The first day of the Club Industry 2010 Conference and Trade Show in Chicago includes a roundtable about a hot topic in the industry: personal trainer licensing.

The roundtable “Is Licensing Personal Trainers the Next Step in the Evolution of Fitness and Health?” is from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 6, at McCormick Place, room E256.

The panelists for the roundtable are Richard Cotton, national director of certification for the American College of Sports Medicine, Jay Del Vecchio, founder of World Instructor Training Schools (WITS), David Herbert, principal member of David L. Herbert & Associates LLC, and Sara Kooperman, owner of SCW Fitness Education and CEO of Les Mills Midwest. Stuart Goldman, managing editor of Club Industry magazine, will moderate the roundtable.

Del Vecchio says certification organization groups, despite being competitors, should meet regularly to discuss the issue of personal trainer licensing and provide proactive leadership.

“We cannot claim self-regulation and then have it directed exclusively by a few groups,” Del Vecchio says. “Let’s include trainers, employers and the certifications to make sure we meet similar standards like other health occupations.”

Cotton agrees with Del Vecchio in that the industry should take a proactive rather than a reactive position on the issue.

“This is a conversation that we need to stay engaged in,” Cotton says.

Herbert points out an increase in proposals by state legislatures in recent years to license or regulate fitness professionals, such as personal trainers.

“While the fitness industry has moved forward over the last nearly 20 years to improve its own standards and guidelines for fitness professionals and the institutions in which fitness services are provided, recent media attention to some litigation involving fitness professionals, coupled with the desire of many fitness professionals to become licensed as well as the movement to incorporate fitness and wellness activities into health care reform, may well lead to licensure or regulation of these professionals in the near future,” Herbert says. “Fitness professionals should appreciate these developments and understand what is at stake for their profession.”

Kooperman, who also is an attorney, questions whether there is a public interest or a public need to license personal trainers.

“Looking at the industry as a whole, litigation as it exists and the clients that we are trying to protect, it appears that the licensing and/or regulating of trainers is unnecessary,” Kooperman says. “We are a self-regulated industry. What is interesting to note is that the majority of the lawsuits surrounding fitness centers and health clubs are in no way related to the quality of instruction by personal trainers or group fitness instructors.”