Vocal problems of group fitness instructors: prevalence of self-reported sensory and auditory-perceptual voice symptoms and the need for preventative education and training

Anna F Rumbach
Journal of Voice 2013, 27 (4): 524.e11-21

OBJECTIVES: To determine the prevalence and nature of both acute and chronic voice problems experienced by group fitness instructors (GFIs) and gather information about the level of education currently being received by fitness professionals, the source of their education, and their opinion on mandatory voice training to highlight potential training needs.

STUDY DESIGN: Prospective self-completion questionnaire design.

METHODS: A total of 361 GFIs (81 males and 280 females), aged between 18 and 67 years currently active in the Australian fitness industry completed a self-report questionnaire distributed via SurveyMonkey.

RESULTS: The prevalence of self-reported acute and chronic voice symptoms was high at 78.95% and 70.91%, respectively. Partial voice loss and hoarseness while instructing was experienced most often (57.62%), followed by partial voice loss and hoarseness immediately after instructing (46.81%). Aphonia after teaching was less frequently reported (9.97%). Over 25% of the total cohort reported chronic voice symptoms of increased hoarseness (39.61%), difficulty with high notes (31.58%), strained voice (32.13%), and limited singing range (27.7%). Only 30% of GFIs reported having received any voice education, with even fewer respondents (10%) receiving any practical voice training, despite 98.06% agreeing that formal voice education should be covered as a standard topic in all official GFI training.

CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study confirm that voice problems represent a significant occupational hazard for GFIs. Speech-language pathologists and other voice professionals should consider taking a proactive stance in understanding the vocal demands of the profession and engage in training for instructors to prevent both acute and chronic voice problems.

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