An epidemic of epic proportions is killing Americans.
Eighty million Americans are obese. Eighty-six percent of American health care spending goes to treating chronic diseases. These include “heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and arthritis.” In other words, they’re lifestyle-related diseases.
Calculating the full death toll of lifestyle-related diseases is impossible. Alcohol kills 88,000 lives yearly. Tobacco kills more than 480,000 yearly. Obesity is estimated to kill 112,000 yearly.
At least 680,000 Americans will die this year just from just obesity, alcohol and tobacco. The total number dying from lifestyle-related diseases must be significantly higher.
And it’s getting worse. Experts predict that by 2030, 165 million Americans will be obese. By 2050, 100 million Americans may suffer from diabetes. Consider the implications for America’s military readiness. Or for the federal budget as a whole. The CDC has already identified an “unsustainable growth in health care costs.” The Congressional Budget Office concurs.
Who, in this environment, would limit Americans’ access to fitness? And who would artificially inflate the price of fitness training?
The American College of Sports Medicine and National Strength and Conditioning Association are supporting legislation that would do both. Both organizations are promoting fitness licensure laws. We can assume that ACSM and NSCA’s largest sponsor, PepsiCo, supports these laws as well.
What is Licensure?
In licensure, the government bans the general public from practicing a profession. Only those who pay the government money, meet the government’s chosen criteria, and acquire a government license are allowed to practice the profession. Anyone else who tries to perform the service will face fines and possibly a jail sentence.
For example, in order to become an interior designer in Florida, an individual “must achieve six years of education and experience and pass all three portions of the National Council for Interior Design Qualification exam. There is a $125 biennial renewal fee, and continuing education is also required.”
As for fitness, Washington, D.C., passed the nation’s first law requiring personal trainer licensure in 2014, the Omnibus Health Regulation Amendment Act of 2013. The DC government is still reviewing the bill.
How Would Licensure Affect Fitness?
Licensure will make fitness training more expensive and less accessible.
From the perspective of personal trainers, they will be forced to pay more money in fees and certifications than they would have otherwise. Where licensure has passed in other fields, it has often lowered the supply and increased the cost of a service. We thus reasonably expect that a fitness licensure law will make fitness training more expensive, and rarer.
This hurts the poor in two ways. For one, it creates another obstacle they must overcome to create a career in fitness. Second, the additional fines and certifications will reach potential consumers of fitness in the form of higher prices for gyms and classes.
Licensure bills vary from state to state, but Florida Senate Bill 1616 would convict unlicensed personal trainers of a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.
If the Florida legislature passes SB 1616, then a CrossFit Level 1 trainer who teaches someone how to squat will face more jail time than a driver convicted of a DUI.
Who Will Oversee Licensure?
While it may sound pleasant for personal trainers to become better educated, personal training licensure faces another dilemma. Who is qualified to regulate fitness?
Only participants in the fitness industry have the technical knowledge to regulate the profession, yet all practitioners have private interests that directly conflict with the public interest. What’s to prevent a licensing board of fitness professionals from becoming a cartel that crushes competition and maximizes its own profits?
Many proposed licensing bills accept NCCA-accredited certifications like the ACSM and NSCA’s, yet not CrossFit’s ANSI-accredited Level 1 Certificate Course.
NSCA can’t identify a parallel squat. Should it therefore become a government-empowered provider of fitness education? If NSCA already publishes fraudulent studies to hurt its competition, how would it behave if it was granted governmental power?
What about ACSM? Should Pepsi- and Coca-Cola-sponsored scientists receive governmental sanction?
And what about CrossFit’s 11,000 affiliates and 100,000 CrossFit Level 1 trainers? Why should the government force CrossFit affiliate owners and Level 1 trainers to pay for training they wouldn’t choose on their own?
What could academics who can’t teach a half squat have to offer a CrossFit affiliate owner who has already taught hundreds of clients to squat to depth?
In contrast with CrossFit, NSCA and ACSM’s certifications don’t require in-person education or practical assessments. CrossFit’s Level 3 Certification requires 750 hours of practice, plus passing multiple tests and receiving in-person training and corrections.
Where is the Push for Licensure Coming From?
State governments may expect to benefit from licensure, as long as registration fees exceed administration costs. However, if licensure hurts the overall growth of the state’s fitness industry, and impairs the public’s health, will it be worth it in the long run?
Unscrupulous politicians will benefit more clearly, with lobbyists’ dollars. The ACSM has lobbied for licensure since at least 2010, when it wrote that, “all of the pieces of the licensure puzzle are falling in place.”
NSCA Education Director Nick Clayton wrote in Fitness Trainer Magazine last year that “the next five years will bring a shift towards licensure in the personal training industry, which will likely require personal trainers to earn an accredited certification.” Clayton emphasizes that NSCA certifications will count for licensure, but not the CrossFit Level 1 Seminar. How convenient.
What concerns motivate the push for licensure? Licensure advocates say they want to protect the public from injuries and unqualified trainers. If licensure is in the public’s interest, why is the most interest in licensure coming from narrow industry interests, not the public? If injuries inflicted by personal trainers are such a crisis, why aren’t licensure advocates citing data?
The Council of the District of Colombia Committee on Health and Human Services cited just “anecdotal reports of injuries.” David Herbert, a lawyer who has worked for both the ACSM and NSCA, wrote a book promoting licensure. Its title is “The Personal Trainer: A Tale of Pain, Gain, Greed and Lust.” Herbert’s book is a work of fiction.
How can anecdotal concerns and fictional injuries outweigh the certain fact that millions of Americans are dying from poor nutrition and movement choices? Surely the certain, overwhelming costs of a sedentary lifestyle outweigh the limited risks of fitness training.
Licensure will severely constrain competition in the fitness-education industry. Most licensure bills would remove the need for ACSM and NSCA to compete with ANSI-accredited courses, such as CrossFit’s. A CrossFit affiliate owner may be forced to also take an NSCA, ACSM or similar certification, even if he finds the material useless to his practice.
These licensure bills allow ACSM and NSCA to profit from CrossFit affiliates without providing value to the affiliates’ clients or owners. By constraining the competition, these bills will make American fitness training less effective and more expensive.
What Can CrossFit Affiliates Do?
Fortunately, CrossFit identified the licensure threat early. No bill has gone into effect yet. And only D.C. has passed a bill so far. Stay tuned to this blog and CrossFit.com for updates.
CrossFit’s 11,000 affiliates form the perfect basis for opposition. Here are the relevant lobbyists and politicians.
If just a small fraction of the CrossFit community rallies together, contacts these individuals and expresses their thoughts on licensure, we can stop these bills from being enacted into law.
Omnibus Health Regulation Amendment Act of 2013: https://legiscan.com/DC/bill/B20-0153/2013
Rayna Smith, Esq.: (202) 724-8170, firstname.lastname@example.org
Chairman Phil Mendelson: (202) 724-8032, email@example.com
SB 731: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2012/Bills/S1000/731_I1.HTM
Senator Paul Sarlo: (201) 804-8118, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nick Clayton: 719.632.6722, ext.140, email@example.com