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Originally published Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 7:24 PM

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How to find an online trainer

Follow these tips to make sure you're getting a qualified online health expert.

Daily Press (Newport News, Va

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More people are turning to online personal trainers for nutrition and fitness guidance in their own homes. To make sure you're getting a qualified adviser, follow these tips from Amir Hosseinpour, senior vice president of product strategy for FitOrbit, an online training site:

Use your favorite search engine. Look up "online personal training" to find individual trainers' sites and sites with a large selection of staffers. That's the starting point for comparing services and prices.

Test their responsiveness. Your trainer should answer you quickly — unlimited email or text messaging is a plus — and focus on your individual needs. "If they actually address your question, you'll know they're really listening and not likely to send you canned replies," Hosseinpour says.

Think about personality. Consider the tone of a site — and whether you'd prefer a drill sergeant or cheerleader-type — to gauge if you'd get along with a trainer. On sites with larger staff, ask if you could swap trainers if your first pick doesn't work out.

Look for tracking tools. Some programs offer combined meal and workout plans, along with tools for you and your trainer to track progress and make adjustments. You might also get nutritional information for foods you eat, video instructions for exercises and mobile applications to keep a journal on the go.

Check for certification. Many group sites enroll only prescreened trainers. For individual trainers, contact the certification body cited to be certain the person is qualified.

Make sure a site looks modern. Be wary if it hasn't been updated in a long while, is short on recent testimonials or has images that look dated.

Demand financial protections. If you opt for a long term package, be sure there's a money-back guarantee for at least the first two to four weeks if you're not satisfied.

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