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How healthy are athletic trainers? Pretty healthy, but there's room for improvement

November 25, 2008 |  3:33 pm

Most of us don’t exercise as much as we should, or eat as healthfully as we could. But what about people whose jobs require them to be more healthy than regular people -- do they always measure up?

TrainerNo -- but they’re still doing better than the average schlub who finds it difficult to even make it to the gym. A recent study asked a group of athletic trainers -- men and women who work with athletes treating sports injuries -- to weigh in on how healthy they are. Researchers asked 275 trainers to fill out a questionnaire on a number of health habits, including weekly exercise, how many fruits and vegetables they consume and whether or not they smoke.

Among the men and women surveyed, 41% said they met the American College of Sports Medicine’s recommendation of 30 minutes of exercise five or more days a week. Seven percent said they were sedentary. None of the trainers said they met the USDA’s Dietary Reference Intake for all five food groups during a typical week, although some met the standards for individual food groups. Among female athletic trainers, 7% said they consumed more alcohol than the USDA recommends (2% of men said they did). However, male trainers on average consumed more alcohol per week than their female counterparts (2.63 versus 2.28). Only 1% of trainers reported they currently smoked, and 4% -- all men -- said they used smokeless tobacco.

By and large the results are not too bad, says lead author Jessica Groth, an athletic trainer with Select Medical Corporation in Orlando, Fla. (The research was done while she was a graduate student at Western Michigan University.) "Overall, athletic trainers have fairly positive health and fitness habits, but there’s definitely room for improvement," she says. Though the survey didn’t ask why some people failed to meet standards, Groth has a theory: "We’re on other people’s schedules as far as practices and games are concerned. We work a lot of long hours, and non-traditional hours, as far as mornings, nights and weekends are concerned. You add in families and personal lives, and we’re spread pretty thin. But we’re still able to get in exercise and take pretty decent care of ourselves in spite of all of these things." The study was published in the December issue of the Journal of Athletic Training.

But stepping it up could benefit the athletes they work with.

"When athletes are looking to make modifications with their nutrition or workouts," Groth says, "I think that we’re one of the people they feel they can come to, and they value our professional opinion."

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo: Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press

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