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Q & A

As an Exercise Professional, Why Should I be Concerned about Public Policy?

Public policy helps to set norms, practices and procedures in society. It affords an opportunity for each of us to affect change in areas that we are passionate about. As health and fitness professionals, we have the opportunity to change the way our nation thinks about health and wellness. It can also mean the development of exciting new possibilities in the way that exercise professionals practice and contribute to solving our nation’s healthcare challenges. Staying involved with public policy can mean an opportunity for you, as a professional, to help shape the future direction of your profession, expand employment opportunities and enhance the image of the profession.

Why Haven’t Exercise Professionals Been Given Greater Consideration as a Resource to Promote Active, Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors?

While most healthcare and public health professionals recognize the potential of the fitness industry and the exercise professional as an important resource in the community to provide expertise and leadership for physical activity and adopting more healthy lifestyles, there are still challenges that need to be addressed. Pervasive stereotypes about fitness professionals and membership-based fitness facilities still exist. Further, a lack of clear and easily understood standards to practice as a fitness professional and the relative scarcity of health outcome-focused programs available for individuals that are not members of facilities limit opportunities for referral from other health professionals. ACE believes that we can change how the profession and the industry are not only perceived, but also how we provide physical activity programs and services to earn the respect and recognition as a valued member of the broader health community.

Is Regulation Coming to the Fitness Industry? Should I Be Worried?

The exercise profession is rapidly evolving and is increasingly perceived as well-positioned for a leadership role in the adoption and maintenance of active, healthy lifestyles.

With the growing attention placed on the profession, there has been a corresponding increase in the scrutiny of professional qualification standards and business practices in the industry from policymakers. Over the past few years, a number of states have introduced legislation that would establish licensure requirements for personal trainers that are intended to enhance consumer protection. While most have not been successful, there is nothing to suggest that other states and jurisdictions will not introduce similar policy in the future.

ACE is working collaboratively with other organizations offering NCCA-accredited fitness certifications to ensure that any regulation/licensure requirements position the fitness professional for success. Some of the positive outcomes of regulation for exercise professionals could include:

  • Greater potential for fitness professionals to be formally recognized as healthcare professionals.
  • The opportunity to play a more significant role in health reform as a key provider of primary prevention services.
  • Enhanced recognition and respect for the leadership and expertise of the fitness professional.

How Can Communities Leverage Exercise Professionals to Promote Physical Activity in the Community?

Fitness professionals are anxious to work with communities to ensure that residents have plenty of opportunity to engage in safe, fun and structured physical activity. Community Wellness Coalitions are springing up all across the country. These groups reach across all sectors (schools, faith-based organizations, recreation and parks, hospitals, private nonprofits such as YMCAs and JCCs, etc.) to work collaboratively to make an active and healthy lifestyle an easy choice for their residents. Such coalitions would benefit from the participation of exercise professionals who are qualified to provide the leadership and expertise necessary to deliver physical activity and exercise programs that appeal to a broad range of participants and abilities.

Independent, professionally facilitated group physical activity is becoming increasingly popular in parks and other community green spaces, yet few recreation and parks departments have policies in place that sanction such activity. Even fewer promote and encourage the use of local public spaces for professionally facilitated programs that encourage community members to become more physically active. Establishing a shared-use policy can bring in needed revenue through the establishment of reasonable usage fees, protect residents by issuing permits to qualified individuals (such as those holding NCCA-accredited certifications), and protect the parks themselves by inclusion of specific usage standards.


From Our President

In my 14 years at ACE, I can’t remember a more interesting time for this organization or our industry. ACE is fortunate to see our organization stretched and tested as rapid changes occur in the way our nation thinks about health and fitness. We hold a unique opportunity to boldly lead.

ACE seeks an invitation for our professionals – health coaches, personal trainers, Medical Exercise Specialist and group fitness instructors – to a much larger table. The pressure that the obesity epidemic is placing on the nation’s healthcare system and economy is driving interest in new ways of tending to the health of our nation’s people. Our healthcare ecosystem is slowly beginning to acknowledge that prevention may indeed be the best answer.

It’s a tremendous opportunity. It’s time to reach beyond the gym walls and the long-committed fit and to bring our know-how to exponentially more people, those at risk of obesity and those already victims of it. With smart, science-based, sensitive programming, we can place far more people on the path to sustainable good health. This idea is new, different, and to some in our space, uncertain. Yet it is our new imperative.

About ACE

Founded in 1985, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a nonprofit organization committed to America's health and wellbeing. Over the past 30 years, we have become an established resource for health and fitness professionals, and the public, providing comprehensive, unbiased research and validating ourselves as the country's trusted authority on health and fitness.

Today, ACE is the largest nonprofit health and fitness certification, education and training organization in the world with more than 75,000 certified professionals who hold more than 77,000 ACE Certifications. With a long heritage in certification, education, training and public outreach, we are among the most respected organizations in the industry and a resource the public has come to trust for health and fitness education.

Learn More

ACE 2017 Impact Report Download » Get a more in-depth look at the work ACE has done in the past year, as well as the progress our country has made in responding to the obesity and chronic disease epidemics.