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2016 Legislative Threats: Personal Trainer Licensure

This post is the second in a series of four case studies that demonstrate how IHRSA works to protect your health club from legislation that could harm your business. View the first post here.

Across the country, state legislatures do not dictate to health club operators which personal trainers best fit the needs of their business and membership. However, legislation proposing legal requirements for trainers has been making rounds for 20 years and has been considered in more than a dozen state legislatures. In January 2014, the Council of Washington, D.C. became the first to enact a bill that called for registration of trainers in the district. 

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The bill passed by the Council required registration of trainers, but largely left responsibility for determining what certifications and background trainers must have to continue working in D.C. to the district’s Board of Physical Therapy.

IHRSA Adopts Different Strategy Than Most

While many stakeholders took to lobbying the Board in favor of, or opposition to specific requirements, IHRSA worked with its district lobbyist and local club operators to educate the Council and the Mayor’s office on how the entire concept of personal trainers regulated by physical therapists would likely restrict access to safe, effective training services in the district. This past fall, the Council and Mayor both agreed with IHRSA’s position and took action to preempt rules being issued by the Board of Physical Therapy, removing the threat of misguided regulation of D.C. personal fitness trainers.

These bills do not spring from a rash of serious injuries caused by personal trainers. When California took up the issue in 2009, it was because a legislator sought to hire a trainer for his teenage daughter and had a hard time understanding what made one trainer more qualified than the next. The same year, a bill was filed in Massachusetts following a state representative’s attempt to find a fitness instructor for his elderly mother. In 2008, New Jersey legislation was introduced at the behest of a “school” that was issuing its own, unaccredited trainer certifications.

Legislators introduce these bills to ensure that their constituencies have access to legitimate personal trainers. IHRSA has spoken to every one of the bill authors and not once has their intent been to inflict damage on personal trainers or have the state become overly involved in the industry.

Best Intentions Gone Wrong

Unfortunately, that is exactly what these bills unintentionally accomplish. The burdensome nature of some proposals does more than impose excessive fees for trainers or training requirements that aren’t quite in-line with the industry’s best practices. The New Jersey bill would have required trainers to undergo 300 in-person classroom hours, a 50-hour unpaid internship, and pass a state administered licensing exam. The Massachusetts legislation would have required an advanced degree. Other states would have made it difficult for someone born outside of the U.S. to work as a trainer.

As these bills arise, IHRSA works to ensure that the legislation does not limit a clubs’ access to qualified personal trainers, or make fitness services more expensive and difficult to acquire for consumers. IHRSA recommends certification of personal trainers by an accredited third party.

What 2016 Looks Like for Personal Trainer Legislation

Based on legislative trends, conversations with state lawmakers and regulators, and intelligence gathered from our lobbying teams and member clubs across the country, IHRSA predicts that we will once again face a number of bills that will propose new requirements for trainers in states.

A number of indicators suggest legislators will consider the issue in multiple states in 2016, most notably in Florida, Georgia, Maryland, and Massachusetts.

IHRSA’s Public Policy team has worked to ensure that the industry is prepared to protect itself in each of these states. But if you aren’t located in one of these states, you aren’t quite off the hook. Legislative issues spread quickly across state lines so it is very important to stay on top what is going on in your state, even if it is not listed above. Be sure you are signed up to receive IHRSA’s Legislative Alerts and routinely visit IHRSA’s state pages to get the latest on issues that might impact your club.

Reader Comments (1)

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