What you may not know.
Some wonder why, before launching our Personal Trainer Certification Program, we did not seek approval from an accrediting body such as the NCCA, NBFE, IHRSA or other organizations. The fact is, we researched this area very well. We have discovered that none of the aforementioned companies are officially recognized on either the federal or state level. With all due respect to the individuals who operate these companies, we do not believe they truly provide a public service.
There is a major debate going on today within the fitness industry as to which accrediting body should be the "one and only". ACE believes it's NCCA, while others like ISSA believe in NBFE (partly because the two companies were established by the same individual). Nonetheless, we have carefully considered each of these two accrediting bodies, amongst others, and have found inconsistencies in terms of the program requirements accepted by each. We have evaluated the different certification companies within each accrediting body's list of "approved programs" and have been confused with the wide range of criteria, exam structures, formats, curriculum and program development. There really didn't seem to be an educational standard. If there was one, it was not shared by all that were listed as approved programs.
The most popular accrediting body is NCCA, (created by the NOCA - no longer in business). By their own admission, "Certification organizations that submit their programs for accreditation are evaluated based on the process and products, not the content.", even they seem to lack what most agree should be their primary concern. Unfortunately, a major part of the "process" is the requirement of a "registration fee", which can total thousands of dollars. Although their accreditation seals can be seen "proudly" displayed on most personal trainer certification company websites, there is no clear definition as to what this really means. The premise from which they were obtained is questionable at best.
The second most popular accrediting body is NBFE. They are the latest addition to the "accreditation industry". Sal Arria is the president of NBFE. He is also the co-founder and CEO of ISSA, one of our competitors. This is the most blatant disregard for fairness we have discovered thus far. This obvious conflict of interest is not known by most individuals because it is not posted anywhere on either the NBFE website or ISSA's. Competitors simply cannot be trusted to publish 'professional opinions' about one another. If you walk into a Honda dealership, they will not praise Ford for its quality, service or reliability because they are competitors. Whether or not Ford cars and trucks are of high quality or may come with great service is beside the point, due to the bias nature of the opinion being offered.
In the end, it was the "registration fee" and the lack of educational evaluation that convinced us the personal trainer accreditation system is broken. The acceptance of any type of annual "registration fee" casts a shadow of uncertainty as to the true reason certification programs are granted approval. The presence of any sort of relationship (especially a financial one) creates natural bias. It is somewhat like having a fitness contest judged by only one person, whom happens to be married to one of the contestants. Guess who he is going to pick?
However honorable the intentions of these particular companies are, we find it difficult to believe they could remain unbiased to a certification company that has just forked over thousands of dollars in fees. Certification company owners would be upset to learn of their accreditation denial, after their check has been cashed. They would most likely pursue legal action or at least request a refund of their money. It doesn't seem likely that an accreditation company could allow this to happen, on a frequent basis, particularly when the registration fees are their sole source of revenue.
Accrediting bodies should provide unbiased, articulate and useful information to the public they claim to serve. Minimally, there should be an effort to get whatever helpful information they possess out to the public; for what purpose does it serve if no one knows about it? The validation of their value is left to the client. NBFE advises, "simply ask your trainer if they passed the national boards!". This type of information gathering is unrealistic. Most clients are not made aware of the fact that the NBFE (or NCCA for that matter) even exists. Most personal training clients will not ask their trainer to prove he/she is certified. Do any of us ask our car mechanic if he/she is ASE Certified? It is assumed the professional is qualified if he/she is employed.
We take this issue very seriously and ask that those interested in this matter write their congressperson. We believe the NIH should establish an agency to oversee the fitness industry; in particular the personal trainers and companies, like ours, that certify them. The NIH is the largest health and fitness related organization in the United States. They are a government body with an oversight committee and are held accountable by us, the taxpayers. Because of this, the NIH is well positioned to act. It employs thousands of exercise physiologist, medical doctors, chiropractors, dieticians and physical therapist, all of whom posses a relevant expertise in evaluating personal trainer certification programs.
Keep in mind, accreditation means officially recognized. It is our belief that these companies, which have assumed a role in accrediting personal trainer certification programs, are using that term very loosely. As we all know, officials are not supposed to accept bribes. That, essentially, is what certification companies are paying to have their programs 'evaluated and approved'.
The next time you see an 'accreditation' seal, question if it was paid for and look into it yourself. You might be surprised by what you learn... we certainly were.
In the meantime, please write your representative in an effort to improve the guidelines associated with the U.S. personal training industry.