Who trains the personal trainers?

Mon Mar 7, 2011 6:02am EST
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Ever wonder by what authority a personal trainer dares you to attempt that last, grueling pull up, or a group instructor orders that final belly-aching crunch?

The fitness industry uses an alphabet soup of certification organizations to screen and qualify personal trainers and group fitness professionals.

Experts say the best uphold the standards of an accreditation system that also regulates accountants and nurses, while the worst reflect the growing pains of an industry struggling to regulate itself.

"Whenever a trainer makes big news hurting someone, they're usually not certified in a quality manner," said Richard Cotton, national director of certification for the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). "It's important that the consumer investigate, ask questions."

One way, Cotton said, is to check whether a trainer's credentials come from an organization accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), which was created with government cooperation in 1987 to evaluate certification organizations.

"The fitness field is the newest of all certifications, and it came on at a time when it was profitable to be a certification organization," said Cotton. "You can get a certificate by paying $49.95 to take an online test, but that's not an accredited certificate."

So lax are some online sites offering personal trainer certificates, Cotton said, that one writer successfully "certified" his pet cat.

That's not a small problem for an industry where some 6.5 million Americans used personal trainers in 2009, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA).   Continued...