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Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 07:50 GMT 08:50 UK
Unqualified staff hired by gyms
Man exercising
The fitness industry is one of the UK's growth sectors
Many gyms are prepared to employ instructors who have no formal qualifications, an investigation has found.

An undercover reporter from Health Which? applied for jobs at gyms around the country - making no secret of her lack of expertise.


People using gyms should be able to feel confident that fitness instructors have adequate training

Felicity Porritt
Health Which?
A survey by researchers posing as customers also revealed that one in eight gyms questioned had instructors who had not completed first aid training.

This is despite the fact that many people who attend gyms have underlying health problems such as heart disease or high blood pressure, increasing their risk of having medical problems during exercise.

The worst offenders, the magazine found, were gyms attached to hotels.

One Kent hotelier asked the undercover reporter which job she would like, while another said that lack of qualifications was "no hindrance" to working there.

First aid flaws

Big gym chains gave mixed responses although many did refuse to take on staff without qualifications.

However, independent gyms fared less well.

One Kent manager said that qualifications did not matter as long as the instructor was capable of giving induction sessions and using the equipment properly.

The survey of 50 gyms across the UK found all claiming to employ qualified instructors, although a third were unable or unwilling to say which qualifications they held.

When questioned about first aid, 12% admitted that not all instructors held training certificates.

In theory, a voluntary scheme for the fitness industry - the Register of Exercise Professions - which should help tighten up standards.

Felicity Porritt, from Health Which?, said: "People using gyms should be able to feel confident that fitness instructors have adequate training but our research has revealed that this is not the case.

"When you visit a gym you should ask the instructors what training they have had and how long it took."

'Not representative'

A spokesman for the Fitness Industry Association, said that the survey was flawed.

She said: "The research sampled only 50 fitness facilities out of a UK total of 6,500.

"Questions were directed at receptionists and administrative staff who would not necessarily have knowledge of instructor qualifications."

She added: "An interesting yardstick is a far more comprehensive survey conducted by Leisure and Hospitality Business just two months later.

"The Salary Survey 2002 shows that almost 60% of all fitness instructors and personal trainers have already signed up to or intend to join the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs)."

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Gill Higgins
"The fitness industry association says the study is too small"
See also:

19 Jul 02 | Features
26 Jun 02 | Wales
06 Jun 02 | Scotland
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