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The Biopsychosocial Model

Avatar for Hadyn Luke Hadyn Luke posted this on Monday 22nd of March 2021 Hadyn Luke 22/03/2021


The Biopsychosocial Model

How can a personal trainer help a client reach their goals? Knowledge of training methods and how the body works are both essential, but understanding the client’s lifestyle and background can also be important.

The Biopsychosocial Model (BPS) is a key part of this approach, as it takes into account four elements – biological, behavioural, psychological and social – and how they impact a client’s health and wellbeing. The Biopsychosocial Model can therefore help a fitness professional to better understand, encourage and advise their clients.

What is the Biopsychosocial Model?

The Biopsychosocial Model was developed by Dr George Engel and Dr John Romana at the University of Rochester in the US.

It proposes a very different approach from the traditional biomedical model, in that it considers the behavioural and social elements of a person’s lifestyle alongside the biological.

How is the BPS Model useful for a personal trainer?

The BPS Model encourages fitness professionals to look at how lifestyle factors can affect the health and wellbeing of their clients and how medical conditions can affect a client’s lifestyle and their ability to train.

It allows personal trainers to support clients towards behavioural change, which in turn helps them to reach their goals.

What are the components of each element?

There are factors in each element that can affect health and wellbeing, these include:

Biological – general factors such as age, sex and race; existing medical conditions; genetics

Behavioural – alcohol consumption, diet, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, stress management, not taking their medicines or avoiding visiting their GP when they feel unwell

Psychological – anxiety, anger, stress, self-esteem, negative/positive mindset

Social – cultural, familial, socioeconomic, religion, social support network, employment

The most significant of these are known as the ‘determinants of health’. These can be found in everything from age and lifestyle to housing and work environment.

Which factors have the biggest impact on health?

The key factors that impact health are: inactivity, smoking, misuse of drugs and/or alcohol, diet, stress and sleeping patterns.

It’s well known that lifestyle choices can contribute to the development of chronic conditions, such as cancer, COPD, diabetes, osteoporosis, cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, stroke and some mental health illness.

Smoking, for example is the primary cause of preventable illness and early death, while an active lifestyle and good diet can bring many health and wellbeing benefits. After smoking and obesity, alcohol abuse is the next biggest lifestyle risk factor for causing disease and death. A healthy, balanced diet can also both prevent and help to manage a number of health issues. Finally, stress and poor sleeping patterns are known to have a detrimental effect on health.  

What can we do to improve our health and wellbeing?

Ideally, we should carry out some form of activity every day, with at least 2.5 hours of moderately intensive movement (brisk walking, cycling) or 75 minutes of vigorously intensive exercise (running, team sports) spread across the week.

Strength training is also important – ideally at least twice a week. This could be lifting weights or using body resistance in a gym environment and/or functional activities such as lifting shopping bags, gardening or DIY.

The benefits of keeping fit and healthy are physiological (stronger heart and immune system, lower risk of chronic disease and health conditions), but also psychological (self-esteem, lower stress levels) and social (reduced social isolation, making new friends).

How can a personal trainer help clients towards change?

There are many barriers that prevent change, from environmental and technological to psychological, social and socioeconomic.

Every client should be treated as an individual as both their barriers and their readiness for change will be unique to them. One client may be struggling to travel to the gym or pay for their classes, while another may have low self-esteem and find it a challenge to get motivated to train.

To overcome barriers and change behaviours, a fitness professional can draw on a number of different strategies, for example:

  • Providing information and advice about the positive benefits of certain lifestyle choices
  • Challenging preconceptions about exercise, for example the idea that only fit, athletic people attend fitness classes, or that a pre-existing health condition will prevent someone from carrying out any exercise
  • Encouragement to move beyond fear and excuses, such as fear of injury or lack of time to train
  • Offering a broader range of activities and promoting training for all ages, ethnicities, etc; offering a range of price points and concessions

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