D.C. Set to Regulate Personal Trainers

So goes Washington, so goes the nation?

For years Washington, D.C. has had bragging rights as the nation’s fittest city, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Is it possible that pending regulations could cause its ranking to drop?

The Board of Physical Therapy, a small group of D.C. regulators, is set to publish new standards for personal trainers in the District that could have widespread ramifications in the industry. The regulations also include development of a registry of all personal trainers in the District.

Will regulation provide clarity and accountability?

Those advocating for regulation say the intent of the law is to provide protection for the consumer. “Industry estimates show 40 percent of all trainers have no gym affiliation, meaning they are accountable to no one even though they are often in positions of authority with clients,” said Graham Melstrand, board president of the Coalition for Registration of Exercise Professionals.

But who decides on the definition of “personal fitness trainer?” There are kinesiologists, corrective specialists, exercise instructors and hundreds of trainers with sub-specialties.

“Setting one pathway, one test, one methodology to train individuals — that can be problematic.”, said Phillip Godfrey, a Washington medical exercise specialist. Godfrey is among many who think a board that regulates the industry should be comprised of personal trainers and academic experts, not physical therapists.

The cost of regulation

D.C.’s move toward regulation is rooted in Obamacare, which provides incentives to employers who offer wellness programs and calls for preventive health-care initiatives. That mean big bucks for credentialed programs and trainers.

Currently, personal trainers are unregulated in all 50 states, though registration and/or licensing is being debated in Massachusetts, Florida and other states. Licensing means that only those who meet the government’s criteria and acquire a license are permitted to practice the profession.

CrossFit, arguably the largest chain of fitness centers in the country with over 13,000 affiliate facilities, will be hard hit. CrossFit has it’s highest concentration of facilities in the District.

When a board declares what is good or bad, who is right or wrong, it impacts the law of legal liability. Insurance rates could go through the roof, said Andrew Killion, a D.C. CrossFit trainer said.

Opponents argue that many gyms will have to close while the owners and trainers acquire certification. They also claim that state registries or licenses could also affect preventive health programs. For example, an employer may receive more credit by offering a certified aerobic program than for a fitness routine run by a random CrossFit instructor. Since every program works differently for everyone, this begs the question of whether the government should decide what choices the consumer is offered.

We’ll be watching for developments after regulation in D.C.goes into effect, and to see when, not if, other states follow Washington’s lead.


Source: Aaron C. Davis, “In the nation’s capital, a new business to regulate: D.C.’s personal trainers.” washingtonpost.com. 23 Aug. 2015.