Personal Training and the Law

In Blog by Shannon Montgomery

As an attorney obtaining a license (or certification for the purposes of this article) to practice law is the first step in your career. In fact, attorneys are required to get licensed in every single state they want to practice in. You have to be qualified. And each states determination of this is different. The legal profession is easily one of the most heavily regulated, with multiple hoops to jump through before being allowed to practice. Arguably this is exactly how it should be as attorneys handle sensitive cases and can control an outcome that may impact someones life tremendously. I have a bone to pick with some of the state to state requirements but that’s a post for another day…

So why is it that the heath and wellness profession which also has the potential to impact someones life forever is so minimally regulated? In fact, most states don’t even have any type of rule or law regulating the certification of personal trainers. These are people telling other people what exercises to do and what to eat, and yet, there are little to no laws requiring these people be certified.  Sounds crazy right?

Well its not all the wild wild west. Some states have taken steps to put more regulations in place. The health and fitness industry has hit an all time high in the last few years. The number of gyms opening has increased, the dollars being spent on fitness is in the billions, and with the popularity of online fitness coaching steadily growing, the need for regulations has also grown.

So what is it you as the aspiring online coach or personal trainer need to know?

Although my research has not turned up any major legislative changes this year, many states are attempting to create that change. IHRSA a major organization in the fitness industry, indicates that too much regulation might have negative impacts on the actual business of fitness. I.e gyms would take a hit. They’re also concerned with what affects stringent regulations could have on personal trainers, and it looks like the PT profession is next on the list for potential regulations.

For example, Washington D.C came close to passing a law that would require personal trainers to register with the District rather than simply obtaining a PT certification from one of the many accredited certification organizations. The law went so far as to make it illegal to use the term fitness instructor, or personal trainer, without the proper registration with the District. It appears the law did not pass as originally written due to the age old fitness industry debate, what certifications are credible, and what would be allowed under this new law?

I read that at one point here in Florida the legislature attempted to classify the unlicensed use of the title “personal trainer” as a first degree misdemeanor which could result in prison time. However, the Florida Senate website shows the only bill affecting personal trainers is actually a good one. The legislature is attempting to remove a personal trainer from certain registration requirements of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  Trainers are not “health studios” for purposes of the department and should not be required to register as such. You can read more on that here.  Other states such as New Jersey, California, and Georgia have proposed various licensure requirements similar to the D.C bill.

What about nutrition advice?

It is also important to note that most states have laws in place regarding nutrition and who can and cannot provide nutrition advice and meal plans. This is one area the states seem to be pretty clear on wanting to regulate. To check out what your state says on the matter visit The Center for Nutrition Advocacy this is a great resource for any of you fitness entrepreneurs out there hoping to make a living as a coach or trainer.

What should you do now?

Although there seems to be no strict requirement to have a personal training certification or even a basic knowledge of the human body and how it works, it is in your best interest as a trainer to get a certification. The industry is likely to change, and regulations are on the horizon. Further, being in the fitness industry myself as a NASM certified personal trainer, I have seen the demand for knowledgable science based coaching grow.  So maybe the government won’t need to take care of this one. Perhaps the market will regulate itself as the general population seeking personal trainers and fitness coaches will begin to choose trainers with credentials to back them up.

If you have more questions feel free to contact us at Montgomery Law through the contact section of the website.

Also, please note that this is not meant to be legal advice for you or your situation, this is merely some legal research and knowledge.