Personal trainers sweat as Washington, D.C., readies new rules

Sat Sep 12, 2015 7:04am EDT
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By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A battle is brewing in Washington as the capital city prepares to regulate personal fitness trainers in a move that could ripple through the country's booming $24 billion gym industry and its fight against flab.

The District of Columbia, whose residents are generally fitter than the rest of the country, is set to adopt the United States' first regulations on trainers, following a law passed by the city council last year. It named an obscure city regulatory panel, the Board of Physical Therapy, to develop rules for trainers who help guide exercise aficionados through their stretching, weightlifting and crunches.

The board is set to vote on the new standards on Sept. 22. After a 30-day period for public comment followed by possible revisions, the rules would take effect.

Backers of regulation say consumers need protection against unqualified trainers and problems that can range from injury to sexual misconduct. Opponents reject the move as government meddling in an innovative business.

The effort "is first in the nation and it's going to set precedent for the industry," said Phillip Godfrey, a medical exercise specialist who has long tracked the District law on trainers.

Opponents also worry that Board of Physical Therapy rules will drive up costs for clients and eat into health club profits.

"Personal training is the biggest profit center in health clubs - hire a kid at $12 an hour and charge $40," said Sal Arria, the president of the National Board of Fitness Examiners, a non-profit which offers its own certification standards for trainers.

Washington would seem to be a perfect place to test fitness rules. Its streets are alive with joggers and people toting rolled-up workout mats and it was rated the fittest U.S. city in May by the American College of Sports Medicine and the Anthem Foundation.   Continued...