All posts by aefpa

Framework to Fitness: Occupational Standards For the Fitness Industry

This post from LinkedIn was written by Phillip Godfrey, MES, who has granted permission to share it here. Phillip is a long time advocate for enhanced standards for fitness professionals. He has done a lot of work to advance our profession and is extremely informed on the issues related to standardization and licensure/registration. This article is very much in alignment with the American Exercise and Fitness Professionals Inc.’s position and goals. Enjoy and please remember, we welcome your comments at the bottom of the article.

In 2014, Washington, DC became the first United States Jurisdiction to regulate fitness professionals through the Health Occupations Revision Act (HORA) since Louisiana began to regulate exercise physiologists in 1996 . Recently, the White House released a publication entitled Occupational Licensing: A Framework for Policy Makers in July, 2015 to provide a strategy for future and existing occupational licensing practices. This framework highlighted the protections for public health and wage increases that can be achieved through licensing but, warned of the economic consequences of unfounded over-regulation. Taking the ideas put forth from the White House framework and considering the diversity of the fitness professionals it seems clear occupational standards for the fitness industry are needed.

The Intent of the HORA

According to some D.C. lawmakers, there is a need for legal distinctions of the scope and practice for the “athletic trainers”, “personal fitness trainers”, and “physical therapists.” Additionally, these lawmakers wanted standards to be developed to provide some protections from injuries and sexual misconduct caused by personal fitness trainers. The District of Columbia Board of Physical Therapy (DCBPT) was given the task in D.C. of creating regulations for “athletic trainers” and “personal fitness trainers”, and then a system of registration within the Office of the Mayor for those professionals who meet the standards.

The Fitness Profession at a Glance

The fitness industry is full of  designations similar to that of the “personal fitness trainers.” According to IDEA health and fitness association Chief Development Officer Mike Bannon at the 2012 Club Industry Personal Trainer Summit, data collected from the IDEA Fitness Connect e-verify system reported that fitness professionals on average have 2-3 different titled credentials e.g., health coach, wellness coach, medical exercise specialist, etc. Bannon also went on to say that 45% of the fitness professionals on Fitness Connect did not have the credentials they claimed to have or let the credentials laps in renewal. Regulations may be needed to address these concerns.

Injury and Sexual Harassment Claims

Currently, no data exist to prove substantial public health concerns related to injury or sexual harassment in the fitness industry due to “personal fitness training” malpractice or other inappropriate activity. One major study Epidemiology of Weight Training-Related Injuries Presenting to United States Emergency Departments, 1990 to 2007, collected data on 970,801 injuries. Of the data, none correlated to injuries related to fitness professional instruction. However, the report did say “Based on our findings, prior to beginning a weight training program, persons should receive proper instruction in how to use weight lifting equipment, as well as the proper technique for lifts, and should consult health professionals.” Therefore, instruction from fitness professionals should help to reduce injuries in exercise activities.

Contradiction of the HORA

When explaining the intent of the HORA, DC Board of Physical Therapy chair Senora Simpson said, “One was to ensure that the public knew the difference (between a physical therapist and personal trainer) and that ‘PT’ was not going to be the acronym (for a personal trainer).” “In most cases, the public has no idea (how to tell the difference) between personal fitness trainers, PT or athletic trainers.”  Why would legislators allow physical therapists to write standards for “athletic trainers” and “personal fitness trainers?” To implement the intent of the applicable designations, legislators must create separate boards of “athletic trainers” and “personal fitness trainers” from  “physical therapists.”

Registration for “You Are Who You Say You Are”

Fitness professionals are a broad group in some ways more like “physicians” with different types of practitioners instead of a singularity such as “athletic trainers” and “physical therapists” which warranted the need for the “similar designations” language in the HORA. Therefore, one standard regulation will kill jobs and grossly decrease market choice. The one real glaring problem in the fitness industry which regulation might address is misrepresentation and lack of credentials.

Lawmakers should simply create a verification system (preferably e-verification) of credentials to limit misrepresentation in the fitness industry and preserve jobs. Each individual claiming to be a “personal fitness trainer” or “similar designation” would register all their credentials relating to their “title”. An example would be an individual who claimed to be a “clinical exercise physiologist”, “corrective spinal instructor”, and a “CrossFit coach” but didn’t have the credentials to prove their “titles” then they could not register or use the titles. Consumers could then use this system to simply choose a professional based upon the fitness professional’s background and credentials as verified by the municipality such as D.C. or state.

Case law decisions such as the Capati vs Crunch Fitness in 1999 demonstrate that courts may find “gross negligence” in the absence of credentials of a fitness professional when an injury or even a death might occur in the fitness industry. Similarly, sexual harassment laws are on the books pertaining to all workplaces and fitness professionals could answer for those claims through legal proceedings. Verification of credentials, continuing education, and requirements for professional liability insurance would assist the public and streamline applicable court decisions while ensuring potential damages incurred by consumers could be paid for through insurance claims.

In Louisiana, for 20 years, the standards have been increased for “exercise physiologists” to the point of requiring a masters degree and an American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) certification which has not improved practices or the job market. The ACSM-Clinical Exercise Physiology Association reported, “While Louisiana CEP licensure efforts faced few barriers, changes in the originally proposed bill’s narrative were made following discussion with special interest groups. Louisiana CEPs have not observed much change in their practice patterns or employment opportunities since the bill was enacted. Some employers in Louisiana require licensed CEPs within their allied health programs, while others do not. Louisiana CEPs are constantly exploring ways to increase opportunities and demand for their services. LAEP continues to provide continuing education in an effort to increase the quality of care provided to member client.” Increasing occupational requirements do not guarantee the desired outcomes or insurance reimbursement for services.

 Fitness Certification and Education Companies

Fitness certification companies and education providers have spent too long operating on a “read a book and take a test” basis and lack any requirements to teach and test hands-on fitness competence. Fitness professional practitioners are underrepresented in the fitness industry and must have more influence on standards and practice in these organizations. Re-structuring fitness certification companies to help protect fitness professionals through appropriate fitness education and certification services may be essential to progressing the profession.

Each certification company must have a board composed of representatives of their certified population which would separate from the management of the company. This provides a check and balance on how the company delivers and enforces standards. Education and certification departments should also be separated in their operations.

The fitness continuing education system is broken. Mike Bannon reported about IDEA’s CEC Connect which collects data on CECs, “When we do the math… the numbers don’t add up.” Fitness professionals too often choose continuing education based off their certification company’s policies of not matching credits/units to other companies. A streamlined system of 1 hour = 1 unit/credit would help to fix the fitness continuing education conundrum.

Licensing and copyright of every certification title and educational program should be encouraged. This helps protect titles and services provided by the fitness professionals and their businesses. Market confusion must be limited and preferably, eliminated.

Accreditation can be optional given that current providers in the US do not have subject matter experts fact checking each certification. Municipalities must provide a list of approved providers of certification and education so that the framework above is met by each company. A board of fitness professionals in each state would operate the approval process with heavy checks and balances from regulators to help prevent what may be tantamount to anti-trust activities.


“Protecting the public” with occupational licensing means that evidence of that need must be proven, not acquired through anecdotal means. Protecting the professional’s ability to gain employment or stay employed must be taken into account since professionals are the public too and must be protected for their health and well-being. Outcomes should reflect appropriate standards set forth or be replaced.

Lawmakers must create separate boards of professionals to prevent conflicts of interest between professions. Likewise, private sector groups in the fitness industry pushing for regulations with intent to severely limit market choice through a singular business entity should not be allowed to take control of the market through legislation. Lawmakers must balance protections to the public while stimulating, not limiting the free market place. A system for just simple verification of credentials should achieve that balance.

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Status of the Profession and 2015 Position Statement

American Exercise and Fitness Professional Association Inc. (AEFPA)
2015 – Position Statement

Status of the Profession

 Decades of scientific data have clearly shown the benefits of balanced nutrition and regular exercise for the universal and targeted prevention of many chronic diseases, athletic performance enhancement, pain management, weight loss and the improvement of activities for daily living. We know that exercise, activity and proper nutrition are beneficial and good for us. There is ample research that suggests that exercise is beneficial in reducing the risk of coronary artery disease, stroke and some forms of cancer. Exercise is helpful in addressing obesity and managing Type II Diabetes. Additionally exercise has been shown to help control blood pressure and blood lipid levels. In recent years being sedentary has been included as a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Some experts suggest that being sedentary is as detrimental to overall health as is smoking cigarettes. As Exercise and Fitness Professionals we play an active role in the prevention of many chronic diseases. This preventative approach to managing health has been shown to result in an overall decrease in healthcare costs.

Clearly being an Exercise and Fitness Professional goes beyond working with special populations. Our clientele is diverse, many of whom are apparently healthy and have goals related to athletic performance, feeling better, stress management and physique transformation. Because of the diversity of our clients it is imperative for Exercise and Fitness Professionals to be adequately educated and trained prior to initiating a career in the field. A solid foundation of knowledge will increase the likelihood of long and successful careers in the fitness industry. Properly educated and successful Exercise and Fitness Professionals will continue to have a positive and profound impact in the lives of both individuals and the community. Properly educated Exercise and Fitness Professionals are also less likely to design and implement ineffective or unsafe programs for their clientele.

As our base of knowledge has continued to grow, we’ve also experienced simultaneous growth of the fitness industry. Despite this growth in both our understanding of the exercise sciences and the fitness industry, the prevalence of the chronic diseases that exercise has been shown to benefit has continued to escalate. There is a disconnection. To address this, it is the position of the AEFPA that it is time for the exercise and fitness professions to organize and move forward in a new and different direction.

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Do We Really Want Other Professions Regulating Us?

A group of Physical Therapists wants to regulate the Fitness Profession in DC. It’s a bad idea. AEFPA opposes any other profession’s attempt to regulate ours. All professions should regulate themselves. A profession that determines for itself it’s own set of ethical standards, scope of practice and the educational requirements necessary for entry into the field is a true profession. If you think that the service that we provide to our clients and the positive impact we can have on our clients’ lives make us true professionals, then let’s get to work.

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Welcome New Member Ryan Eckert

We are happy to introduce the newest member to AEFPA, Ryan Eckert

Here is what Ryan has to say about joining AEFPA…

I joined the American Exercise and Fitness Professional Association (AEFPA) because the vision of this program is on par with what I hope to see happen within the profession of exercise and fitness, which is an increase in credentialing standards and a greater sense of legitimacy. As a graduate student and a certified personal trainer myself, I have been exposed to the kinds of situations that warrant me to believe that this field needs a greater sense of credibility and a higher set of standards from which it operates. The AEFPA is an organization that sees the benefits of this for both the profession and the individuals that it reaches. The process of bringing credibility to the exercise and fitness professions starts with a goal and a vision, and the AEFPA has that goal and that vision.



How Organizing Will Advance Our Profession

Organizing as a profession is the first step toward advancing our profession. The Exercise and Fitness Profession is a noble profession, worthy of respect, prestige and adequate compensation.

The work we do, the ways in which we positively impact the lives of the people we work with make this true. The only difference between our profession and Doctors (American Medical Association), Nurses (American Nurses Association), Physical Therapists and Dentists, (American Physical Therapy Association and American Dental Association)  is that they have organized and we haven’t.

All of those other professionals have more prestige, respect in the community and are better compensated than we are because of one thing. They have organized and established standards for their own profession and we haven’t. The time has come for us to organize and determine for ourselves what the future of our profession will be. There is strength in numbers. The solution is clear.