OVERLAND PARK, KS — Despite ongoing state legislative activity related to personal trainer bills, several companies that offer personal trainer certifications say the bills will not affect their business. However, Bob Esquerre, a personal trainer business consultant, says the bills would hurt these companies.

Two personal training bills that died in state legislative committees last year in New Jersey and California have been reintroduced, and another bill in Massachusetts is still in committee.

Jay Del Vecchio, president and CEO of World Instructor Training Schools, Virginia Beach, VA, says the introduction of these bills has not affected his business, which is enjoying its best year ever.

“If the bills are passed, it will not make our college training and national certification obsolete,” Del Vecchio says. “It very likely will add to what we already do, since we teach almost exclusively with colleges and universities. State bills are going to require oversight by the colleges. That's what it's going to create.”

Because the National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF) complies with the same standards as licensed allied health fields, it should not be affected by licensing bills, says Brian Biagioli, executive director of NCSF. His organization is neither for nor against legislation as long as legislative regulations are in the best interest of the profession, he says.

“Appropriately constructed legislation devised to protect the public would utilize competency standards as the basis for regulation consistent with other professions,” Biagioli says. “Although some states opt to run an independent continued education program, proper stakeholder-based legislation would complement the national regulatory activity of the National Council on Strength and Fitness and other legitimate bodies, potentially strengthening the organizations while posing limited negative impact.”

But Esquerre, who owns the consulting firm Esquerre Fitness Group Inc., Boca Raton, FL, says the problem with state licensing laws is that certifying agencies would potentially have to adhere to 51 different laws, including the District of Columbia.

“I think it's going to hurt [agencies] only because each state will have their own standards, which means each of the agencies will have to tweak,” Esquerre says. “What may be appropriate in New York may not be appropriate in Georgia, for example. There's going to be 51 potential tweakings going on, so there's a cost associated with that. The standardization process gets to be dysfunctional.

“If every state was to have an issue,” Esquerre adds, “what happens to a personal trainer who lives in a tri-state area like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut? They've got to go through three different sets of standards and three different credentials. And you have a club that may have a chain that has facilities in New York, in New Jersey, in Connecticut. What's going to happen there?”

The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), which opposes most bills involving the licensing and certification of personal trainers, made a personal trainer certification recommendation to its member clubs in 2005. A personal trainer, according to IHRSA's guidelines, would need a certification from an agency approved by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) or by an organization accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education.

IHRSA opposed both the Massachusetts and New Jersey licensing bills but supported last year's California bill, which focused on the certification and not the licensing of personal trainers. Esquerre, for one, supports the IHRSA guidelines and would be in favor of a national standardization program.

Alan Russell, the director of academic and governmental affairs for the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), says that while the organization is against the proposed licensing bills, the business generated by NASM certification and education is secondary to supporting the American public.

“Our main business venture is to provide as many qualified service providers as possible,” Russell says. “We believe [the proposed licensing bills] would limit access of qualified fitness trainers to the public. Currently, third-party accreditation to the NCCA is a reasonable and responsible means of regulating the industry. We're not trying to establish a battle of wits here with the state legislation.”

Chris Gellert, president of Pinnacle Training and Consulting Systems, Germantown, MD, says he will be unaffected by the bills if they are passed. In fact, they may make him work harder to create better education material at a higher level, he says.

Gellert, who has worked in California, Chicago and on the East Coast, says there is a variance of educational degrees of personal trainers in each part of the country, which might lead to some confusion if states had different sets of personal trainer regulations. He contends that personal trainers in California tend to have more advanced credentials than those on the East Coast. Gellert would be in favor of a tiered regulation of personal trainers with one agency regulating the industry.

“It's not a matter of weeding out bad apples,” Gellert says. “It will actually make the industry better. It will raise the educational bar of trainers to really understand the science behind the movement.”