In 2002, IHRSA began working with some of the fitness industry's leading personal training certification groups on an initiative to promote safety for consumers working with personal trainers in health clubs.
One important outcome of these meetings has been a determination of the value of an independent and nationally recognized accreditation for personal training certification programs. As such, IHRSA's Board of Directors has adopted the following recommendation for the association's member clubs:
Whereas, given the increasing importance of personal training in health, fitness and sports clubs, IHRSA recommends that, beginning January 1, 2006, member clubs hire personal trainers holding at least one current certification from a certifying organization/agency that has begun third-party accreditation of its certification procedures and protocols from an independent, experienced, and nationally recognized accrediting body.
Furthermore, given the twenty-six year history of the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA) as an organization dedicated to establishing quality standards for certifying agencies, IHRSA has identified the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the accreditation body of NOCA, as being an acceptable accrediting organization.
IHRSA will recognize other, equivalent accrediting organizations contingent upon their status as an established accreditation body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and/or the United States Department of Education for the purposes of providing independent, third-party accreditation.
IHRSA is aware of the several personal training groups that have achieved accreditation from an IHRSA-recognized accrediting body, including:
- Academy of Applied Personal Training Education (NCCA Accredited)
- Aerobics & Fitness Association of America (Accredited by the Distance Education Training Council "DETC")
- American Council on Exercise (NCCA Accredited)
- American College of Sports Medicine (NCCA Accredited)
- Cooper Institute (NCCA Accredited)
- International Fitness Professionals Association (NCCA Accredited)
- International Sports Sciences Association (DETC Accredited)
- National Academy of Sports Medicine (NCCA Accredited)
- National Council for Certified Personal Trainers (NCCA Accredited)
- National Council of Strength and Fitness (NCCA Accredited)
- National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association (NCCA Accredited)
- National Exercise Trainers Association (NCCA Accredited)
- National Federation of Personal Trainers (NCCA Accredited)
- National Strength and Conditioning Association (NCCA Accredited)
- Training and Wellness Certification Commission (NCCA Accredited)
- United States Career Institute (DETC Accredited)
The following groups have notified IHRSA of their application for accreditation from an IHRSA-recognized accrediting body:
- American Fitness Professionals & Associates (Undergoing Accreditation from the DETC)
The adoption of this measure has raised many questions, including the following:
Is this a standard for IHRSA membership?
No. This statement represents the opinion of IHRSA. It is a recommendation for IHRSA members, not a requirement.
Are there certification bodies that are preferred or recommended by IHRSA?
No. IHRSA maintains no list of preferred certifying bodies. This recommendation is neither an endorsement nor a censure of any particular personal training certification organization/body.
Which certification bodies are accredited by NCCA?
Several leading certifying groups have already earned or have applied for NCCA accreditation. For a list of these organizations, go to the Institute for Credentialing Excellence.
What if I do not see a particular certification group listed with the NCCA right now?
Because earning NCCA accreditation can take a year or more, many certification organizations that have begun work on their accreditation may not be formally recognized by the NCCA for some time. IHRSA encourages an open dialogue between club managers and all individual certification groups.
Why does the new resolution recommend hiring personal trainers holding at least one current certification from a certifying organization/agency that has BEGUN third party accreditation, as opposed to an organization/agency that has OBTAINED third-party accreditation?
The new resolution reflects the board's intention to eliminate the following two issues:
- The difficulty many certifying groups would experience trying to obtain accreditation by 12/31/05; and
- The difficulty many clubs would experience trying to hire personal trainers with at least one certification from a group that has obtained third-party accreditation by 12/31/05.
Why does IHRSA recognize other, equivalent accrediting organizations contingent upon their status as an established accreditation body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and/or the United States Department of Education?
CHEA and the U.S. Department of Education have established standards for the purpose of recognizing quality accreditation bodies. These standards ensure that organizations which accredit academic institutions and certification programs are committed to advancing the quality and accountability of the programs they accredit.
What about a personal trainer who may have obtained a bachelor's or master's degree in exercise science or another, appropriate field, but may not have been certified by an accredited organization?
IHRSA recognizes that education may be an appropriate substitute for certification. Club operators are free to use their discretion and consider any factor when hiring personal trainers, including education and experience as well as certification or anything else.
How do I find out if an accrediting body has been recognized by CHEA or the U.S. Department of Education?
You can find more information about CHEA, the U.S. Department of Education, and the process of certification program accreditation at www.chea.org. CHEA also publishes a 'Recognition Chart', available on its web site, which lists accrediting bodies that have earned recognition by CHEA and/or the U.S. Department of Education.
Is IHRSA mandating certain personnel decisions, such as firing or refusing to hire trainers who are not certified by an accredited body?
Absolutely not. Hiring criteria for personal trainers and other employees are set by club management, not by IHRSA. There are many sources of information on the topic of certification and personal trainers, and the IHRSA recommendation is one. This recommendation represents the opinion of IHRSA and is intended ultimately to benefit consumers. Whether and in what way an IHRSA member may choose to act consistent with the recommendation is a decision for each member.
Please contact IHRSA at (800) 228-4772 with any additional questions.
Updated: January 2010