What Is Your Code?

May 01, 2008

Recommit yourself to the IDEA Code of Ethics.

There’s an old saying: one bad apple can ruin the whole bushel. The fitness industry has seen its fair share of “bad apples” over the years. Fortunately, the bushel itself has been strong enough to withstand the sour intentions of an unethical few. Still, it doesn’t hurt to revisit your professional values and ethics.

The foundation and future success of the fitness industry lie in each professional’s ethics. Physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, attorneys and professionals in many other fields have codes of ethics. Breach of these codes is punishable by loss of licensure, disbarment or even, in some cases, criminal law. While there is no universal code of ethics for fitness professionals, IDEA formulated a formal code and specific practice guidelines for owners and managers, personal trainers and group fitness instructors more than a decade ago. We encourage you to revisit the IDEA Code of Ethics for Owners and Managers on these pages.

Read them, post them, and live by them. Protect the integrity of your profession. If you see a colleague flirting with a breach of ethics, have the courage to tactfully remind him or her that the (negative) actions of individuals are often mistakenly ascribed to an entire group.

IDEA Code of Ethics for Owners and Managers

As a member of IDEA Health & Fitness Association, I will be guided by the best interests of the client. I will provide facilities and staff for effective exercise and lifestyle programs; ensure that staff maintains the education and experience necessary to appropriately train clients; uphold fair business practices and safety guidelines; and use truth, fairness and integrity to guide all my professional decisions and relationships.

IDEA Code of Ethics
1. Always be guided by the best interests of the client.

a. Remember that the primary responsibility of a fitness business owner or manager is to the client’s safety, health and welfare; never compromise this responsibility. b. Recruit, hire, train and offer continuing education opportunities for staff with the aim of providing programs and services of the highest quality. c. Incorporate new research and trends into all programming. Offer health/ wellness/exercise options for different fitness levels and special needs. d. Recommend products and services only if they will benefit a client’s health and well-being, not solely because the sale of these products and services will benefit the business financially. e. Be aware that if product or service recommendations will result in financial gain for the business, disclosure to the client may be appropriate. f. For health screening, fitness assessment, prudent progression and exercise technique, follow the standards outlined by professionals in the fields of medicine and health and fitness. g. Document and follow up on all customer complaints.

2. Provide a safe environment.

a. Maintain a clean, well-lit and ventilated facility or workout area that meets all governmental regulations and insurance guidelines. b. Provide an appropriate ratio of staff to clients. c. Follow a regular equipment maintenance schedule according to manufacturer directions and immediately repair or replace faulty equipment. d. Ensure that all staff members are knowledgeable in first-aid and emergency procedures. Establish emergency systems and train staff in the execution of such systems. e. Follow guidelines for maximum music volume. IDEA recommends that “music intensity during group exercise classes should measure no more than 90 decibels (dB). Since the instructor’s voice needs to be about 10 dB louder than the music in order to be heard, the instructor’s voice should measure no more than 100 dB.” f. Document and follow up on all incidents of illness or injury.

3. Uphold fair business practices.

a. In advertising materials, be truthful and fair. Your primary obligation is to help the potential client develop informed judgments and choices. Avoid ambiguity, sensationalism, exaggeration and superficiality. b. Explain and provide clear, written policies for pricing and collection of payments. If a client signs a contract, the contract language should be understandable. c. Administer consistent pricing and procedural policies. d. Abide by contracts with clients and other professionals. e. Follow fair hiring practices and categorize staff according to applicable laws. Provide fair wages and compensation based on industry standards and geographic region.

4. Ensure that all staff are qualified and meet industry standards.

a. Provide opportunities for staff to acquire or maintain the education and experience necessary to appropriately train clients. b. Encourage and reward staff members who continuously strive to keep abreast of the new developments, concepts and practices essential to providing the highest-quality services to clients. c. Recognize limitations in services and techniques, and ensure that staff engage only in activities that fall within the boundaries of their professional credentials and competencies. Clients should be referred to other businesses or professionals for issues that fall beyond the boundaries of the staff’s current competencies. d. Establish standards and an atmosphere that uphold technical, instructional and professional conduct according to industry guidelines. e. Monitor the appropriateness of staff’s speech and attire in relation to the activity being taught and client comfort.

5. Maintain appropriate professional boundaries.

a. Never exploit—sexually, economically or otherwise—a professional relationship with a peer, an employee, a colleague or a client. b. Respect clients’ and staff members’ right to privacy. Conversations, behavior, results and—if appropriate—identity should be kept confidential. c. Avoid sexually oriented banter and inappropriate physical contact.

6. Use truth, fairness and integrity to guide all professional decisions and relationships.
a. Act with integrity in all relationships with colleagues and other health professionals. b. Never discriminate based on race, creed, color, gender, age, physical disability or nationality. c. Focus on behavior, factual evidence and nonderogatory forms of communication—not on judgmental statements, hearsay, the placing of blame or other destructive responses—when disagreements or conflicts occur. d. Never publicly discredit or lower the dignity of individuals, organizations or facilities through conduct or comment. e. Present fitness information completely and accurately in order to help the client make informed decisions. f. Provide reasonable work allocations and procedures for all staff.

IDEA Fitness Manager, Volume 20, Issue 3

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