn’t mean they aren’t
educated to leverage important accomplishments at a personal level, but
that their vision is much bigger. All are not seasoned professionals.
Some are students. Others are a mix with much to learn. Their
reasons for joining ASEP are varied. Most want the respect that others
have. They are tired of being shortchanged by past thinking.
Those who join ASEP know that it is the future of exercise physiology .
Most ASEP members see the opportunity that a professional
organization enables. They understand the strong correlation between
one’s participation in an organization and the positive changes on behalf
of all members. It is less about personal gain and more about investing
in the profession, collective careers, and professional practices.
Most of us will benefit from the leadership of the ASEP members.
They are selling their ideas to employees and others when they talk positive
about ASEP and exercise physiology. By working together and building
personal and professional relationships, members are in position to help
each other take advantage of the different opportunities. Together,
they create they learn to control their own destiny .
When members think success, not failure, when members
believe in themselves and are willing to work and deal with difficult moments,
and when their intellectual bedrock id founded in ethical thinking ,
you can believe they are different than the rest. They are professionals
who see opportunities others dream about. Nearly all of the members
are looking to be part of the new professional niche not just to make it
financially, rather to nurture the profession. This shouldn’t be
surprising when you consider that other successful healthcare professionals
have done the same. My point is obvious: we cannot get to the
next level of transition and growth unless we come together to dream and
work towards a common vision .
Reflecting for a moment, it shouldn’t come as a surprise
that promoting ASEP without the help of the academic community isn’t easy
. And, yet I learned long time ago that courage, hard work, and
tenacity are all winning tickets. No one has be rich, big, smart,
or even good looking to rise to the top. All a person needs is inner
strength. This is especially true when struggling to overcome groupthink
. Even today I’m still that strong believer of tenacity, regardless
of 9/11 or colleagues who constantly surprise you with their apathy.
Here, ASEP members are not insensitive to the sports medicine myth 
but, in turn, they lead, mentor, and encourage others to join ASEP.
Why? Unlike their sports medicine colleagues, who focus too much
on themselves and not their students, they are interested in helping [all]
They have heard all the comments about ASEP, such
as: “You will never be recognized in ASEP.” “The organization
can’t make it.” Or, “It is better to play it safe and join sports
medicine.” Most ASEP members will tell you a lot more about negative
comments. But, needless to say, they are still members of ASEP.
Hence, all of a sudden, a person gets the point. They are not members
of ASEP to prove anything except that they have the right to belong to
their own professional organization. Their motivation is simple.
It is the same as the physical therapist who belongs to the national physical
therapy association or the nurse who belongs to a nursing organization.
Ignoring ASEP doesn’t make sense to exercise physiologists. Keep
in mind it may make sense to sports medicine professionals.
Being true to one’s beliefs, which is the case with
ASEP members, comes with a price. There are criticisms and mis-understandings.
However, the process of growth dictates that both are acceptable outcomes.
Remember that it is a bad idea to try to be who you are in another person’s
backyard. The bottom line is simply this: Sports medicine is
not exercise physiology. And, exercise physiology career opportunities
cannot be realized under the sports medicine umbrella. As an evolving
profession, we must stand on our own two feet. This is the message
of the ASEP members. They, too, know that it is unfortunate thinking
to try and pull your self up by relying on the help of non-exercise physiologists.
The game’s over or, at least, it should be. It is highly presumptive
to think we can win or even predict our future hanging on to the outdated
thinking of yesterday 
ASEP members understand completely that controlling
their own destiny is not possible when you are a member of a non-exercise
physiology organization. To illustrate my point, where is the feeling
of power? Where is the control over how exercise physiologists think?
Why are members of the sports medicine organization making the decisions
for exercise physiologists? Are exercise physiologists defined by
the sports medicine code of ethics or their own? How do exercise
physiologists declare a “standards” of practice within the context of sports
medicine? Who disciplines the exercise physiologist? Which
certification is important to the exercise physiologist? It is hard not
to overemphasize the differences between sports medicine and exercise physiology.
“Do you know how to be an exercise physiologists?
You think it, believe it, and live it.” -- William T. Boone
Speaking of living it, everything begins with tenacity.
ASEP members demonstrate it every year by paying their dues. Year
after year they stay the course. Regardless of the lack of the usual
organizational benefits, the members overcome obvious shortcomings by their
faith in the leadership and their integrity to always do what is right
for [all] exercise physiologists. Nearly all of the members have
come to understand that ASEP is here to stay. Judgments about what
is ASEP and why should it exist are no longer important to them.
There is a rather clear understanding why they belong to ASEP, regardless
of their membership with other organizations. This, it seems to me,
is clearly a mark of true insight, courage, and audacity that challenges
the weak of heart. That is, those who need the infectious embracement
of the so-called established professionals are hard pressed to grasp the
moment. They just don’t get it.
Non-ASEP exercise physiologists would do well to
think out of the box . For example, why continue spending your
efforts that only build sports medicine and not exercise physiology?
How does it possibly help your students, if you are a college teacher?
Those who unemployed or unemployable need your help. Their fear of
never making it may be driving them from exercise physiology. In
other words, in a matter of a year or several years, they will be a nurse
or a physical therapist. Imagine the enormous energy and enthusiasm
lost to an entirely different profession? It is unacceptable since
it has the propensity to destroy the spirit of many students. Why
not join with ASEP members and overcome both academic and financial adversity?
It is an understatement to say that it is both the logical and ethical
thing to do.
In summary, it is clear that the ASEP members have
considerable courage. To be a member of ASEP is to take a risk.
And, yet it is the magic of exercise physiology because it is the road
to success. Think as a physical therapist would. Think as a
nurse would. They think as professionals. This is how ASEP
members think. They are true professionals. Exercise physiologists
who do not belong to ASEP should for these reasons. Believe in yourself
as the ASEP members do. Join ASEP, think success, and communicate
your positive beliefs to others.
“Be strong and of a good courage; be not
afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the lord thy God is with thee whithersoever
thou goest.” -- Joshua 1:9
1. Boone, T. (2003). Overcoming Institutional Inertia
with Leadership. Professionalization of Exercise Physiologyonline.
6:2:February [Online]. http://www.asep.org/asep/asep/OvercomingInstitutionalInertiaWithLeadership.html
2. Boone, T. (2003). The Entrepreneurship of Exercise
Physiology. Professionalization of Exercise Physiologyonline.
6:3:March [Online]. http://www.asep.org/asep/asep/EntrepreneurshipOfExercisePhysiology.html
3. Boone, T. (2000). The Idea of Power and Professionalism.
Professionalization of Exercise Physiologyonline.
3:5:May [Online]. http://www.asep.org/asep/asep/Destiny.html
4. Boone, T. (2003). Ethical Thinking: What
Is It and Why Does It Matter? Professionalization of Exercise Physiologyonline.
6:6:June [Online]. http://www.asep.org/asep/asep/EthicalThinkingANDexercisephysiology.html
5. American Society of Exercise Physiologists. (2004).
The ASEP Vision. [Online]. http://www.asep.org/vision.htm
6. Boone, T. (2004). Indifference to Professional
Standards is Irresponsible Behavior. Professionalization of Exercise
Physiologyonline. 7:2:February [Online].
7. Boone, T. (2004). The Professional Practice
of Exercise Physiology and Ethical Thinking. Professionalization of
Exercise Physiologyonline. 7:2:February
8. Boone, T. (2001). The Sports Medicine Myth.
of Exercise Physiologyonline. 4:7:July
9. Boone, T. (2004). A Portrait of the ASEP
Organization as a Positive Force for Change and Professional Accountability.
Professionalization of Exercise Physiologyonline.
7:4:April [Online]. http://www.asep.org/asep/asep/ASEPpositiveFORCEforCHANGE.html
10. Boone, T. (2002). Exercise Physiology
of the Future: Thinking Out of the Box. Professionalization of Exercise
Physiologyonline. 5:11:November [Online].
of Exercise Physiology: A Student’s Perspective
Jason Brabec, MA, EPC
Department of Exercise Physiology
The College of St. Scholastica
Duluth, MN 55811
In looking at the profession of Exercise Physiology,
what does it hold in the future? I would like to answer this question
with: autonomy, respect, higher salaries, licensure, and professionalism.
As of now, though, I cannot use these responses together. One might
find bits and pieces of autonomy here or respect there, but it is rare
to find the proper respect and treatment as that of nurses or other health
care professions. In response to gaining the desired treatment, ASEP
has been formed by Exercise Physiologists for Exercise Physiologists.
This society has given EPs hope and the will to further our profession,
but how do we go about it? What steps must occur to change the public’s
conception of an EP from a fitness leader to a health care provider?
To become a strong, united society, we must first
unite. With EPs numbering in the thousands, it was somewhat disappointing
to see only 75 members attend the ASEP National Conference, while the number
of potential EPs who could have attended the meeting is very high indeed.
The small number does not reflect the drive and enthusiasm that I witnessed.
It was exciting and refreshing to see other EPs in attendance express their
views and perspectives. There was a “grass-roots” feeling in the
air. As we continue to grow with age as a Society of Exercise Physiologists,
we will learn the ropes of professionalism and we will succeed. But
where do we begin eliciting this growth?
We must begin at the foundation of our profession,
which is the academic curriculum at the undergraduate level. Through
accreditation steps, colleges and universities can begin to shape their
exercise science and physical education degrees (not to mention about 30
other names) to ones that represent Exercise Physiology. Although
these changes do not happen immediately, some of these institutions have
invested in the hopes of bringing an accredited EP program onto their campuses.
In doing so, every graduate is ensured the same basic core classes as another
graduate from other programs. EPs will develop similar academic
backgrounds, no matter where they earned a degree. Nurses and PTs
have the same core body of knowledge for their individual programs of study,
why cannot we have the same. This then leads us to the question of
who can call themselves an EP.
At this time, many people call themselves an Exercise
Physiologist. The truth is that many of these people have adopted
the title through earning degrees in exercise science or kinesiology.
This practice is unfair to the EP who actually earned a bachelor’s degree
in exercise physiology, or took the time to pursue a master’s or doctorate
degree. The EPC certification was designed for this reason.
It establishes that an EP candidate has completed at least five out of
nine core classes to qualify for the certification. It does not matter
if you are a medical doctor or a PT, if you have not completed this requirement,
you cannot sit for the exam. I feel that it is important to continue
this practice and uphold the dignity if ASEP certification.
We cannot not sit for a nurses’ certification or
a PT’s licensure test, so why should they be able to sit for our professional
title? This is the problem that nearly wiped out Exercise Physiology.
ACSM was not founded for EPs but for many other professions. If we
feel that we owe them anything, it is the insight to stay loyal to our
profession. I commend the board of ASEP for upholding these qualities.
Even though a candidate must meet these requirements, he/she must still
demonstrate the ability to perform hands on basics relating to several
EP areas. The certification does not stop there, though. The
candidate must also demonstrate knowledge in every area of EP in a written
exam, scoring a seventy or above to pass. When these requirements
are fulfilled, then one has the right to call him- or herself a board certified
The next step is to gain the respect of the medical
world and the public. We must be able to demonstrate that we have
the ability and knowledge to help people make a difference. Why should
a nurse be trained to monitor cardiac patients when an EP is already qualified
for the position. Part of the reason is that we are still a young,
developing profession. We need to grow by promoting ourselves and
our profession. In time, people will get to know what an EP is about
(including academic and professional qualifications), just as PTs are recognized.
With the respect of the health field and the public, we can begin to stretch
out and find new and different ways to make contributions. Autonomy
will then follow after, allowing us the freedom to use our knowledge and
skills without supervision of others. The day that all EPs are able
to perform on their own is still in the future, although there are many
in the field that possess self-practice.
When others are able to see the need for Exercise
Physiologists, demand for us will grow. This will be represented
in the increase of salaries. Many EPs become discouraged when they
hear that salaries can range in the mid-twenties, similar to OT and PT
aides who possess only high school diplomas. EPs must become recognized
as a profession, instead of letting others bully us around. Instead
of supporting other associations that do nothing for our profession, ASEP
and the profession of EP must be supported (especially by students).
We need to legitimize our profession within the health care systems.
Another way to help further our profession is to
pursue licensure at the state level and eventually at the national level.
Licensure would further recognize what exactly our scope of practice entails,
and would shed light on our code of ethics. It is becoming necessary
for our profession to survive. Licensure would stop other professions
from encroaching on our scope of practice, and would ensure the need for
an increase in career opportunities. Increasing the demand would
also increase the salaries. Regulation of our profession would provide
the public with the uniform academic preparation, standards of care, and
expected methods of assessments and treatments. With autonomy we
would demonstrate that we are accountable for the standards of care provided
to every individual that seeks professional guidance, instruction, and
support to improve their health and fitness .
Professionalism of exercise physiology requires communication
and commitment. We need leadership through ASEP members with a desire
to keep the professional development of exercise physiology moving forwards.
They must be hard-working and possess the ability to work together.
We must have the sense to shed the familiar and comfortable relationship
with sports medicine for a more collective, self-centered conviction that
inspires us to become the managers of the future within Exercise Physiology
. The image of Exercise Physiology must also change if we are
to reaffirm credibility and leadership in the health, fitness, athletics,
and rehabilitation areas. Although we have reached the threshold
of trusting others around us, I hope in the future that we can continue
trusting EPs through ASEP.
1. Wattles, M. (2004), The Licensing of Exercise
Physiologists. 2004 ASEP National Meeting, Indianapolis, IN.
2. Boone, T. (2001). Professional Development
of Exercise Physiology. Edwin Mellen Press.
The Problem of Ambition
Tommy Boone, PhD, MPH, MA, FASEP, EPC
Professor and Chair
Department of Exercise Physiology
The College of St. Scholastica
Duluth, MN 55811
“The nonprofessionals have already surrounded
us.”-- Sarah Short
From my earliest interest in exercise physiology, my
college professors were adamant about the importance of research.
Designing studies, collecting data, and publishing manuscripts were considered
as [the] door to personal and professional acceptance.
Being accepted was always viewed as a goal, especially since so few exercise
physiologists were recognized outside of physical education. Recognition
has always been important. Researchers are assumed to be ethical,
and exercise physiologists need to be recognized as professionals.
So, for decades, exercise physiologists with access to laboratory equipment
threw themselves into all kinds of research projects. Graduates students
were also required to do research in the form of a thesis or dissertation.
Although my involvement with exercise physiology
began in the early 1970s, it was not until the mid-1980s that professors
realized the value of students’ involvement in sports medicine conferences.
The presence of students substantially increased the size of the conferences.
Unfortunately, the idea that research per se is sufficient to professionalize
a field is poorly understood. Exercise physiology, like any other
field that is evolving from a discipline to a profession, must justify
itself as a profession just as other professions have done. Research
therefore cannot take precedence over other important criteria for
professional development. Similarly, for the benefit of all exercise
physiologists, the “thirst for profit” cannot be allowed to interfere with
the practice of exercise physiology.
To understand the problem of “ambition over professionalism”
requires a code of ethics. The first code written specifically for
exercise physiologists surfaced with the founding of the American Society
of Exercise Physiologists in 1997 . The objective of the code
is to help exercise physiologists render service uninfluenced by motives
of profit or ambition. Thus the practice of exercise physiology should
be limited to income from one’s principal employment, not from consulting
fees determined by the bottom line of businessmen. Notwithstanding
the importance of money, knavery and profiteering cannot be a rational
basis for the professional development of exercise physiologists as healthcare
professionals. Still, there is a high regard placed on working with
companies that produce drugs and/or supplements. In this country
and throughout the world, coaches, trainers, sports nutritionist, and exercise
physiologists, as well as athletes, have come to think that the use of
ergogenic aids is acceptable. This is a big problem for sports, society,
and the evolving profession of exercise physiology.
Those who believe in the use of drugs and/or supplements
to enhance physical activity seem to think that no one has the right to
disagree with them . While it may not be popular today for exercise
physiologists to disagree with colleagues who believe that the use of drugs
and supplements is not cheating , it is absolutely imperative that the
right to disagree is honored and expected from members of the profession.
This is as yet a lofty pronouncement that seems to be of little value to
those who have a huge interest in “sports nutrition” and, in particular,
drugs and supplements. For decades now exercise physiologists, who
may also refer themselves as sports nutritionists (because s/he is interested
in nutrition or its role in sports), have enjoyed the distinction.
However, it should be recognized that there are virtually no academic degrees
in sports nutrition. The title is therefore assumed by anyone with
an invested interest, which is not a good thing since it is not consistent
with other professions.
With the privileged position of title, there is the
responsibility of individuals to assure no harm with their contact with
others. They are also expected to act in accordance with an established
code to ensure their competence and trustworthiness. However, since
they do not have a code of ethics, there is no reason to expect sports
nutritionists to faithfully discharge their responsibilities. Without
ethical codes, the idea of subsidizing one’s professional pay with fees,
facilities, and equipment is not questioned as profiteering (and yet that
is exactly what it may be). Failure in understanding this distinction
is not in the best interest of exercise physiologists or athletes.
That’s the whole point. Professionals must have the best interest
of the patients, clients, and colleagues at heart. Their work cannot
be about maximizing income or product sales for commercial vendors.
This thinking however is directly in contrast with the competing interests
of the marketing and advertising by performance-enhancing companies.
This is also a problem for exercise physiologists who support the deception
In a professional environment, members are expected
to be professional and credible. This may not be the case with distributing
drugs, supplements, and funds for research. It is quite different.
Grants funded by supplement companies are likely to carry the interest
of the CEO. For the most part, researchers who obtain grant money
from tradition sources are interested in determining the facts. Researchers
who are interested in keeping their jobs with drug and supplement companies
have been found on occasion to be less concerned about the facts, particularly
should the facts fail to promote the company’s products. The
notion of altruistic concerns of supplement companies is inconsistent with
the bottom line and the entrepreneurial trend of attractive financial opportunities.
It figures that this kind activity, where respected academics are hired
by supplement companies to write articles and give lectures about new products,
has gone unquestioned far too long by exercise physiologists.
If physicians shouldn’t refer patients to a facility
in which they have ownership interest, shouldn’t exercise physiologists
do the same? That is, if they have an interest in using supplements,
it doesn’t mean that they should automatically believe that it is right
or appropriate for others. If they have an interest in marketing
supplements for better physical performance, it doesn’t mean that the same
thinking is suited for others. The task of thinking different will
be difficult and the likelihood of a solution any time soon is far from
clear. But, the first step with change begins with the courage to
try. The sooner exercise physiologists face up to the problems inherit
with the present system, the easier it will be for the public to embrace
exercise physiology as a healthcare profession founded on ethical principles.
In common-sense usage there is nothing about the
notion of ethical thinking that is foreign to other professionals.
Indeed, shouldn’t all exercise physiologists be concerned about the assumption
of responsibility by the sports nutritionists who refuse to recognize that
they may be too close to the subject to appreciate its concerns?
Can we continue to allow the process of habituation take place without
the right to interaction, discussion, and analysis? Decisions must
be made to ensure the separation of sports nutrition from exercise physiology
if nutrition supplements are not going to be guided by ethical thinking.
Reflection has to take place to determine what the exercise physiologist’s
responsibility is, to whom the profession is responsible, and for what.
Simply to ignore the greater risk of losing credibility by association
with untrustworthy and irresponsible individuals who believe that their
first responsibility is to their rules in light of their perception of
athletics is foolish. To whom are exercise physiologists responsible?
For what is the profession responsible? By raising these questions
exercise physiologists make explicit what is acceptable and what is not
acceptable in sports nutrition. Responsibility to exercise physiology
is of greater importance than responsibility to those who profess to be
Sports nutritionists, whether exercise physiologists
or not, should tell the world about the volume of nutrition misinformation
in advertisements of products in sports magazines. The truth must
be known. Yet it is clear that “telling the truth” may not be all
that easy to do. The question must be asked about whether and in
what way athletes, coaches, and sports nutritionists (and of course, exercise
physiologists) can get rid of supplements in athletics. Turning one’s
head away from this huge problem society faces is a contradiction in the
behavior of a professional. There can be no doubt that a right to
speak is conferred upon every exercise physiologist who is committed to
the professional development of exercise physiology as a healthcare profession.
This is the hallmark of character building of evolving professionals who
understand a conception or standard of truth that validates the ethical
reality and significance of a profession.
Conversely, there is very little truth found in advertisements
of nutritional products marketed for athletes in leading sports magazines
and on literally dozens and dozens of Internet sites. The truth is
that the dietary companies care about profitability, not about exercise
physiology. The CEOs understand business, marketing, and sales
of products, regardless of the myths perpetuated on athletes of all ages.
Their reality is not the reality of exercise physiology. The supplement
scam is clearly defined by the 100s of brands and products marketed to
increase muscle growth, testosterone levels, decrease fat, increase energy
and strength. Even more specifically, the scam has tainted the role
of athletics in American and worldwide. This is why “the supplement
scam” and its deceptive marketing tactics must be dealt with through education
and ethical thinking. Those who teach sports nutrition must talk
openly about the following facts outlined by the National Council Against
Health Fraud’s Task Force on Ergogenic Aids :
1. Taking of scientific research out of context
2. Claiming products are “university tested” when
no research has been done
3. Using unauthorized endorsements by professional
4. Using false statements that research is currently
5. Using testimonials
6. Referencing research inappropriately
7. Patenting products (which is not proof of effectiveness),
8. Engaging in mass media publicity
As exercise physiologists, we have the responsibility
to tell the truth. There are risks in using unregulated and untested
supplement products. The majority of the “fat metabolizers”, “anabolic
optimizers”, “fat burners”, and “strength boosters” do not work, and they
have little to no serious scientific support . Indeed, Sarah H.
Short’s quote  bears repeating: “The nonprofessionals have already surrounded
us.” In short, sports nutrition courses should not be about fraud
and deceptive practices to exploit athletics. Exercise physiologists
should help athletes, coaches, and the public see through the nutrition
supplement myths. They should teach what is fraud and what is quackery?
Students should be taught total nutrition concepts and not the ergogenic
aid quick fix approach to athletics and physical performance. They
should understand the differences between ethical promotion and deceptive
promotion, ethical advertising and deceptive, unethical advertising, and
the publishing of scientific articles and the promotion of articles as
science that is fraudulent.
The word “fraudulent” is always a powerful word,
and some of my colleagues believe it is too strong when used in the context
of sports nutrition. Not all unproven fitness supplements are necessarily
quackery. However, exercise physiologists who promote unproven supplements,
practices, or procedures to enhance physical performance are quacks.
This should not come as a surprise. The hype and promotion of enhancers
with words like “may, should, appears, and in theory” in addition to the
money that is made on false hopes and the desire to win by athletes defines
their quackery. Education is the exercise physiologists’ weapon of
choice and solution to the athletic cons, quacks, and frauds. This
is why accreditation is important, and why exercise physiologists must
step up to the plate of professional development. Promises, unproven
remedies, guaranteed results, secret or exclusive formulas, and testimonials
cannot stand up to a scientific-based, accredited education.
The trouble is that there are too many sports nutritionists
involved directly with supplement companies. Not all of them are
doctorate prepared. Some have dubious credentials from non-accredited
institutions. They know that athletics is a fertile ground for questionable
practices and unsubstantiated claims to increase energy or enhance athletic
performance. This is why the Internet is full of websites that sell
sports nutrition products. Just recently, on May 21, 2004 at 8:10
pm, the following unsolicited email was sent to the ASEP National Office:
The prospects are good that this kind of mass mailing
to convince athletes it is in their best interest to use steroids will
not only continue but get worse. Strangely enough, there is relatively
little debate among exercise physiologists about nutritional needs of athletes,
sport ethics, safety, fairness, and moral character . The discussion
of ethical implications of continuing sports nutrition as it is presently
conceived does not exist among exercise physiologists. Therefore,
by silence, there is the assumed endorsement of supplements, drugs, and
even gene-doping. The continued misuse of enhancers of athletic performance
is a failure on behalf of exercise physiologists worldwide to draw the
distinction between good nutrition and bad nutrition that encourages athletes
to unfairly increase their biological capabilities. The traditionally
valued concepts of fair play and well being of athletes have been purchased
by bottom line policies of big business. And, yet this kind of performance
modification has not reached the classrooms of sports nutrition courses.
Therefore, students are unprepared to discuss the serious ethical and legal
concerns and implications.
The study of exercise physiology ethics as it bears
directly on athletic performance should be a required part of every sports
nutrition course. It is no longer satisfactory for exercise physiologists
to continue being subservient to arguments of past thinking. Nor
is it satisfactory to simply allow others to continue benefiting at the
expense of the athletes. The issues concern largely, though not exclusively,
two important principles: (1) professional development of exercise
physiology; and (2) ethical practice of exercise physiology. Rather
than continue to allow those who support the use of supplements define
exercise physiology, it is time to establish the means by which it is possible
to distance quackery from exercise physiology. This thinking has
emerged largely out of the ethical side of what it means to be a profession,
rather than differences in research and/or business interests.
To this extent, it is unethical, unprofessional and,
very likely, legally questionable for the exercise physiologist to permit
or encourage in whatever manner or place available the use of drugs or
supplements to enhance performance for competition. As to the question
of unfair competition, however dated the concept might be to some readers,
it is nonetheless important to a lot of people. Athletes are always
going to approach their sport with important differences of all kinds.
That is part of the meaning of “to win” or “to be successful”. When
an otherwise less physically developed or genetically gifted athlete musters
the determination to win without drugs, supplements, or even down the road,
without genetic manipulation, the athlete learns important lessons about
him- or herself. Society has come to expect that the athlete’s experiences
will help with handling other experiences in life. These assumptions
and expectations are founded on ethical issues involved that elevation
of sports to the level of the “greater good” for all society.
Hence, it is important that the sporting community
and exercise physiologists, in particular, do not forget this kind of bottom
line thinking. Drugs, supplements, and anything that results in an
unfair physical advantage in sports are unethical because the physical
competition among athletes is supposed to be founded on the natural abilities
of all athletes. Any unearned advantage is cheating. It cannot
advance the value of sports. It only compromises sporting competition
much in the same way as cheating in business destroys the public’s trust
in the CEOs. It is worth noting that the public opinion is against
drugs and supplements in sports, regardless of any rationale otherwise
. Of course, the concerns about drugs and supplements have
not reach a critical level of interference with how society thinks about
athletics and, therefore, there are few, if any, corrective measures at
the present time. The danger with exercise physiologists failing
to initiate a correction in the dietary companies engineering of society
is obvious and all too commonplace. Society cannot benefit from business
continuing to engineer athletics. No one benefits from athletes who
have little appreciation for ethics no more so than the idea of MBA graduates
driven by radial and unprofessional thinking.
This is an understanding that needs to be looked
at and studied extensively by sports nutritionists and exercise physiologists.
The tension between the two is new, but absolutely necessary. Exercise
physiologists cannot be caught in the use or teaching of designer steroids
or any activity that is likely to disqualify athletes. Performance-enhancing
supplements like creatine monohydrate or phosphagen should not be used
by athletes, regardless of the concept of the free market to do as it will.
It is simply a prevailing belief that is flawed, and it is an unfortunate
approach to athletics that is driven by advertising, marketing strategies,
product development, and misinformation. The reality is, although
it’s clear that there is much still to be learned, exercise physiologists
must unify their thinking and stand together against quackery and fraud
in sports nutrition and athletics. This does not imply that all sports
nutritionists are quacks, rather that the business framework is so strong
among some that it distracts from the profound work of exercise physiologists
as healthcare professionals. It is for this reason that exercise
physiologists must be strong, persuasive, and persistent in their efforts
to build a moral sense back into sports nutrition and athletics.
“The use of [food drugs] to improve athletic
performance should…be discouraged, since it is unlikely that such products
really work and, were they to work, their use would be ethically improper
and thus should be prohibited, even if they are not listed as doping agents.”
– Michelangelo Giampietro, Pasquale Bellotti and Giovani Caldarone 
1. American Society of Exercise Physiologists. (2004).
Code of Ethics. [Online]. http://www.asep.org/ethics.htm
2. Kreider, R.B. et al. (2003). Exercise & Sport
Nutrition: A Balanced Perspective for Exercise Physiologists. Professionalization
of Exercise Physiologyonline.
6:8:August [Online]. http://www.asep.org/asep/asep/PEPonlineNutritionKREIDER.doc
3. Boone, T. (2003). The Sports Supplement Disagreement:
A Call for a Dialogue About Values and Obligations of University Teachers.
of Exercise Physiologyonline.
6:8:August [Online]. http://www.asep.org/asep/asep/TheSportsSupplementsDisagreement.doc
4. Lightsey, D.M. and Attaway, J.R. (1992). Deceptive
tactics used in marketing purported ergogenic aids. National Strength
and Conditioning Association Journal. 14:26-31.
5. Boone, T. (2003). Cheating in Sports. Professionalization
of Exercise Physiologyonline.
6:9:September [Online]. http://www.asep.org/asep/asep/CheatingInSports.html
6. Short, S.H. (1994). Health Quackery: Our Role
As Professionals. Journal of American Dietetic Association. 94:607-611.
7. Boone, T. (2003). The Nutritional Needs of Athletes.
of Exercise Physiologyonline.
6:9:September [Online]. http://www.asep.org/asep/asep/NutritionalNeedsOfAthletes.html
8. Miah, A. (2002). Bioethics, Sport and The Genetically
Enhanced Athlete. Journal for Medical Ethics and Bioethics. 9:3-4:1-6.
9. Giampietro, M., Bellotti, P., and Caldarone,
G. (1998). Nutritional Supplements. New Studies in Athletics. 13:2:31-33,
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