Should fitness industry be regulated? bill seeking licensure of trainers prompts dialogue

Feb 28, 2016
Fitness practitioners from the country's top facilities are split on a bill seeking to establish a Board of Fitness Professionals to set up a strict process for certification or licensure of exercise facilities.

THIRTY eight of Metro Manila’s most notable fitness practitioners gathered in a ground-breaking dialogue at the Microtel Inn and Suites in Libis to discuss their stand on the proposed Fitness Professional Licensing Act that aims to regulate the fitness industry.

Rep. Alfredo Vargas III filed House Bill 6378 last January which he explains to Men’s Health Philippines is to protect the industry’s clients or consumers by establishing a Board of Fitness Professionals to set up a strict process for certification or licensure of exercise facilities.

It also requires applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in physical education, exercise science or similar courses to be eligible. Check out the entire bill here.

The bill’s strict provisions and ambiguity has driven the metro’s leading fitness practitioners — from the academe, big gym chains, functional centers, small studios — to initiate a pioneering talk on forming a unified stand and voice, many in agreement that such legislation in its current form will only do more harm than good.

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“The Fitness industry is dynamic, it keeps up with the times. From the advent of commercial types of gyms to more functional ones, and now we have dance merging in with fitness. We also have recreation coming in, like rock climbing. That’s maybe a problem but this diversity could be a strength. That’s why we go back to what is the fitness industry before we discuss regulation,” said Eski Ripoll, former strength and conditioning coach of Far Easterb University who’s now focused on sports training programs for public schools.

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“I’ll give credit to the bill kasi may initiative. It pushes you to ask your trainers if they’re certified, licensed, or not. But it’s too broad, I just like its vision,” added Lia Roque, former strength and conditioning coach of the national softball team.

The group agrees on the need to protect the clients and help make the fitness industry more credible. Some, though, point out that there are measures already in place to achieve those goals without need of government intervention.

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Linzi Arellano-Co of Pure Pilates notes the system of certifying trainers that communities like yoga and CrossFit already employ to safeguard safe practices.

“The bill is too general, very vague. Besides, we’re capable of self-regulating,” she said.

Edward Madrid, a personal trainer, points to the client who should also take responsibility for their own welfare. “As a consumer you have to research din, it’s up to you to be diligent enough to find out if the instructor is really qualified to help you get your goal.

"If the goal is to protect the consumer, the consumer should also be diligent enough to research than pass the bill to regulate everybody,” he said.

But physical therapist Rheysonn Cornilla of Movement Performance MNL points out there are problematic cases that make the case for regulation necessary.

“There are clients who come to coaches because they just want to submit to a person of authority in a particular field. And at this time with social media, you actually can’t discern who’s the real expert anymore,” he bared.

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Lee Villanueva of Movement Performance MNL added: “Many consumers don’t know what a proper form is when lifting weights. They just want to lose weight, look good.

“We have consumers who go to someone with the thought of becoming better, healthier pero napapasama. We have cases of people with injuries who come to credible people, with the proper background, but unfortunately they still got worse. So paano yung qualified pero nagpapalala ng clients diba? We have that problem as well.”

However, Vince Peters, health club manager at Solaire Hotel and Casino, pointed out what most in the room agree with: “This bill will not [address any of] that. Not in its current form.”

“But the whole point of this dialogue is to try and come up with something that will. But it took this bill to bring us all together. And what we’re trying to do here is pool our ideas based on hundreds of years of experience in the industry just inside this room to come up with a better foundation on what we want to achieve, which is to protect the consumer and make our industry more credible,” he added.

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The entire dialogue took more than three hours total, and despite it being a productive meeting of the minds, they agree they still have a long way to go.

“Regardless if the bill passes or not, I think one day somebody will come up with a bill similar to this so it’s timely that we get our act together,” said Jim Saret, head of the Philippine Olympic Committee strength and conditioning program.

“I’ve been trying to help certify the national coaches, and magulo. Kung sila magulo, mas mahirap pa tayo. Are we in a position to tell the lawmakers something? Not right now, but we can be if we organize and unify, and tell them ang ginagawa nila is not something we agree with, then we become a voice they might listen to. But we created something here. This is a good start, a positive start,” he added.

The group doesn’t intend to wait and see what happens with HB 6378 before acting. Next on their agenda is to set up more dialogues and help form a comprehensive definition of the fitness industry from their own groups and communities, which itself is a hard task but one worth the trouble, according to Co.

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“Everybody came because everybody felt threatened by the bill. What are they going to do to our industry. For now, mahirap rin yang unity sa kanya-kanyang grupo, yoga, CrossFit, I doubt it," Co said.

"Pero we have a good cause now to unite and the fact that everybody’s here, intently listening to everyone despite it being 10 PM and some haven’t eaten dinner, that says a lot. Let’s use what we have, post pictures, make people aware that we are unifying and hopefully it snowballs,” she ended.

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Fitness practitioners from the country's top facilities are split on a bill seeking to establish a Board of Fitness Professionals to set up a strict process for certification or licensure of exercise facilities.
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