Standardizing Personal Trainer Certifications

Sep 01, 2004


One of the major issues facing our industry—the standardization of personal fitness trainer (PFT) certifications—is covered in detail in this issue beginning on page 50. Author Shirley Archer, JD, MA, keeps us current with the latest developments through in-depth interviews with some of the fitness industry’s most influential leaders.

At the heart of this issue is a recent recommendation by the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). IHRSA has recommended that, as of December 31, 2005, all its 4,500 U.S. member clubs hire only PFTs certified by at least one organization or agency that has received third-party accreditation for its exams and procedures from an independent, nationally recognized accrediting body. IHRSA has identified the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA)—the accreditation arm of the National Organization for Competency Assurance—as an acceptable accrediting organization of PFT certifications. Other accrediting organizations may also become part of the process as they are made known to IHRSA. In essence, IHRSA is recommending that personal trainer certification procedures and protocols be subject to the same standards as other professional certifications outside of the fitness industry. IHRSA feels that NCCA is the logical accrediting organization since it is recognized by many industries as the standard for accreditation.

IDEA Health & Fitness Association is very supportive of the efforts to create a PFT certification standard. We applaud IHRSA’s leadership role in working with other organizations to reach consensus in developing this recommendation. By suggesting that NCCA standards for accreditation of personal trainer certifications go into effect by the end of 2005, the fitness industry is taking a positive and proactive step toward self-regulation of personal trainers. As a way to help this process along, the American College of Sports Medicine is working with other certifying organizations to help clarify IHRSA’s recommendation, provide information on NCCA accreditation and identify additional agencies—similar to NCCA—that PFT certification groups can turn to for accreditation.

When PFT certifications were first created, certifying agencies drove the process to ensure that trainers were providing safe and sound instruction. With IHRSA’s recent recommendation, fitness facilities have taken the initiative to assure high standards for personal trainers as consumer demand for PFT services continues to grow. Going forward, we believe that the increased need for such high standards will be driven by health insurers and the medical community as they look to fitness professionals for help with obesity, diabetes and other conditions brought on by sedentary living. This will ultimately serve as the basis for reimbursements and referrals from healthcare providers.

We also believe that third-party accreditation should go beyond PFT certifications and include other areas of the fitness industry, such as Pilates and group exercise. The NCCA accreditation model could also be used with these modalities; however, it is important to keep the door open and consider including different accrediting bodies. It is also important for the industry to consider training requirements as well as valid practical evaluations. Positive strides in this direction are underway in higher education; colleges and universities are scrutinizing and improving curricula and providing testing vehicles that are producing a new generation of fitness professionals who have met and fulfilled certain prerequisites and qualifications.

At the same time, we must be aware that if we make the standards too stringent before the industry is ready, it will be too hard for people to qualify. At a time when the general public needs the expertise of PFTs and other fitness professionals more desperately than ever, we cannot afford to lose professionals who can contribute to improving the plight of sedentary and unhealthy individuals. The transition needs to be well thought out so that there is enough labor to meet demand and so we can continue to take the fitness industry forward. IHRSA’s recommendation of third-party accreditation is an important step.

Using Foam Rollers, page 58. Adding this simple equipment to personal training or group fitness classes opens an array of possibilities for clients.

Capitalizing on a Reduced Schedule, page 36. In these dog days of summer, when business slows down, use the extra time to reorganize yourself and revisit your goals.

Food After Fifty, page 79. How to help your Boomer clients achieve and maintain nutritional fitness as they age.

Crafting Fitness Resumés, page 105. Cast off your panic and writer’s block. Resumés are a whole new game.

Yours in good health,

Kathie and Peter Davis



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