2. Misrepresentation of Ability and Knowledge. At this point in our profession, anyone who has a business card printed can be a personal trainer. While this mentality is difficult to eliminate, personal ethics should motivate us to further our education. Continually advancing our knowledge through certifications, specialty courses and academic degrees will increase our confidence in what we know and our understanding of what we don't.
Here's a case in point. On a television talk show, I saw a panel of "fitness experts" consisting of several trendy and well-publicized trainers and an exercise physiologist, Nicki Rippee, Ph.D. In response to a woman who skated professionally and who asked a question about limiting the size of her thighs, one panelist suggested if the woman stretched more, she could elongate her thigh muscles and reduce their thickness.
Fortunately, Rippee explained to the woman that her ability to develop muscle tissue to that extent was in part hormonal, due to genetics, and was also the very reason she was of the caliber to be a professional skater.
All the commercial success in the world cannot replace correct information. As professionals, we must hold ourselves accountable for what we say if we are to be perceived as credible.
3. Making False Claims About Products. Personal trainers must be careful not to misrepresent products. The "infomercial" mentality is alive and well and certain to continue fooling the public for only $29.95. Endorsing a product by saying it "helps strengthen the abdominal muscles" is long way from stating that the revolutionary gadget will burn fat and reduce inches.
Likewise, selling products available through multilevel marketing may be damaging to a personal trainer's credibility. The driving force behind this very successful marketing approach is financial reward for the sellers, regardless of the quality of the product. In the health care business, this could be perceived as a conflict of interest. After all, how valuable can the advice of the trainer be when the client can attain the same information from a plumber, an accountant or a cashier at the local grocery store?
IDEA Code of Ethics
As a member in good standing of IDEA, the international association of fitness professionals, I will do my utmost to:
1. Provide qualified instruction to all participants.
a. Screen health and exercise history of all participants and establish individual fitness goals. (At least have participants fill out a basic health history form.)
b. Offer modified exercise options for students with different fitness levels or special needs (i.e., demonstrate low-impact or beginner options).
c. Incorporate new research in exercise science into programs.
d. Be knowledgeable in first aid and emergency procedures. (Maintain CPR certification.)
e. Accurately represent my qualifications and make every effort to recommend other professionals in areas outside my expertise.
2. Provide a safe exercise environment.
a. Maintain a clean, well-lit and ventilated facility that meets all governmental regulations and insurance guidelines. (IDEA recommends 34 square feet per participant in fitness classes.)
b. Maintain all equipment according to manufacturers' instructions.
c. Establish emergency systems for all staff.
3. Stay educated on the latest research and exercise techniques.
a. Pursue continuing education.
b. Facilitate continuing education of staff.
c. Meet the national standards for instructor knowledge.
d. Obtain specialized training for teaching special populations.