What Is A PAR-Q And Why Is It Important?

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If you’re looking for more information about a PAR-Q and its meaning, then you’ve come to the right place!

We’ve got everything you’ll need for answering ‘what is a PAR-Q?’, why it’s important for personal trainers, and the steps you need to take following the results.  

In this article we’ll cover: 

Before we jump in, the best way to advance your career is by completing a specialist course such as our Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course. Attract more clients by marketing yourself as both a personal trainer and nutritionist to help them see quicker results.

Before we start, download our free course prospectus to learn about our range of personal trainer courses.

What is a PAR-Q?

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So, what exactly is a PAR-Q and what’s the meaning of it in terms of your role as a personal trainer? 

The exact meaning of PAR-Q is ‘Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire’. It’s a short questionnaire designed to determine the safety of exercise for a client. 

There’s a short group of questions to help you determine, as early as possible, if there are any safety concerns and if there’s any health risks for the client when exercising.

The client will tell you, to the best of their ability, if there’s anything stopping them from exercising safely and if there’s any health conditions they have. 

You need to make sure your client signs the document, either in person or electronically, as an initial screening process.


What’s Included on a PAR-Q Questionnaire?

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So, now we’ve answered ‘what is a PAR-Q’ we can look in more detail at the contents.  

A PAR-Q will contain questions about the current state of a client’s health as well any longer standing issues they may have before any fitness testing.

A personal trainer PAR-Q form might include questions about a client’s current levels of health such as:

  • Do they currently have any heart problems?
  • Do they currently have problems with their joints or movement?
  • Feel dizzy or lightheaded during exercise or physical activity?
  • Are they pregnant or have they recently given birth 

On the form, these will often be formatted as below:

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The questions about your medical history might include:

  • Do you have a history of surgery?
  • Are you currently being prescribed medication, or have been in the recent past?
  • Do you have diabetes?
  • Do you have asthma or any breathing issues?

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Why is the PAR-Q Important?

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So, now we know what it is, what’s the purpose of a PAR-Q and why is it paramount to being safe as a personal trainer?

There’s three reasons why a PAR-Q is important, both for yourself and for your client: 

  • To see whether they are capable of taking part in an exercise programme
  • To help you decide whether you should refer clients to other professionals for medical attention
  • To protect you legally from potential blame for a client’s injury due to a pre-existing condition they suffer from 

A personal trainer will have a PAR-Q form to not just determine whether someone can exercise at all but the severity of physical activity that they can cope with without injury. 

What Does the PAR-Q Questionnaire Tell You About Your Client?

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A personal trainer will use PAR-Q to determine injuries or long term health conditions. This means you can adjust or eradicate elements of an exercise programme accordingly. 

In this regard, the PAR-Q gives you a holistic overview of some of the most significant conditions and medical issues that could: 

For example, the following are important to note because these conditions will all increase the risk of injury due to issues in flexibility and mobility:

  • Whether they’ve had surgery - this can affect strength of certain areas of the body 
  • Whether they have any joint or mobility issues - Obviously, you need to know if they have any joint weaknesses so you don’t overstrain certain areas and risk injury
  • Whether the client is pregnant or has recently given birth - Weakened abdominal muscles and lower back pain brought on by pregnancy could lead to muscular injuries

If you’re wondering what the meaning of a PAR-Q is for the programme you design, the exercises you choose will depend on the client’s answers to these questions. 

The following questions will give you some preliminary information for designing an exercise programme:

  • Do you have diabetes? - When training people with diabetes both the exercises you choose and the structure of the classes will be affected e.g you’ll need to factor in checking insulin or blood glucose levels 
  • Are you asthmatic? - This is something to bear in mind as cardio in particular may be something this client will struggle with and risk aggravating their condition 
  • Do you have back or spinal pain? - Obviously this is a huge health risk and could easily cause injury but it will also shape the kind of lifting and strength training you do

When Should You Refer Your Client to a Medical Professional?

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Referring to a medical professional is especially important if a client can identify a problem without knowing the cause, or having a diagnosis. 

An example of this is if a client answers ‘yes’ to the following questions on your personal trainer PAR-Q form:

  • Do you feel dizzy or lightheaded during exercise or physical activity?
  • Do you feel breathless or have breathing problems?
  • Do you suffer from headaches or migraines? 

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They may be aware there’s an issue without receiving medical treatment and knowing exactly what it is. 

The purpose of the PAR-Q here is to check any issues and which ones are being dealt with by a doctor. 

You may include this explicitly on your PAR-Q form as shown in the example below:

medical care par-q meaning image 

All of these issues, whether under explicit medical care or not, mean that the client will need to check with their doctor before signing on with your training services.

- - - -

Check out these articles below for more ways to advance your career and help your clients:

You’re Protecting Yourself Legally With a PAR-Q

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The last thing to remember if you want to know ‘what is a PAR-Q and why is it important’ is in legal terms.

You’re protecting your public liability PT insurance. This is because you’re allowing clients to warn you of any existing conditions.

If when you start with a client you fail to provide them with a PAR-Q, meaning they become injured or aggravate an existing medical condition, you could be seen as legally responsible.

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The form is subjective and your clients aren’t necessarily required, at this early stage, to provide medical evidence of their condition or have an assessment.

This is why the PAR-Q form is such a vital part of being a personal trainer. It will give you an idea of what to ask next and whether you need confirmation from a healthcare practitioner!


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How to Conduct a PAR-Q

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By now, hopefully we’ve answered your question ‘what is a PAR-Q?’ and established the meaning it has for both the client and yourself.

Now we’ll run through the stages of actually conducting a PAR-Q and any steps that need to be taken afterwards.


Step 1: When to Conduct the PAR-Q 

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As the primary meaning of the PAR-Q is to find out the safety of training for a client, it should be one of the first things you do. 

This is why the PAR-Q should be done as part of your initial personal trainer consultation with your clients.

It’s a vital part of the onboarding process and must be done before you do any further steps such as fitness tests and your own onboarding questionnaire.


Step 2: Decide Whether to Refer Your Client to Another Professional

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If your client answers ‘yes’ to one or more question on the PAR-Q, meaning they may not be able to exercise, you’ll need to encourage your client to get approval from a doctor, as shown below: 

Of course, this is especially true of those who have any injuries or suffer from any long term health conditions. 

For example, if you’re personal training clients with high blood pressure, they are at risk of a heart attack if they don’t get confirmation from a doctor that they’re safe to exercise. 

Also, somebody who is on prescribed medication, or has recently finished a course of medication, will need to speak to a doctor to ensure nothing you do as part of your programme will interfere.  

For instance, your client may be taking medication for one of the following: 

  • Anxiety or depression
  • ADHD
  • Allergies 

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Some of the side effects of these, that could severely impact their workout, include: 

  • Raised blood pressure
  • Excessive sweating
  • Dehydration

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A doctor will be able to give the client an idea of what level of exercise they’re capable of doing and help them to decide what, if any, will be safe. 

Sometimes, if a client answers questions on the PAR-Q (meaning they need to be referred), you will need to speak to a sports massage therapist or strength conditioning coach too to ensure your programme won’t interfere with any other treatments. 

So, the meaning of the PAR-Q, in terms of what to do next, is to consult a physician and make sure you receive confirmation from a doctor that your client is safe to train.


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Step 3: Use the PAR-Q Answers to Shape Your Programme

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Though it’s vital to complete, not everything will be covered by the PAR-Q, meaning you’ll need to gather more information about your client’s health and fitness levels before designing an exercise programme for them. 

You should always complete an onboarding questionnaire that can build on the answers provided by the PAR-Q. 

This will give you further detail about a client’s abilities and limitations so that you can design the ideal training programme to get the best results! 

For example, if you’re training a pregnant client you will need to know: 

  • How far along they are (which trimester they’re in will have a different set of side effects to be aware of!)
  • What their goals are
  • Their levels of fitness before getting pregnant 

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All of this will help you design a programme that’s safe and won’t exacerbate the side effects of different trimesters such as fatigue and exhaustion! 

It’s also common, for instance, for the abdominal and lower back muscles to suffer during and after pregnancy.  

You can then decide to focus on these areas when you’re training pregnant clients and shape your workouts around them. 

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The PAR-Q usually lasts for 12 months. Therefore, you should ensure that, if you train somebody for longer than that, you perform one periodically with them.

You should also make sure you stress the client’s need to tell you if anything should change and to keep you up to date on any medical issues that they’re having. 

Before You Go!

Now our article has helped you understand exactly ‘what is the PAR-Q’, its meaning, and why it’s important for you and your clients, it's time to get started.

With our Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course, you can help your clients at a deeper level by combining fitness and nutrition to get clients the results they want and live a more active life.

If you're interested in working with clients who have specific conditions, download our course prospectus to see our range of courses.

Written by Jessie Florence Jones

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

Jessie has a 1st class honours degree in English Literature from University of Leeds and an MA in English Literature from Durham University. Naturally Jessie has a real passion for writing especially about film, culture and wellbeing. Outside of writing she loves hiking, country walks and yoga, which she has been doing religiously over lockdown.

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