Across the pond, Washington DC is ploughing ahead with plans to regulate personal trainers, despite fierce opposition within the fitness industry.

This first ever attempt at Regulation of personal trainers in America will initially be restricted to the State of DC, but is likely to form the basis of a wider roll out of Regulation across the US.

What does this mean for personal trainers here in the UK?

The controversial new Regulations are a a knock-on effect of Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which calls for a number of workplace wellness programmes and preventative health-care initiatives in which those personal trainers who meet the new Regulation standard will be closely involved.

But the (lack of) regulation of personal trainers here in the UK is often debated too.

Currently, any Tom, Dick or Harry is free to set themselves up and advertise their services as “a personal trainer”, whether they have qualifications or not.

What’s more, the fact that a personal trainer has a qualification in itself isn’t a reliable indication of standard either. There are tens of PT qualification providers in England alone and the quality of those courses varies massively – from week-long residential courses costing £3,000+, to online only “Groupon qualification” courses for a fraction of the price.

Such little restriction to entering the personal training market has led to widespread saturation and a huge fluctuation in the quality of personal trainers from one gym to the next.

Whilst REPs has made an admirable attempt at providing an industry framework, in reality it provides no real scrutiny of its members and the average gym goer or personal training client has never even heard of it. As a result, REPs has unfortunately become known within the industry as nothing more than a way of pedalling insurance to newly qualified trainers.

No doubt REPs and other government bodies will be keeping a close eye on the developments in the US – if successful, the Regulatory model could eventually form the basis of Regulation here too.

Personal Training Regulation: what is all the fuss about?

The new rules in DC are currently being drafted by the government-led “Board of Physical Therapy”. Full details will be announced soon, but they are likely to include definitions of what personal trainers can and cannot do, a mandatory requirement for personal trainers to register and the introduction of restrictions to prevent personal trainers advertising their services as physical therapy.

The decision has brought fear into the hearts of many organisations currently operating in the world of health and fitness. CrossFit Inc, in particular, has publically voiced its concerns about the Regulations. If adopted nationwide, the revamping of CrossFit’s very uniquely designed qualifications and the potential retraining of all of its existing instructors to meet the new Regulatory standards could be extremely costly for the brand.

But that’s not the only complaint about the proposals. Speculators are also concerned that the Regulations will unnecessarily wrap the industry in red tape which, instead of making fitness more accessible, will hinder the availability of trainers and create restrictive price barriers for consumers as personal trainers begin to pass on the expense of compliance to their clients.

There’s also concern about how different specialisms will fit in with a rigidly prescribed industry standard – Strongman, Olympic lifting, Powerlifting, calisthenics (to name just a few)…

Is resistance futile?

Surely, as the fitness industry matures, so too must the rules under which it operates? Would regulation of the industry create a more well-respected profession? Will it provide greater consumer protection and value?

Possibly. But only if it is done in the right way.

The truth is that the chaotic fitness industry, sadly well known for its snake oil tendencies, is crying out for some form of order. And if we don’t get a grip on self-regulation and make it more meaningful than it currently is, that regulation will eventually be imposed from above.

One of the major criticisms of the US Regulation is a major lack of consultation with the industry. Personal trainers, gym owners and coaches, as wonderfully varied as we are, must come together to ensure that we are involved in creating any new playing field. Our input will help to ensure that the rules and regulations of the future are shaped in a realistic way that will benefit both trainers and clients.

In the meantime, all eyes are on the developments in DC and the US to see where the new Regulations will lead the industry.

What do you think about personal training regulation (either here in the UK or in the US)? Is it required? Would it help the industry? How would it work? Drop us a comment and let us know your thoughts. Let’s get the discussion started!