The truth about the American fitness industry

The fitness industry has seen a drastic rebirth since the 2000s. From the days of Jack LaLanne, who was known as the Father of Fitness, to the days of Dr. Ken H. Cooper, who put “aerobics” on the fitness map, the industry is doing exceptionally well, from a monetary viewpoint at least. This letter comes with great frustration, yet hope, that we can increase the United States’ standards of modern day personal training. If you google “personal trainer”, Wikipedia defines it as, “A personal trainer is an individual certified to have a varying -0-=degree of knowledge of general fitness involved in exercise prescription and instruction. They motivate clients by setting goals and providing feedback and accountability to clients. Trainers also measure their client’s strengths and weaknesses with fitness assessments. These fitness assessments may also be performed before and after an exercise program to measure their client’s improvements in physical fitness. They may also educate their clients in many other aspects of wellness besides exercise, including general health and nutrition guidelines.” Earle et al. (2018, March). Personal Trainer. This leaves the reader with the impression that the personal trainer they have/hope to have is more than fully qualified and capable of doing their job, however, this is absolutely not the case. Having a college degree in kinesiology, the study of mechanics of body movements, plays an imperative role in the overall success of both the personal trainer and the client. How can someone who did not study the human body, the movements of the human body, the mechanics of the human body, teach someone how to perform activities that require physical effort and proper movement of the body?

I have spent countless hours researching everything possible about personal training. I’ve consulted with fellow trainers and colleagues, in addition to research, so that I could write to you fully informed and backed by facts. Until 1996, there was no way to regulate personal training. In that year, The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) recognized the first nationally accredited personal training certificate. Fast-forward to 2018 where the industry has allowed more personal certifications that the National Commission For Certifying Agencies accredits than is acceptable for any business to document:

The Academy of Applied Personal Training Education, American College of Sports Medicine, American Council on Exercise, The Cooper Institute, International Fitness Professionals Association, National Academy of Sports Medicine, National Academy of Sports Medicine, National Council for Certified Personal Trainers, National Council on Strength and Fitness, National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association, National Exercise Trainers Association, National Federation of Professional Trainers, National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and Training and Wellness Certification Commission.

Current standards have become such that anyone, of any background, has the opportunity to become a personal trainer. The lack of merit has hurt the reputation of the personal training industry. In doing my research, I have found that American Council on Exercise(ACE) candidates generally invest 80-100 hours of study time over a 3-4 month period and that the power house organization National Academy of Sports Medicine offers programs that can be completed in as few as 10 weeks. The only requirements listed on almost every website for personal training are that applicants must be 18 years of age, hold a current cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and an automated external defibrillator (AED) certification. Some require a passing grade of 70% on their exam then you are immediately qualified as a certified personal trainer. All certifications require payment, ranging from as low as $399 up to $1299.

Let’s compare these qualifications with my Bachelors of Science degree in Exercise Science from Towson University. Towson website directly states, “The major in Exercise Science is intended to examine the relationship between exercise and human performance and the role of physical activity in the promotion of healthy lifestyles. Exercise science consists of several overlapping disciplines, including biomechanics, exercise physiology and biochemistry, growth and development, exercise nutrition, measurement and evaluation, and exercise psychology. The program of study is designed to provide an effective blend of classroom instruction and practical experience. The program is intended to prepare qualified individuals for careers in clinical, corporate, commercial, and/or community exercise/wellness settings as well as to prepare students for graduate study in related fields.”

Now, let’s take a look at the program requirements that it took me hours, days, weeks, months and years studying, not to mention thousands of dollars, in order to acquire a formal degree in Exercise Science.
The requirements for the major in Exercise Science include a minimum of 39 units of Kinesiology (KNES) courses and 26-27 units of courses outside of KNES. The specific requirements for the major in Exercise Science are as follows: