If you control who gets to practice a profession you also get to control how it’s practiced. The licensure effort, that’s an attempt to
silence CrossFit on the subject of nutrition and exercise. The state legislature that would adopt a state-wide
licensure program for exercise is composed of people who do not understand
anything about the squat. The federal government has designed this food
pyramid. For the past three decades, almost everything the federal government has
told the public about eating a healthy diet may have been wrong. The nutrition guidelines that were set in
the late 1970s that was primarily politics. When it comes to calories, fat is the enemy. The surgeon general told Americans to avoid
saturated fats and prioritize grains and other carbohydrates. Low-fat products began filling the aisles
at grocery stores as families tried to follow the government’s
famous food pyramid. At it’s base are foods like breads and pastas
that should be eaten in greatest quantity. As obesity continued to climb in America, some dissenting scientists and experts began
to question the consensus, but the US government and major health organizations
were slow to react, only now beginning to update their recommendations. And some fitness professionals are afraid
that what happened to the field of nutrition is about to happen to exercise. All of these government agencies, all of our
universities, they’ve all sat silent through one of the
worst declines in health the modern world’s ever seen. And they’re response is still, is still exactly
wrong. Greg Glassman is the founder of Crossfit, which is a corporate donor to the nonprofit
that publishes Reason. Crossfit has disrupted the personal fitness
industry by taking a radically different approach to
both nutrition and exercise. In contrast to much of the competition and against the recommendations of many establishment scientists, Crossfit has always emphasized a high-intensity
workout and a low carb diet. The approach has been wildly successful for
Crossfit, which went from 13 gyms in 2005 to more than
13,000 across the world today. But Glassman says the rise to the top has
entailed near-constant battle with the opposition. And so we’ve made some nice enemies out of
a good chunk of the food and beverage industry And all of its clowns that do its bidding. Crossfit’s explosive growth was made possible
in no small part by the lack of regulation in the fitness industry. While many states require licenses for occupations
as innocuous as trimming trees, tending bar, braiding hair, or even arranging
flowers, personal trainers can work without government
oversight. This arrangement allows Crossfit to have its
own certification program that ignores most of the conventional nutrition
and exercise advice emanating from government and academic institutions. But over the past several years, competing
credentialing organizations have joined together to lobby for government licensure of fitness
trainers in several states. That’s an attempt on silence Crossfit on
the subject of nutrition and exercise. The fight is occuring largely behind-the-scenes
at state legislatures across the country, where licensing laws have been introduced
on twenty-six separate occasions since 2005. But Crossfit supporters have pushed back just
as hard, at times showing up in person to speak out
against the bills. The one place where Crossfit lost the battle
was Washington, DC, which passed the nation’s first fitness
trainer licensure law in 2014. Though even that hasn’t gone fully into effect. If you control who gets to practice a profession you also get to control how it’s practiced. Russ Greene is Crossfit’s point man in the
fight against government licensure. He says that licensing could kill a program
like Crossfit. Are we going to be free to talk to each other
about fitness and food or is what we can say about them going to
be determined by federal and state policy? State licensure is a protection racket and
that’s all it is. Mark Rippetoe is a weightlifting coach and
author of the book Starting Strength, a program distinct from Crossfit but which
shares certain commonalities like promoting training with barbells and
encouraging movements that aren’t approved by establishment players
in the fitness industry. The state legislature that would adopt a state-wide
licensure program for exercise is composed of people who do not understand
anything about the squat. Rippetoe and Crossfit trainers both promote
what they call a “full squat,” which involves dipping below parallel, in
contrast to the less dramatic squat promoted by the American College of Sports
Medicine. So what do you think they will say about our
below-parallel squat? It’ll be in the document as a standard of
practice that squats cannot be done below parallel,
I promise you that. You’re removing the ability of the purchaser
of the product to determine what he wants to get done in
his strength and conditioning program by telling him, essentially, that he must
buy the services of a licensed guy who cannot prescribe below-parallel squats
because it’s illegal now. The interaction or intersection of policy
and politics is a very problematic one. Holden McRae, a sports medicine professor
at Pepperdine University and a member of a Crossfit gym, says that the government’s record on fitness
guidance is spotty at best. Establishment fitness began when Frank Shorter
won the gold medal in the Olympic marathon in Munich in 1972 and the running boom took
off. And then a big shift occurred in the mid 1990s. In 1995, the Surgeon General issued a report that shifted the recommendations away from
vigorous activity towards low-to-moderate intensity and de-emphasized certain fitness markers
like strength, agility, speed, power and coordination putting most of the focus on cardiorespiratory
fitness. The guidelines were adopted by the American
Heart Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
and the American College of Sports Medicine. The federal goverment’s National Activity
Guidelines, published by Congress, recommend 150 minutes of moderate physical
activity a week. Moderate physical activity, that requirement probably satisfied by walking
30 minutes five times a week. Most people do that accidentally, it’s a very
low standard to hold a human being to. Doing yard work or walking slowly around the
block that’s not going to get you there, I’m sorry,
you actually have to work hard. The risk reduction for vigorous activity is
actually two times greater compared to moderate exercise. It was an experiment that was run on the US
population with very little evidence to support it. Similar to what we had with the dietary guidelines and I don’t think there’s enough transparency
with the conflicts of interest you know, the involvement of big soda for
example. Recent work out of the University of California
San Francisco has uncovered evidence that the sugar lobby
paid off researchers to downplay the link between sugar and heart
disease, with the very first paper that placed the
blame on saturated fat having clear ties to the sugar industry. There’s some evidence that the same special
interests that used the government and universities to influence nutrition science for the past
several decades is employing similar tactics in the fitness
industry to promote the message it’s lack of physical
activity, rather than sugar consumption, driving obesity. Most of the focus in the popular media and
in the scientific press is, you know, they’re eating too much, eating
too much, eating too much, blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks and
so on. And there’s really virtually no compelling
evidence that that in fact is the cause. That’s from a video from the Global Energy
Balance Network, a group forced to disband after its ties to
Coca Cola were revealed. At least one major group involved in the occupational
licensing fight has received support from soda companies. Coca Cola did not reply to requests to comment and the American College of Sports Medicine
declined to participate in this story. But ASCM’s website does say that it only
advocates licensure for trainers working with clients with “medical conditions that require minimal
to advanced clinical support.” ASCM’s newest venture, Exercise is medicine, is an attempt to create a credentialing system to have doctors “prescribe” fitness trainers
to patients, and it was underwritten by the Coca Cola company. Even health organizations as powerful and
influential as the Centers for Disease Control have recieved grants from Coca Cola. So Coca Cola is partnered with the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention. That fact alone is sufficient to explain the
degree of the chronic disease crisis that we’re facing in this country today. These are 501C3 proxies that are able to keep
their doors open by the contributions from soda pop. When you think ACSM you better be thinking
Coca Cola ’cause that’s what you got. The fields of nutrition and fitness are littered
with bad or incomplete science that may take years or even decades more to
sort out. And this is why Rippetoe and Glassman are
skeptical that government can do anything but make the
problem worse. The competative marketplace and people who
consume strength and conditioning instruction is capable of sorting this out. Am I happy with my trainer? Did I get stronger? Did I get more fit? These should be the criteria that a competative
marketplace provides for the profession.