Clarification in Exercise Physiology
Exercise Physiology Laboratories
of St. Scholastica
PURPOSE OF this article is to present to the reader the process of values
clarification in exercise physiology that leads to a philosophy of exercise
physiology. It is hypothesized that with an increased understanding
of values and how values influence exercise physiology, many decisions that
exercise physiologists face will be better understood in terms of their professional
development. This brief analysis is important to all exercise physiologists
because it attempts to highlight ethical decision-making situations that
occur throughout the practice of exercise physiology.
As with all
new topics or research areas, there is the "beginning”. In this case,
it is the goal of values clarification to unmask what is important to the
individual exercise physiologist. Of course, within the process of
uncovering what is meaningful, there is the observation of what is commonplace
thinking about an issue or issues, and there is the notion that values influence
ideas that are emerging as new concepts and beliefs. In general, the
purpose of values clarification is to help with the decision-making process
of making the right choices.
clarification, therefore, focuses on what is the right decision about a person’s
feelings about life or about a particular idea. Take, for example,
the popular use of supplements in athletics. Depending on a person’s
values and beliefs, the contemporary notion that supplements are okay may
be inconsistent with that person’s view of athletics. In other words,
values have an important impact on how an individual may choose to function
as an exercise physiologist. This is why exercise physiologists differ
so greatly in their everyday interactions with athletes. Historically,
this has not been a problem but, with professionalization of exercise physiology,
the importance of personal values cannot be overlooked (especially when the
value conflicts with professional values).
must be noted, however, that this brief article is a beginning point in this
analysis. There are likely to be several differing points of view with
relatively little shared sense of what is the right action in regards to
nutritional supplements and athletics. Since values are not mandated,
yet cherished, since they act as a guide to one’s thinking and actions, the
willingness to share with other exercise physiologists one’s thinking is
an indication of an integrated understanding of the person’s value(s).
As a result, the deliberate actions to support a specific way of thinking
about supplements, as an example, exemplify the person’s belief(s) and thus
Clarification of Values
Once a belief
becomes part of a person’s thinking, it drives the individual to act in a
highly specific manner. This is a common understanding of the role
of values. No one escapes his/her beliefs. Either consciously
or unconsciously, values guide personal and professional thinking.
Hence, they have a powerful influence on how exercise physiologists think.
This fact alone is worthy of our understanding if we are to face up to situations
that compete with each other. As already noted in other published articles
in PEPonline [1-3], there are inconsistencies
among exercise physiologists that are a result of their personal value system.
However uncomfortable it may be for some to explore these inconsistencies
under the title of “values clarification” – nonetheless it is imperative
that exercise physiologists undertake whatever efforts are necessary to resolve
process of doing so doesn’t mean that it is appropriate to force one’s values
on another exercise physiologist. Values clarification is about acknowledging
that individuals have different values and, therefore, are likely to make
different decisions about the same topic. The end result is that exercise
physiologists, as healthcare professionals, can come to terms with their
different values and actions. The risk of not doing so may not provide
the emerging profession with the understanding or direction necessary to
enhance self-actualization and better client care. This is why professional
meetings are so important, since they encourage and allow for professional
interactions to discuss and assess values.
Physiology as a Profession
in the sense of professionalism is doing what is right regardless of the
motivation otherwise. That is, exercise physiologists are responsible
to their clients, whether they are heart patients, adults in a corporate
fitness program, or athletes. Their responsibility to their clients
goes beyond what might be believed to be okay behavior or assumed otherwise
appropriate practice. An example of this occurs when exercise physiologists
decide not to encourage the use of supplements for the purpose of enhancing
physical performance. Point in fact though: At the present time,
there is no absolute agreement between what is right when it comes to sports
nutrition (i.e., outside of banned substances). This makes it difficult
for exercise physiologists to establish a professional norm, especially when
many say it is right to encourage the use of supplements and others say that
it is wrong (based on their value system). But, the difficulty itself
doesn’t mean that exercise physiologists should not question or challenge
present day thinking.
profession should not only believe that he/she has the freedom to question
and, perhaps, even argue a particular point of view defined by a different
value system but should be encouraged as well to raise questions essential
to professional practitioners. It never hurts to make (or help) people
think even if it is unsettling or a threat to their everyday way of behaving.
This is especially the case with exercise physiologists. Many are placed
in a position of simultaneously advocating and opposing the use of different
kinds of supplements based on the values inherent in the definition of professionalism.
There is also evidence of an emerging trend of increased concern about unregulated
drugs and supplements and the negative effects that outnumber the assumed
benefits. This trend is consistent with the new emphasis and emerging
philosophy of exercise physiology as a healthcare profession.
can be argued therefore that the process of values clarification is an imperative
to the decision-making process of professionals. As part of this process,
it is becoming increasingly evident that rethinking values that either interfere
with or enhance athletic performance, a healthy lifestyle, or an otherwise
alternative behavior is required of the professional exercise physiologist.
This process also requires making difficult decisions based on ethical issues
and considerations. This is necessary because exercise physiology is
changing. Its influence is significant in bringing forth a new generation
of knowledge through research and application to healthcare concerns and
issues. The power that associates with the change carries with it a
serious professional responsibility to not harm other human beings.
If exercise physiologists are up to the requirements that define their professionalism,
they will have to rethink many of their values to reflect the new emphasis
on healthcare within the emerging profession.
Exercise Physiology Code
any question that the practice of professionals is based on a code of conduct.
Codes have existed for a long time for established professions. Only
just recently has the exercise physiologist’s behavior (and possibly values)
been linked to a Code of Ethics. As a result, today’s exercise physiologists
(or, perhaps, more specifically, those who belong to ASEP) must be willing
to assume ethical responsibility in “every” aspect of their practice.
The willingness to define one’s work by the moral commitment to avoid harm
at all costs is a measure of the professional development of exercise physiology.
Another measure is the members’ obligations to their clients and, in particular,
to the athletes who have a history of entertaining any substance that is said
to increase athletic performance. Exercise physiologists should not
permit their own values to influence or interfere with another person’s duty
to objective knowledge. Exercise physiologists should observe the ASEP
Code, uphold the dignity of the profession, and accept the conditions necessary
to expose unethical conduct of fellow members of the profession.
and Wrong Values
criterion of professional behavior is the unquestioning obedience to doing
what is right, even when seeking new knowledge. Unsafe or unethical
practices are not acceptable in a human community. This is why professional
behaviors must be defined with moral philosophy or philosophical thinking
called ethics. Knowing the difference between right and wrong is critical
to avoiding conflicting values or issues in fitness, wellness, rehabilitation,
and athletics. Naturally not every professional will agree on what
is the right ethical decision in healthcare or athletics. In part,
the answer is dependent upon a time factor in which no discussion or ethical
question is raised. There is also the lack of consensus on many topics
or issues in sports and, therefore, for some exercise physiologists, there
is no absolute right or wrong answer to most ethical questions.
of Exercise Physiology: A Statement of Belief
it may not set well with many exercise physiologists, it is very likely that
the “right” answer is a statement based on faith more so than science.
This means that if an exercise physiologist’s personal philosophy is that
sports supplements are ethical, the belief itself reflects values that may
or may not be congruent with a professional code. Specific decision
making in relation to whether the use of sports supplements is ethical depends
upon the philosophy that guides the exercise physiology practice. A
model for a philosophy of exercise physiology is proposed.
“Exercise physiology is a healthcare profession founded on
a specialized body of scientific knowledge. The application of the
core concepts and ideas and thus service provided the human community is
delivered in a multifaceted format. The delivery is systematic, including
assessment and implementation. Exercise physiologists are morally and
legally responsible for a safe and effective delivery of fitness, health,
rehabilitation, and athletic knowledge and hands-on skills. Their work
is integrated with other healthcare professionals to help ensure the highest
quality of care.”
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M. (2001). The Exercise Physiology Time Bomb: A Wake Up Call for Exercise
Physiology Professors. Professionalization of Exercise Physiologyonline. Vol 4 No 2 February. [Online]. http://faculty.css.edu/tboone2/asep/hope.html