Going the Distance
This joint report by RSPH and ukactive focuses on the exercise professional workforce and how it can play an enhanced role in supporting the public’s health
There are approximately 57,000 members of the exercise professional workforce (EPW) in the UK and they represent roles such as fitness instructors, group exercise instructors and personal trainers working outside of sporting contexts and within the fitness industry
The aim of this report was to gain an understanding of the opportunities and barriers for this enhanced public health role through parallel research with the gym-going public and the EPW itself.
The insights were derived from a survey of 858 gym and leisure centre users, a survey of 163 frontline exercise professionals, and a focus group of 16 senior learning and development professionals working in the fitness industry.
Key findings from the report include:
- The overwhelming majority of exercise professionals (85%) already talk to their clients about wider health and wellbeing issues beyond physical fitness, so a critical first step is to ensure advice already being delivered is evidence-based and effective
- There is strong appetite from professionals and the public alike for a greater public health role for the EPW, with 81% of exercise professionals saying they would be willing to deliver advice on a broader range of health issues, and a significant proportion of the public saying they would be comfortable receiving health advice from personal trainers (83%) and group exercise leaders (74%)
- The main barriers identified by professionals to this enhanced role are lack of strong links with local health professionals (66%), limited financial support for training (58%), and communication skills (56%). The main barriers and concerns expressed by the public include a lack of understanding and confidence in exercise professionals’ training and qualifications, the evidence-base of advice, concerns over privacy and confidentiality, and a general sense that some issues are simply either too personal for ‘safe space’ of the gym/leisure centre environment or outside of an exercise professionals remit and expertise
- There is some support among the public for the co-location of health services within fitness facilities, primarily smoking cessation services (51% would be comfortable with this) and GP drop-in services (53% would be comfortable)
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To support the EPW's development, RSPH is waiving the joining fee for Associate membership, representing a saving of £35. To take up this great offer, simply quote the discount code EPW when prompted on the online form.
of exercise professionals talk to their clients about wider health and wellbeing issues beyond physical fitness
There are approximately
members of the exercise professional workforce in the UK
of exercise professionals say they would be willing to deliver advice on a broader range of health issues
The report's recommendations
To enable greater utilisation of the EPW as part of the wider public health workforce, this report makes the following recommendations:
- The Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA) to finalise robust professional standards for all exercise professionals in the UK, incorporating a broader public health focus
- Establishment and promotion of a public health information and resource hub for exercise professionals
- Rigorous data protection and confidentiality procedures to be implemented in all fitness facilities
- Development and deployment of standardised health screening tools across the fitness industry
- Piloting of exercise classes aimed at improving mental wellbeing
- Continued and strengthened efforts to diversify the EPW, especially its age profile
- Local health professionals and authorities to build and maintain stronger links with fitness facilities
- Health professionals to increase the use of exercise referral schemes
- Extension of the ‘Healthy Living’ concept to fitness facilities, including the training of Health Champions
- Embedding the co-location of smoking cessation and GP drop-in services in fitness facilities, building on Sport England’s community wellness hub model
RSPH qualifications for the exercise professional workforce
The report also highlighted the need for the EPW to be able to effectively communicate health and wellbeing advice and support to their clients.
RSPH has a suite of qualifications that enable the development of effective communication skills for a range of health and wellbeing issues.
- Level 2 Award in Encouraging a Healthy Weight and Healthy Eating
- Level 2 Award in Improving the Public’s Health
- Level 2 Award in Supporting Behaviour Change (Health and Wellbeing)
- Level 2 Award in Supporting Smoking Cessation
- Level 2 Award in Understanding Emotional Wellbeing
- Level 2 Award in Understanding Health Improvement
- Level 2 Award in Understanding Mental Wellbeing