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Strategies of European Personal Trainers to Support Behaviour Change


The transtheoretical model of behaviour change (TTM) is often used to understand and predict changes in health related behaviour, for example exercise behaviour and eating behaviour. Fitness professionals like personal trainers typically service and support clients in improving multiple types of health-related behaviour. Research on the population of European fitness professionals in general is lacking. And studies on strategies used by fitness professionals to support clients in changing health-related behaviour is even more scarce. The purpose of this paper is to present the first explorative European study on this subject. An online survey was performed using the European Register for Exercise Professionals (EREPS),
counting 6,681 professionals (January 2015). Most professionals are personal trainers, with a total of 5,222. Additionally there are 1,620 level 3 fitness instructors and 39 at level 5 (exercise for health specialist). Professionals of five countries were surveyed in the first quarter of 2015. The survey was send out by email to
3,497 fitness professionals. In total 178 fitness professionals participated. European fitness professionals use a mix of strategies to support behaviour change of health related behaviours. The most addressed type of behaviour was exercise, followed by nutrition. The support mainly focused on clients in the preparation and action stage of the TTM. “Reaching the desired goal” and “too expensive” were the main reasons for relapse with respectively 51.7% and 38.3%. European fitness professionals use a wide range of strategies to support clients in changing health-related behaviour. This study draws a first picture of the used strategies within the TTM framework. Future research should focus on other frameworks for behaviour change and other populations, for example fitness professionals on other parts of the world. Ultimaltely, research should test the effectiveness of strategies to increase the adoption and maintenance of health-related behaviour of clients, and client retention of professionals.