Traditional approaches to exercise prescription have included a preliminary medical screening followed by exercise tests of varying sophistication. To maximize population involvement, qualified fitness and exercise professionals (QFEPs) have used a self-administered screening questionnaire (the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire, PAR-Q) and a simple measure of aerobic performance (the Canadian Aerobic Fitness Test, CAFT). However, problems have arisen in applying the original protocol to those with chronic disease. Recent developments have addressed these issues.
Evolution of the PAR-Q and CAFT protocol is reviewed from their origins in 1974 to the current electronic decision tree model of exercise screening and prescription.
About a fifth of apparently healthy adults responded positively to the original PAR-Q instrument, thus requiring an often unwarranted referral to a physician. Minor changes of wording did not overcome this problem. However, a consensus process has now developed an electronic decision tree for stratification of exercise risk not only for healthy individuals, but also for those with various types of chronic disease.
The new approach to clearance greatly reduces physician referrals and extends the role of QFEPs. The availability of effective screening and simple fitness testing should contribute to the goal of maximizing physical activity in the entire population.