NBFE Meeting Summary

On Saturday March 20, 2004 in Las Vegas, members of the National Board of Fitness Examiners met with the Directors of the nation's leading fitness
certification organizations to discuss the challenges facing our industry today.

A partial list of attendees included representatives from AEA, AFAA, ACSM, ACE, AFPA, CHEK Institute, IFPA, ISCA, ISSA, NCSF, NFPT, Mad Dog Athletics, Spinning, Moore's Fitness, Sarah City, NSCA, the CEO and President of IHRSA.

Dr. Sal Arria opened the presentation outlining a series of challenges.

Currently there are no regulations regarding personal training certification, neither collectively as a group of certifying agencies, nor federally. Some companies offering "Certification" have virtually no requirements other than paying a $39 fee. This causes a problem for the majority of qualified fitness professionals and legitimate certifying, educational organizations and raises severe public safety issues.

In recapping the past two years since the media blasted the fitness industry for having no educational standards, IHRSA has conducted meetings with a few certifying bodies and made a recommendation that certification organizations become accredited by a third party accrediting-body within the
next 12-24 months. This helps assure that programs are administered in a standardized manner, but also leaves major issues that still need resolution. IHRSA, at a meeting with many of the certification organizations prior to the NBFE meeting on March 20th, stated they wanted certifying organizations to unite, create solutions among themselves, and pass on the recommendations to IHRSA.

Dr. Arria raised the following issues:

  1. As confirmed by the NCCA, if an organization's program becomes accredited, e. g., January 1, 2006, all students who graduated from that organization prior to that date are not grandfathered nor considered to have graduated from an accredited program. How do we address the concerns of those students?

  2. Program accreditation does not individually assess the competency of the estimated 200,000 plus personal trainers already working in the industry today, who received their certification prior to IHRA’s recommended program accreditation solution. The thousands of unqualified individuals working in the fitness industry today continue to do so, creating severe liability and posing legitimate public safety issues.

  3. The title "Personal Trainer" potentially means anything from an individual with no experience and no qualifications to a graduate of a four year college program with multiple years of experience and multiple legitimate national certifications. Currently, there are no defined "scopes of practice" or standardized examinations to test competency based on their scope of practice. Today, regardless of education and experience, everyone is called a personal trainer.

  4. Currently, some states are pursuing legislative actions to regulate the initial and continuing educational requirements for personal trainers. These states are seeking to establish specific job restrictions and licensing of personal trainers all without the industry's consent or participation.

At the IHRSA meeting, prior to the National Board meeting, Dr. Arria asked for a show of hands from over 30 representatives from virtually every major certification organization and several members of IHRSA's board; “Has anyone in this room been contacted by any state representative or legislator asking for their input or assistance to create the proposed state regulations.”

Not one hand was raised.

States are taking it upon themselves to regulate personal trainers without input from the industry.

If the fitness industry allows states to set the educational requirements and mandate a two or four year degree to become a personal trainer, it would dramatically reduce the number of personal trainers entering the field and limit the number of trainers available to work in health clubs. Eventually, it would put certification organizations out of business or restrict their scope of business to only providing continuing education.

Dr. Arria proposed that the best solution to address all the issues above was to follow the same protocols used by medicine and all allied health care
providers - that is National Board Examinations based on scopes of practice. This method of assessing individual competency is not only accepted by medicine, but state, and Federal government as a reliable means of determining competency. Nurses, x-ray technologists, medical technologists, physicians, chiropractors, physical therapists, even accountants and lawyers use national boards as a means of self regulation. States would then be able to use our own industry developed National Board standards to issue licenses rather than establishing regulations for us.

Dr. Arria further proposed that the first three scopes of practice to be defined should be floor instructor, general personal trainers, and medical exercise specialists with a two or four year college degree in exercise science.

Dr. Arria introduced Dr. J. Robert Sapp who discussed methodologies for designing, developing, and deploying national boards. His discussion included the value of the National Boards exams as a means of providing independent third party assessment based on scopes of practice. Dr. Sapp also outlined the importance of implementing valid, reliable and fair testing instruments in high-stakes environments.

In conclusion, Dr. Sapp and Dr. Arria presented a timeline for deploying the first Personal Training National Board exams by the first quarter of 2005. They also discussed how multiple Advisory Committees will assist the NBFE and address the specific and diverse needs of our industry. Initially there will be Advisory Committees from health clubs, active fitness professionals, colleges who offer two and four year fitness/exercise science programs, the military, and medicine.

The meeting ended with the debut of a national television commercial being prepared to educate the public and doctors about the role exercise and personal trainers play in preventing disease and improving the quality of life.

Nominations for the Advisory Committees were opened are now accepted online at www.NBFE.org. The deadline for nominations is April 30, 2004. Certified trainers, health clubs, colleges, military fitness experts, and medical professionals are invited to participate.


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