What is a Fitness Professional’s Role in Dealing with Emotional Problems?

For anyone working in a gym setting, encountering a member or client who started an exercise program to help them deal with some sort of depression, or anxiety, is something that happens almost on a daily basis. This person has either heard from someone or read online about the mood altering effects exercise can have on an individual. Sometimes these individuals will openly share their personal stories with their trainer, and explain that exercise is acting as medicine to combat their mental issues.

Sometimes an individual is exercising simply to help improve their health, but has started to experience a reduction in their anxiety, depression, or even anger levels. So they continue to visit the gym.

For a fitness professional, this is not the time to offer advice, this is a time to listen, a time to learn. The advice and guidance comes much later on.

Oftentimes when a client approaches us and begins to talk about the difficulties they are experiencing, our natural instincts are to share our own experiences and offer any advice we can. This is due to our job requiring us to be constantly informed, constantly offering solutions, and constantly being engaged in conversation with someone. This can lead us to alienate or even push the person away, and come off as a “know it all,” or even worse, as dismissive. Someone going through any form of mental issues might not need that at the moment. This is our moment to be a listener and sympathize with their situation.

Similar to our position in terms of pain, we do not diagnose, we do not treat. We work around the pain, and we offer modifications to exercises that cause pain. In terms of mental health, a fitness professional should not be diagnosing, or offer solutions to their issues. We should listen, and be someone they look forward to seeing at the gym.




Daniel Bonilla, Clinical Integration Director, SBH Healthplex Fitness Center

Healthplex Associates (HPA) consults with hospitals, health systems, foundations, and universities across the United States to create and manage clinically integrated fitness facilities. Healthplex Associates has developed unique programs to ensure the smooth transition from the clinical setting to the wellness center for people who need long term lifestyle management support for optimal health. HPA has achieved national leadership through innovation and our dedication to patients and clients.

Our combined staff has now served over 400 clients ranging from large hospitals to smaller, community based rural hospitals.  We work exclusively with organizations ranging from healthcare systems, universities and foundations who are committed to a vision of improving the health and wellness of the community in which they serve.

Healthplex Associates has developed a unique, hands-on style to assisting and advising clients with an approach that stresses partnerships. We provide an array of services in the Medical Wellness Industry.  These services include feasibility studies, audits of existing medical fitness centers and management. Fundamentally, we believe that true community health must include fitness/wellness services and because of our deep healthcare background (all of our principals have health care management or clinical backgrounds), our Healthplex team fully understands the client’s mission and the complexity of today’s healthcare environment.

The management team of Healthplex Associates is made up of some of the nation’s most experienced experts in the field of medically based fitness. Few management firms can boast of the experience in health care, clinical services, and operations of medically based fitness centers that HPA possesses.


Daniel Bonilla, Clinical Integration Director