Although there are currently few laws and regulations governing fitness training, fitness trainers are expected to adhere to ethical standards of conduct and professionalism. A trainer's employer or the professional organization through which a trainer is certified will often provide a specific code of ethics. When a specific code of ethics is unavailable, trainers are nevertheless expected to abide by basic ethical rules, including obeying the law, accurately representing their credentials and not discriminating against clients.
Importance of Ethics in Fitness Training
Ethics is the practice of setting standards for right and wrong behavior. Most professions, especially those related to health, expect their practitioners to avoid wrong actions and perform right ones, and many provide specific codes of ethics for their practitioners to turn to if they have a question about right or wrong behavior.
Fitness trainers work to improve the health and well-being of their clients. This cannot be achieved unless trainers strive to protect the health and safety of their clients, abide by the law and respect the rights of all humans.
Furthermore, fitness training is a highly customer service-focused industry, in which the client's needs come first. Ensuring clients feel respected, valued and safe is at the heart of being a successful fitness trainer.
Fitness trainers who are certified by accredited agencies such as the American Council on Exercise or the National Strength and Conditioning Association are required to adhere to the particular organization's code of ethics. These codes are written and available to trainers and their clients.
Trainers who work for a specific organization -- a gym, club or university -- are expected to follow their certifying organization's code of ethics, as well as their employer's code of ethics. For example, athletic trainers who are members of the National Athletic Trainer's Association must abide by NATA's code of ethics as well as the school, hospital or other organization by which they are employed.
Codes of ethics for fitness trainers generally cover the same basic points. These include avoiding discrimination when choosing, charging or working with clients; keeping the health and welfare of the client as a primary concern; complying with all laws related to work as a fitness trainer; and being honest about credentials and abilities. Furthermore, trainers are required to not engage in any activity that would negatively affect the reputation of the certifying or governing agency.
When choosing a fitness trainer, look for one who is certified by an accredited national or international fitness training organization. These trainers will be expected to follow their organization's ethics guidelines and may face sanctions from their organization if they don't. Sanctions for failing to follow ethics rules are usually tailored to the degree of the ethics violation but may include suspension or revocation of a fitness trainer's credentials.