Jay Del Vecchio is president and CEO of the World Instructor Training Schools (WITS). For more information about certification and WITS’ stance on the issue, you can visit the company’s Web site at www.witseducation.com. Click on the secure Fitness Industry Issues tab and log in using ImageandBills as the username and Solutions as the password (all case sensitive). You may also contact Del Vecchio at jdelvec@witseducation.com.

Conversations about governmental regulation of personal trainers are once again on the forefront. California, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey are considering legislation that would provide for state regulation of fitness professionals. Although these conversations and issues are not new, they are taking on increased momentum and should be taken seriously by all of us in the fitness industry. Ideally, we should unite as an industry and put forth comprehensive recommendations for self-regulation before the states impose governmental regulation.

The unification of the industry on the position of self-regulation should not be such a challenge. Although there may be opposing schools of thought on the process of self-regulation or if we should impose any regulations at all, I see a consensus on the need for change. Specifically, we are all concerned about the quality and content of personal training certification programs as well as the curriculum, delivery, instruction and assessment of those programs. In addition, we all want to ensure viability of training providers, avoid government regulation and oversight, maintain and enhance industry quality and elevate the fitness professional and the industry.

You may be wondering what you can do to prevent governmental regulation while ensuring industry quality. I would suggest getting in contact with the state senators proposing the bills and be a resource to them as they consider pending legislation regarding personal trainers. WITS has done this, even going so far as presenting an alternative to their proposed legislation, which we think should not only improve the quality in training and preparation of personal trainers, but also ensure the ongoing continuing education of these professionals while promoting industry self-regulation.

This alternative is a three-tiered approach to the certification of personal trainers, which limits the scope of practice based on the level of training and education received.

The following is an outline of the proposed three levels of care approach:

1. Level One Certification:
Level one requires a certification from an organization that has been approved by the American Council on Education (ACE) for content and by the International Association of Continuing Education and Training (IACET) or the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA) for American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards.

Certification for level one must also include practical skills instruction and testing, as well as a minimum of 30 hours of unpaid internship experience. In addition, level one certification prohibits personal trainers from working with clients who have medical conditions or physical limitations.

2. Level Two Certification:
In order to obtain level two certification, personal trainers must first satisfy all of the elements of level one. After attaining level one certification, the personal trainer must successfully pass the national board examination offered through the National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE). This process and requirement is consistent with other health care professions like those approved and developed for nurses, EMTs, etc.

3. Level Three Certification:
In order to obtain level three certification, personal trainers must satisfy all of the elements of levels one and two. In addition, level three certification requires an associate’s degree in a fitness-related field or 300 hours of community college or university-approved, fitness-related courses. These programs must be offered by an accredited college or university or they must be approved by ACE and IACET or NOCA. The level three certification would allow personal trainers to work with clients of all abilities.

All levels of certification must require continuing education units (CEU) for renewal. CEUs must be from an IACET-approved provider or an accredited post-secondary institution.

The three levels of certification would allow the market to function without interruption. It establishes content standards to ensure quality and safety. A suggested grandfathered time frame of 12 months would promote a fair and equitable transition.

It is important for each and every one of us to be proactive before states create and impose unreasonable and prohibitive legislation. It also is imperative that we all take a stance to ensure quality and elevate standards in the education and training of our professionals. The certification process is currently unregulated by the industry itself, and our effort of qualifying exams with NOCA has not proven to be enough for state governments. This lack of regulation is leading to certifications that do not require extensive study, practical skill application or internships for quality. These diluted certifications are putting the reputation of our industry and the consumer at risk.