Being certified is imperative to safely and effectively design fitness programs that help clients achieve their goals.
The fitness industry continues to grow by leaps and bounds. These days, now more than ever before, people are recognizing the importance of keeping their bodies fit. No longer is exercise seen simply as a means to look better in the mirror or help athletes perform better in sports. Today, individuals from every way of life are turning to the gym to improve their overall health, wellness, and daily function in a variety of ways.
In fact, the CDC recommends regular exercise as one of the most important interventions for improving health, reducing the incidence of chronic illness, and ensuring a long and happy life (1). Because of this, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, “fitness trainers and instructors” are projected to have a faster-than-average job growth outlook of 10% through 2026 in the United States (2). And for many countries around the world, that demand is even higher!
In today's culture it's vital that personal trainers are certified. Below we've compiled some of the reasons why it has become so important.
Pop Culture Spreads “Fake News”
Fitness as a topic within pop culture has exploded in recent years. Exercise and nutrition-related content now reaches millions of viewers online on a daily basis, with even more still through traditional media outlets like television, radio, and print. This makes the problem of what and whom to trust continue to compound.
In fact, fitness media is one of the guiltiest culprits of spreading “fake news” today. So-called “influencers” endlessly preach fads that worked for them as an effective solution for anybody, often with little-to-no basis in scientific research.
What’s better for me, carbs or fats? Should I do HIIT-style workouts or long, slow cardio? Should I lift light for high reps or heavy for just a few?
The answer to all these questions (and many more just like them) is simply, YES! So many options for fitness improvement exist depending on each individual’s fitness goals and health needs.
Take something as basic as stretching, for example. Some preach that stretching before activity is bad, reduces performance, and should never be done. Others sing the praises of pre-activity stretching for its injury prevention benefits. However, the growing body of research has shown both notions to be true. Each side of the argument has its time and place depending on the activity and what the individual hopes to accomplish (3-6).
But sadly, nuance and context have never led to a topic going viral, and substance frequently suffers for the sake of generating more clicks. The reality is that every person is unique and needs to evaluate their fitness needs individually, not go by whatever the latest popular trend seems to be when swiping and scrolling through social media platforms. One of the surest ways to accomplish that is to work with a fitness professional; specifically, a Certified Personal Trainer.
Credibility in an Unregulated Industry
There are currently no national or state licensing requirements for working as a personal trainer like there are for doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists, and athletic trainers. With no licensing requirements, anyone can claim to be a fitness professional and offer personal training services.
But fitness professionals are a growing and essential part of the allied health industry. So, how is someone to know whether the fitness professional they hired (or are simply following on social media) is, in fact, a truly qualified pro? The answer lies in accredited certification.
Here are some of the subjects that NASM Certified Personal Trainers are educated in:
- Basic exercises science
- Human movement science
- Fitness assessments
- Program design and the Optimum Performance Training (OPT) model
- Speed, agility, and quickness training
- Nutrition best practices
- Client interaction and professional development
In the absence of government oversight, the fitness industry has intrinsically self-regulated over the years. Reaching back to the 1980s, top gym owners and fitness managers needed a way to elevate their businesses above the competition amidst a wave of growth in the popularity of personal fitness.
Jack LaLane paved the way in the 50s and 60s, Arnold fanned the fire in the 70s (especially with the documentary Pumping Iron), and by a decade later the fitness industry was exploding. However, professionalism was missing from the space, with most “fitness professionals” simply being the guy in the gym who was the biggest and strongest.
Due to the need for practitioner credibility, a number of companies began to offer off-the-shelf vocational courses in fitness training. Similar to becoming an auto mechanic or veterinary assistant, these programs would allow someone with a high school diploma to learn the necessary knowledge and skills to start a fulfilling career without having to incur the high costs of attending a 4-year university. As the decades rolled on and education costs continued to skyrocket, this vocational-certification method of education has continued to grow in importance.
That competition at the practitioner level then grew to drive competition at the business level. Now, the agencies offering vocational programs needed a way to elevate their content above the growing field. So instead of waiting for the government to dictate the way forward through regulation, some companies (such as NASM) began voluntarily seeking accreditation for their programs through the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).
You can visit the Institute for Credentialing Excellence’s website for all the details on the accreditation process; but, long story short, this ensured that an elevated and standardized base of knowledge for the vocation would be presented and tested for (7).
Only the best of the best programs can earn accreditation, so a few certification companies rose to the top. Hiring managers now had a way to determine if an applicant really knew their stuff or if they had just been reading fitness magazines and watching sports. If someone could pass the exam from an accredited fitness education program, they could be trusted to have the right foundation of scientifically-validated knowledge to effectively work with clients in the gym.
Want to Become a Personal Trainer? Get an Accredited Certification!
Flash forward to today and having an accredited personal training certification – such as the NASM Certified Personal Trainer credential – has become industry standard. One simply cannot get hired as a personal trainer at a reputable gym without it. So, if you are interested in a career in fitness training but unsure about where to start, a program’s accreditation status should be the first box to check.
Choosing an accredited Certified Personal Trainer program guarantees that the entire breadth of knowledge presented is accurate and valid; thus, ensuring an optimal foundation in human anatomy and physiology, biomechanics, fitness training instruction, and client coaching techniques that help separate social media fiction from research-driven fact.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2019. About Physical Activity. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/about-physical-activity/index.html
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2019. Occupational Outlook Handbook, Fitness Trainers and Instructors. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/fitness-trainers-and-instructors.htm
3. Behm, D. G. (2018). The Science and Physiology of Flexibility and Stretching: Implications and Applications in Sport Performance and Health. London, UK: Routledge Publishers.
4. Behm, D. G., Blazevich, A. J., Kay, A. D., & McHugh, M. (2016). Acute effects of muscle stretching on physical performance, range of motion, and injury incidence in healthy active individuals: a systematic review. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab, 41(1), 1-11. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26642915. doi:10.1139/apnm-2015-0235
5. Behm, D. G., & Chaouachi, A. (2011). A review of the acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on performance. Eur J Appl Physiol, 111(11), 2633-2651. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21373870. doi:10.1007/s00421-011-1879-2
6. Kay, A. D., & Blazevich, A. J. (2012). Effect of acute static stretch on maximal muscle performance: a systematic review. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 44(1), 154-164. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21659901. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e318225cb27
7. Institute for Credentialing Excellence. 2019. NCCA Accreditation. Accessed online at https://www.credentialingexcellence.org/ncca