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Ethics in Fitness Training

author image A.L. Kennedy
A.L. Kennedy is a professional grant writer and nonprofit consultant. She has been writing and editing for various nonfiction publications since 2004. Her work includes various articles on nonprofit law, human resources, health and fitness for both print and online publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of South Alabama.
Ethics in Fitness Training
Fitness trainers have a professional responsibility to behave ethically. Photo Credit Andrew Bret Wallis/Digital Vision/Getty Images

In addition to the laws and regulations governing fitness training, professional fitness trainers are expected to abide by basic rules of ethics when training others. A trainer's employer or the professional organization through which he is accredited will often provide a specific code of ethics the trainer must follow. When a specific code of ethics is unavailable, trainers are nevertheless expected to abide by basic ethical rules, according to the National Sports Conditioning Association. These include obeying the law, accurately representing their credentials and not discriminating against potential clients.


Ethics is the practice of setting rules for right and wrong behavior, according to the University of Tennessee at Martin's Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Most professions expect their practitioners to avoid wrong actions and perform right ones, and many provide specific codes of ethics for their practitioners to turn to if they have a question about right or wrong behavior. Many codes of ethics for fitness trainers cover the same basic ethical points. For instance, the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the National Council on Strength and Fitness include in their codes of ethics a responsibility for trainers to avoid discriminating against their clients.


For fitness trainers, professional codes of ethics are available from organizations including the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the National Council on Strength and Fitness, the American Council on Exercise and, in the United Kingdom, the National Register of Personal Trainers. A trainer who is registered with or accredited by any one of these organizations is expected to follow that organization's code of ethics and to seek help from the organization or another member if she is confused about an ethical point. Trainers who work for a specific organization -- a gym, club or university pp may also be expected to follow their employer's code of ethics for personal trainers as well. For instance, Marquette University has its own code of ethics for athletic training.


Codes of ethics for fitness trainers generally cover the same basic points. These include avoiding discrimination when choosing, charging or working with clients; keeping the health and welfare of the client as a primary concern; complying with all laws related to your work as a personal trainer; and being honest about your credentials as a fitness trainer. Some ethics codes, including those adopted by the NSCA and the ACE, also explain how to report an ethics violation. Fitness trainers who work with athletes may also be expected to follow the ethics codes of the athletic organization that governs their athletes, such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association, according to Marquette University.

Continuing Education

Fitness trainers who are receiving a degree in the subject may be required to take an ethics class related to personal fitness. For instance, the National Academy of Sports Medicine, offers ethics classes for students seeking master's degrees in sports medicine, including specialized training for those studying sports psychology. NASM also offers continuing education materials for fitness trainers and sports medicine practitioners, such as a module on the ethics of using dietary supplements to promote an athlete's performance.


When choosing a fitness trainer, consider choosing one certified by a national fitness training organization, including the American Council on Exercise, or the National Council on Strength and Fitness. These trainers will be expected to follow their organization's ethics guidelines and may face sanctions from their organization if they don't. Sanctions for failing to follow ethics rules are usually tailored to the degree of the ethics violation, but may include suspension or revocation of a fitness trainer's credentials, according to the ACE.

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