In response to decades of scientific data demonstrating the benefits of
nutrition and regular exercise for the universal and targeted prevention
chronic diseases, the fitness industry has experienced tremendous growth
in a variety
of ways. The abundance of home gym and fitness equipment has exploded.
Exercise video and nutritional supplement sales have skyrocketed. Perhaps
dominant source of growth in the multi-billion dollar fitness industry
has been the
use of personal trainers in health clubs and in private studios. Since
1998, the number
of Americans belonging to health clubs has grown over 23 percent or seven
members according to reports. The American Sports Data, Inc., a company
specializes in sports and fitness research since 1983, projected that 4,021,000
in the United States alone paid for personal training services in 1998,
and that number
has significantly increased each year.
That being said, personal trainers today must assume a higher level of
for their clients. Personal trainers must ensure that clients receive the
care and required supervision as they pursue their individual fitness goals.
rests on fitness professionals, as they are directly responsible for the
and wellbeing of their clients.
According to the new National Strength and Conditioning Association text,
Essentials of Personal Training (2004) John Dietrich, past president of
International Health Industries, stated as far back as 1983: “There
are no licensure
requirements or mandated training programs for health club fitness instructors
well as personal trainers), yet who can deny the grave responsibility of
whose job it is to assist people in vigorous exercise and the use of powerful
machines?” Twenty-one years later, the problem still exists.
The NSCA went on to conclude that “When personal trainers become
prepared and truly committed to providing the most effective exercise programs
the safest training environments, then this vocational pursuit will deserve
of an allied health care profession.”
The Problem: The Need for Standardization and
Certification at both the Program and Individual Level
In response to an array of lawsuits resulting from client injury and, more
death, the fitness industry began scrutinizing the personal fitness profession.
Lawsuits have been brought against personal trainers and health clubs alike.
Dan Rather's nationally broadcast story "Who's Training The Trainers," sparked
media frenzy that included dozens of nationally syndicated articles written
the lack of regulations and standards in the fitness industry. Until recently,
industry did a fair job "self-regulating" however, the unfortunate
reality is that
today, $39.95 “Personal Trainer Certificates” are available
online. Reportedly there
are over 200 fitness certification companies offering education or “personal
certifications.” Unqualified programs compromise the integrity of
the industry, creating
problems for qualified personal trainers, health clubs, the public, and
Recently, several certification organizations have examined external program
as a means to address these issues. The International Health & Racquet
Association (IHRSA) has led some of these efforts to help improve the capacity
"self regulation.” Program accreditation by a third party is
a good step to ensure that
certification organizations’ educational standards meet an accepted
level of delivery.
However, it is also imperative that an external, unbiased, nationally recognized,
based examination process exist to ensure that all fitness professionals
certain levels of competency determined by their scope of practice.
World-renowned exercise scientists, practicing fitness professionals, and
organization heads have stated in recent polls that they believe our industry
served by individual competency evaluations conducted by a national board
eye toward eventual state licensing. This model has been successfully used
Medicine since 1915, when the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME)
formed. Today, National Board Exams are the benchmark for individual competency
evaluation by virtually all medical and allied health care providers.
The Solution: The Creation of the NBFE
The National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE) is a not-for-profit organization
that will consist of 18 to 22 members. The NBFE was founded to fulfill
needs as well as address a series of ancillary requirements. First, the
address and define a series of prescribed “scopes of practice” for
These definitions will likely include entry-level floor instructors, group
instructors, general personal trainers, specialists in areas such as youth
and senior fitness,
and medical exercise specialists. This paradigm is common in other allied
professions including nursing, which has defined the roles for nurses assistants,
licensed vocational nurses, registered nurses, surgical nurses, and nurse
The second need that the NBFE will address is determining the “standards
for each of these roles and assessing fitness professionals based on those
The standards will be articulated as formal statements of skills and knowledge
that are associated with specific roles in the fitness industry. From these
the Board will generate examinations deployed in a high-stakes testing
in partnership with a leading international testing organization.
While these assessment processes are a critical method to ensure public
improve our industry, we are also sensitive to the need for health clubs
to keep their
costs down and hire individuals with little to no experience; their needs
addressed. At the same time, we recognize the need for highly qualified “medical
exercise” specialists that can work with post-rehabilitation patients.
acceptance from traditional medicine, there must be clear differentiation
the levels of fitness professionals. Today the title "personal trainer" does
any particular level of competency.
The NBFE plans to work directly with all states and assist with licensing
professionals as well as promote the state-licensing model nationwide.
has already begun conversations with several individual states to accept
the results of
the board as sufficient evidence that these individuals have met a standardized,
nationally-approved level of competency.
The NBFE is urging that fitness
who have passed the national boards should be eligible for state licensing
without the need for further examination. Should any state mandate licensing,
likely that they will follow similar protocols used by all medical and
care professions, i.e., utilizing individual competency assessment by a
prior to state examinations.
Certainly, lobbying for insurance reimbursement is also a critical part
of the NBFE
plan because of the cost savings benefits of having healthier clients.
personal trainer liability insurance companies recognize that qualified
are less of a risk than non-qualified individuals.
The NBFE will also tirelessly lobby primary care physicians and chiropractors
the organizations that oversee them to begin writing prescriptions for
will not only improve public health, but over the next five to ten years
it will stimulate
tremendous growth for all health clubs and fitness professionals.
The Structure of the NBFE
The NBFE will draw support from five advisory committees: (1) medicine,
organizations, (3) fitness professionals, (4) health clubs, and (5) the
Each of these boards will provide recommendations and counsel to the NBFE
in their specific areas of expertise. The Executive Board also provides
the NBFE to support areas not in the scope of the Advisory Committees,
affairs, business, testing and psychometrics, etc. The NBFE will provide
materials directly to testing candidates and certification organizations.
future, this content will be derived from old tests and topic lists rather
curricular content, once again, modeling medicine.
As the NBFE has taken shape, there has been overwhelming support from the
community, the insurance industry, fitness professionals, club owners,
organizations, the public, the media, the military, and the government.
NBFE anticipates that the first examinations can take place in the first
2005. As part of the rollout, NBFE will work closely with certification
as both the NBFE Advisory Committee members and as discrete entities, so
personal trainers currently working in the industry today will be prepared
examination in a realistic time frame.
For further information contact: