In a world of endless acronyms – IYKYK – here’s one you as a fitness professional are probably already familiar with: PAR-Q.
But how much do you know about the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire? We’re here to fill in your knowledge gaps.
So, what does PAR-Q actually stand for? Well, it stands for ‘physical activity readiness questionnaire’ and it’s the form fitness professionals use to identify health and lifestyle considerations in clients before starting them on a fitness or exercise programme.
If any risk factors have been identified on the PAR-Q form, the participant should go and chat to their GP for consent prior to starting an exercise programme.
It’s important for clients to complete the PAR-Q before participating in the session. Let’s learn more about this important fitness professionals’ tool.
What is the purpose of a PAR-Q form?
You need to know where your clients’ risks of injury lie: if they have sore knees, you need to know about them so you can adapt the exercise programme accordingly. If the client has a heart condition or experiences tightness in the chest, they’ll need approval from their GP before starting an exercise programme. Or, if they had a shiny new hip installed a few years ago, you should know about it so you can offer alternative exercises. You get the picture …
It’s all about minimising risks by ensuring your clients complete a health screening form before they get stuck into your programme, no matter how eager they are to reach their goals. You can use the PAR-Q we have created – you’ll find it in ‘downloadable resources’ on our resources page.
Is PAR-Q a requirement in the UK?
The health and safety of participants is of paramount importance. Instructors have an obligation to extend a duty of care by pre-screening clients prior to exercise.
If your client has a cardiac episode while working out with you due to a pre-existing condition that they didn’t disclose to you, then having that PAR-Q form in place could reduce your liability.
By the same token, if something happens and you don’t have a PAR-Q in place with that client, you could be liable for not conducting a proper health assessment before you started working with the client.
For more details about risk and risk assessments, head to the HSE website for some useful info: Risk assessment template and examples
Is the PAR-Q enough?
Clients should always be made aware of the risks of exercise and given the opportunity to decide for themselves if they wish to participate or choose an alternative exercise. A disclaimer is particularly important for online purposes.
You need to pre-screen clients at the start of each session for any changes to their health or for any new conditions they need to disclose to you, such as a recent injury or news of a pregnancy, in order to make a reasonable assessment of the suitability of the activity, adapt the exercise or refer accordingly.
Can a PAR-Q form be completed online?
There is software out there that enables you to conduct your PAR-Q forms online, such as SignNow.
How many questions are in a PAR-Q form?
There are seven important yes/no questions on the PAR-Q that cover the client’s current readiness to exercise. They ask about heart conditions, chest pain, dizziness and balance, joint problems, medication, blood pressure and any other reasons your client feels they shouldn’t be exercising.
If working with individuals with specialist conditions, it may be necessary to obtain further information from the client. The same principle applies (i.e., you’ll need to assess the suitability of the activity, adapt the exercise or refer accordingly).
By answering ‘Yes’ to any of these questions, the client will be able to see whether they require approval from their GP before starting an exercise programme. It’s a case of working out whether it’s safe for your client to go ahead without their GP’s approval.
How do I analyse a PAR-Q?
The PAR-Q is not a health examination – that should be carried out by a medical professional – but it IS an essential first step to identifying risks with new clients and, in turn, preventing a health issue or injury from occurring while on your watch.
It can identify pre-existing medical conditions or other important factors which may impact on participation that could be aggravated by physical exercise. By going through the questions on the PAR-Q form, the participant will know if they need to get approval from their GP before starting an exercise programme.
You should continue to pre-screen participants before each session for other medical conditions, injuries, illness or factors which may impact on participation (such as pregnancy) to make sure there are no changes to health since the original PAR-Q was completed.
Why the PAR-Q is an important consideration
So don’t forget, before starting any programme or fitness class, your client should complete a PAR-Q. This important fitness professionals’ tool will identify pre-existing conditions and indicate whether or not your client needs to get approval from their doctor before beginning an exercise programme and help look after your clients . Make it part of your routine when welcoming new clients.
Remember, the PAR-Q form should always be held in line with GDPR.
(IYKYK = if you know, you know)