The rewards of a career in personal training are clear: Personal fitness trainers have the opportunity to directly help people improve their health and fitness. Consumers across the country are increasingly seeking out trustworthy professionals for responsible and up-to-date advice on exercise, weight loss and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
A little less clear is the multitude of recent proposed changes in legislation that could affect those interested in personal trainer certification. If you’re considering a career in personal training or a related field, staying abreast of personal trainer certification requirements is a critical aspect of delivering responsible care to clients.
Why change the laws regulating personal trainer certification?
A series of lawsuits in which personal trainers were accused of dangerous negligence may have prompted the move towards greater regulation of personal trainer certification. One of the most widely reported cases was in 2002, when a New York woman suffered a stroke and later died, allegedly due to complications from dietary supplements that were recommended by an inadequately qualified personal trainer. Other personal injury lawsuits against trainers soon followed.
In 2007, some of those trainers fought back, filing a lawsuit of their own against a certification agency that, the trainers said, provided inadequate instruction. The class action suit, which took place in California, shows how personal trainers and fitness professionals have taken a leading role in improving regulation within the personal training industry.
What changes are taking place that affect personal trainers?
As early as 2003, the National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE) was founded to promote nationwide industry standards for personal trainer certification. Among the proposed changes advocated by the NBFE are more consistent standards for certification as well as improved regulation of the accreditation of certifying agencies, to help ensure the health and safety of consumers.
However, state governments have also entered the fray, with New Jersey, Maryland, Georgia, the District of Columbia, Louisiana, and, most recently, California and Massachusetts, proposing legislation that would regulate the certification of personal trainers and possibly even require licensing of trainers. One prominent industry group, the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), has strongly lobbied against such legislation, citing the efforts of the NBFE and a multitude of other organizations to regulate the accreditation of certification providers without requiring a license.
While the NBFE itself maintains a neutral position about licensing, they stress the importance of creating nationwide standards, including a standardized exam for personal trainers that would make the licensing process consistent from state to state, rather than creating new and different legislation and licensing procedures for each state.
Have any laws been passed that change the requirements for personal trainers?
Thus far, only one of the bills introduced has yet passed into law: a Louisiana bill requiring licensing of exercise physiologists. According to Stuart Goldman, Managing Editor of Club Industry’s Fitness Business Pro, as of May 1, 2009, the Massachusetts bill was in committee, the New Jersey and District of Columbia bills were pending, and the Maryland and Georgia bills were inactive but expected to be reintroduced.
The California bill has passed the Senate and is currently being considered by the Assembly. However, the legislation being considered in California differs slightly in that it does not require licensing. Instead, it requires that personal trainer certification be provided by an agency approved by the National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCCA) or by an organization accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the Department of Education (DOE).
How does this affect me?
If your state passes a law requiring licensing of personal trainers, or has changed the requirements for personal training certification, what does that mean for you? If you are looking for a career as a personal trainer, keep an eye out for schools that are accredited by one of the agencies above. The NCCA maintains a list of accredited certification programs for personal training and related fields, and the CHEA keeps directories of accredited programs as well as recognized accrediting organizations.
If you already possess personal trainer certification and are concerned about recertification, contact your personal training school for information about possible changes to requirements in your state, or get in touch with a professional organization such as the National Board of Fitness Examiners or the IDEA Health & Fitness Association.