The Effectiveness of Training Long-Distance Clients Over the Internet
Many coaches or personal trainers are jumping into the modern age by taking on clients that live too far to meet in person. But how effective is this method of training? This is an important question for trainers to be able to answer when asked by potential long-distance clients. As an experienced coach who has embraced technology, I’ve done it all - emailing clients in different states, texting clients across the border, and Facebook messaging clients on the other side of the ocean. While I find it effective, it just doesn’t have that direct interaction of working together in person.
If you have long-distance clients, or are one yourself, the potential pitfalls include receiving, actually reading and, most importantly, using the information. Recently, researchers in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity examined this issue further. They compared a web-based intervention to a printed one to determine how well each worked in a population of individuals over fifty years of age. It is necessary for anyone interested in long-distance training to discern the importance of what they found.
The participants of the study first performed an assessment, much like any trainer would prescribe, and based on that assessment they received advice three times over the course of four months. This might sound contrary to the amount of training most people receive, but working with a trainer who provides a routine once per month is far from out of the ordinary, especially for those trying to save money. Researchers assessed the participants again a year after the start of the program to see if the training was still effective despite the long period during which no information was sent.
The researchers looked specifically at the differences between web-based and print versions of the advice offered. Keep in mind that this group was over fifty years of age, which could affect how open they are to various modes of information. Within each category, some people also received information on local possibilities for activities, while others did not.
The group receiving the printed information increased the number of days per week they exercised and how many total hours they exercised. The group receiving the same information over the web did not increase their activity levels. The control group, by contrast, actually got worse.
Additionally, providing information about local exercise opportunities helped as well, but only for the group receiving the information in print. The group receiving just the basic printed exercise info increased their weekly exercise by about an hour. The group receiving the printed information that also included local opportunities increased exercise by almost two hours, even after receiving no information for eight months after the mailings stopped.
Clearly, the printed information was effective, even though it was only sent out three times. The researchers noted in their background information that prior research showed that web users tended to be much younger, and also in worse shape.
For trainers looking to assist people long-distance, tailoring your message is key. Mailing, and perhaps phone calls (not studied here), are highly effective in older populations, especially when you help them with local opportunities for exercise. For younger clients, the web and other modern tools work for some, especially considering it is these people who need it most.
1. Denise Astrid Peels, et. al., “Long-term efficacy of a printed or a Web-based tailored physical activity intervention among older adults,” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 10:104, 2013
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