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Code of Ethics

Code of Ethics | April Merritt | Exam Preparation Blog | 1/4/2010


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As a fitness professional, our clients come to us for advice on a wide range of subjects. They’ve got questions about how to lose that extra 5 pounds, when should they increase the weight on the bench press, do those new tennis shoes really help tone your backside, and should they be taking supplements to beef up, just to name a few. When preparing to become an ACE certified professional, it is important to study up on the topics and code of ethics covered under the professional responsibility umbrella.

The ACE Code of Ethics can be found both on the web and in your manuals in Appendix A. A lot of what is written can be considered general common sense – “Provide safe and effective instruction” and “Maintain the confidentiality of all client information.”  Both things we are already aware of (bonus points for asking yourself…how do I maintain confidentiality – it’s not as easy as it seems when people get to talking).

But some other items under the code of ethics aren’t always so cut and dried, and these are often the items that show up on test questions. Take “Refer participants to more qualified health or medical professionals when appropriate.” You might ask yourself, when is it appropriate? Page 8 in the ACE Personal Trainer 4th edition Manual has a great chart of what fitness professionals DO and DO NOT. That table is reprinted from an IDEA Health & Fitness Association’s Opinion Statement (nice PDF reference for those of you who don’t have the PT Manual).

We refer on to qualified health or medical professionals when there is a need for a diagnosis or to treat a disease or injury.  A client you believe to be anorexic should be referred on to a health care provider for follow up and further referral. A client who is interested in supplements to boost their energy should be referred on to a licensed dietitian for discussion of dietary needs. Knowing when it’s appropriate to refer on, and when the ‘issue’ is something you are qualified to handle is a bit of a learned skill.

On the dos and don’ts list in the personal trainer manual, you see that we as fitness professionals don’t ‘counsel’ – but instead coach and provide general information. Counseling implies more of a therapeutic type relationship. This concept relates to the Code of Ethics item which states “establish and maintain clear professional boundaries”.  Easy to say on paper, but not always the easiest thing to do. We want to listen to our clients, empathize with their troubles, and figure out why things aren’t working out for them – especially if it affects regular attendance at the gym. The challenge comes in establishing that line between trainer and friend. Being friendly and professional at the same time.

When you are preparing to take your certification exam you may notice that the “Professional Responsibilities” domain is the smallest of the four domains. However, it can be the domain that raises the most questions. Leading an ethical and professional career as an ACE certified professional is something that takes careful thought and preparation. The material in your manual is only the first step.

Questions? Contact one of our Education Consultants at 1-888-825-3636 x782.