One of ICREPs key principle objectives is to support the development of national registration bodies for exercise professionals.
On this page you will find a list of resources that both provides an overview of the best practice to how registers should operate, as well as resources to assist registers to be set up and/or operate.
Best practice information
As with so many things, there is no need to re-invent the wheel. Registration systems have been set up in many industries, and in the case of the fitness/exercise industry there are many good examples of successful industry lead national registration bodies operating, which are part of ICREPs. The sections below share many of the experiences of these registers, together with general information on how registers can best operate.
First and foremost, registers should be industry driven (i.e. established by the exercise industry, not to it), and independent from training providers (this is important as for a true register to operate, it can not both deliver education and ‘check’ it). While governments can, should (and in some countries do) recognise registers, the standards on which they are based, are best driven from the industry that it serves, and not from outside the industry.
A useful first question to ask when considering setting up a register is ‘Should there be standard for individuals providing exercise advice to the public?’ If the answer is yes or maybe, then a further discussion/consultation can take place as to the need/want for an industry registration system, who/what it would register, and how it would operate.
Why do it?
While often the initial discussion that takes place when registration bodies are first discussed focuses on what the standards are for registration, a more useful first step is a discussion on the merits/benefits of a registration body, which includes:
- assisting in global recognition of exercise professionals (for employers – a simple way of verifying those that are from abroad, and for employees – a simple way of being recognised globally)
- recognition by allied industries, especially the health industry
- a simple robust way of ensuring that exercise professionals:
- are appropriately qualified, (and therefore currently competent) AND
- continue to maintain or improve their skills by continued education or professional development AND
- meet other important national requirements (such as first aid or CPR) and also follow an industry set Code of Ethical Conduct
- providing self regulation before Governments or other agencies force regulation on the exercise industry
- provide a mechanism of communicating directly with exercise professionals (to, for example, obtain feedback on an important industry development, or provide them with information on upcoming education opportunities)
- ability to offer economy of scale benefits to exercise professionals (such as insurance)
Once there is a general agreement to have standards for exercise professionals, then the next step is considering how a registration body can assist in this process. Then a discussion can take place as to what registration categories and levels there should be, what the standards for each are can be drafted, and a consultation process developed to refine/approve them. Note: When developing registration levels, it is much more useful to link them to actual occupation(s) e.g. ‘Personal Trainer‘ rather than levels of education.
Who should drive setting up a register?
While ultimately, any person or organisation helping to set up a register needs to have the resources and passion to do it, it is important to understand the end outcome of the process. In particular, the structure of the register, and its independence from training providers and exercise facilities should be a key outcome of any development process. For that reason, while it is important that training providers and employers should support the setting up of a register (after all it benefits them too), steps must be taken early on to ensure the register establishes and retains its independence as soon as is practically possible.
key criteria that the register should meet include:
- Non profit legal entity
- Independent (see note 1) from training providers and exercise facility operaters
- Significant industry (see note 2) support
- Training providers can, and should, be consulted about many elements of the register, but must not have any significant interest or control of its operations. So for example training providers may have an advisory function to the register, but must not own or direct the register in any way. Similarly it is essential that exercise facilities (employers) are consulted about many aspects of the register’s operations and the standards that it uses, but the register itself must not operate exercise facilities, nor be controlled by them.
- Industry includes employers, employees and those operating in a self employed capacity.
Developing National Standards
One essential element of any regulation body is having agreed standards that an person/organisation applying for acceptance onto a register is measured against. While some countries have a national qualification framework that can be used for this purpose, in many others this structure does not exist, and therefore a set of standards will need to be developed for each registration category/level. In such cases, the Global Template Standards that ICREPs has developed may be a useful starting point. ICREPs provides these Global Templates Standards free to its members.
ICREPs has developed a full list of common standards that are used by ICREPs members for the common registration levels (group exercise, gym instructor, personal trainer). While it is up to each ICREPs member to set their own standards at a level appropriate to their country, this list serves to identify which standards are common in almost all countries operating registers. This Global Template Standards may assist organisations considering setting up a national register and could form the basis of a consultation with the industry.
You may download ICREPs global standards here. Note: The standards are provided free to assist the development of new national registers intending to join ICREPs, but remain (c) ICREPs.
ICREPs global standards include:
- Group Exercise
- Gym Instructor/Exercise consultant
- Personal Trainer
A question that has arisen in many of ICREPs members countries is ‘Should exercise facilities also be registered?’. While some ICREPs members choose to register facilities as well, some choose to only register exercise professionals, although in these cases, many have a link via the national industry association into the association’s code of conduct with some sort of statement that supports or even mandates their members to ensure their exercise professional staff are registered.
Whether or not facility registration is needed, valued, and even feasible, will very much depend on the national structures already in place.
A lesson that can be learnt from other countries that have started to develop facility registrations is that it is important to remember the objective of any facility registration, principally to ensure the safety of those using it (i.e. members of the public), and it is important that any facility requirements focus on this, rather than just a star rating system, that may not address this core issue.
Registration vs Qualifications
The key distinction between qualified and registered, is that obtaining a qualification is a one off process, that in itself may or may not meet a required standard to perform a role/job. Registration is an ongoing (i.e. repeated) process that verifies that an individual is fit for purpose and able to perform a role/job. In effect there are three requirements to an individuals registration:
- Initial requirements, including meeting the agreed qualification training standards, plus any other requirements such as first aid
- Keeping up to date – many registers use a points system to ensure this meets a particular level of engagement. In addition, many registers require a current CPR and/or First Aid certificate. Some registers also require insurance for some/all registration levels. This varies between countries.
- Agreeing to abide by a Code of Ethical Conduct. This code outlines expectations of exercise professionals in their behaviour and professional conduct.
An individual who meets, and continues to meet, all of these requirements may then apply for registration with the registration body. In cases where a Code of Ethical Conduct is breached, it is possible that a person is removed from the register at any time, but in most cases their registration will only lapse when they either no longer complete the required ongoing education, or if they choose not to re-register.
ICREPs realises that for many organisations, the idea of setting up a national register is seen as beneficial, but they are not sure where to start. This is where expert help can assist. ICREPs can put you in contact with individual and organisations that have been involved in setting up registers in multiple countries and can both provide guidance to the process to instigate, as well as resources to support operations. For more information, contact ICREPs.
Resources available to ICREPs members
Organisations considering setting up a national register will benefit from additional resources from ICREPs if they are accepted as a member (or a provisional member) . These include:
The following resources are design to assist national registration bodies in operating and/or setting up their register:
- Global standards templates (this is a list of common standards that most/all of the national registers use in some form for their various registration categories and levels). While ICREPs does not mandate any standards on its members, for countries without any national standards, this document may be useful as a starting point for discussions/consultation with the industry in your country. ICREPs has common global standards for the following registration categories:
- Group Exercise both choreographed and pre-choreographed (see sample above under global standards)
- Gym Instructor / Exercise Consultant
- Personal Trainer
- Members of ICREPs also have access to support from other ICREPs members. As all ICREPs members have set up, and now operate, a successful national register for exercise professionals, lessons can be shared, as can best practice systems. ICREPs members work collaboratively on many levels, including sharing day to day operational ideas with other members.
- ICREPs is in the process of setting up a guide for organisations considering setting up up a national registration system for exercise professionals. his guide will cover all the ideas discussed on this page in more detail, as well as other essential elements such as:
- Legal structures for registers (setting up a company / board etc)
- Consultation process – how to ensure the register is supported from day 1
- Ongoing education requirements – best practice processes
- How to develop a Code of Ethical Conduct for exercise professionals
- How to engage with the health sector using REPs as a tool
Note: An earlier version of the guide is available here (free to any organisation considering becoming a member of ICREPs)