Washington, D.C. government officials are in the process of introducing new licensing regulations on personal trainers, which will require that personal trainers looking to break into the fitness industry either obtain a two-year degree or submit certification from a recognized fitness program.

The regulations are a result of last year’s Omnibus Health Regulation Amendment Act, which granted oversight of any possible regulations to the Board of Physical Therapy Licensing. This board will create draft regulations pending approval from other city government departments. Set to be released next month, any proposed regulations will also have to go through a public consultation process before they can be published as law and formally implemented.

The current proposal drafted by the Board would grandfather in those who have been personal trainers for more than two years, with new personal trainers feeling the most drastic effects of the new regulations.

This specific move, however, is being met with resistance by both gym owners and certain members of the D.C. City Council.

Graham King, founder and owner of local gym Urban Athletic Club, said details of the final regulations, such as new certification requirements for training activities as well as the possibility that the limitations may discourage newcomers to the industry.

“There’s so many different sorts of caveats,” King said. “[If there were regulations] maybe I wouldn’t have started the gym, gone into business. … These regulations [could] stop this 20-year-old, 22-year-old person from starting their dream.”

King added that he is worried about the possibility of the regulations spreading elsewhere in the country with D.C. as a precedent.

“D.C.’s a lot easier to try [to implement regulations], and once you have it done, you can take that and say, ‘Look it worked here, let’s go to every other state’,” King said.

King also expressed concern about the impact the regulations will have on his business and the rest of the local fitness industry.

“I’m going to get fewer people fit, or people are going to pay more money, so the customer pays more,” King said. “I can’t expand my business like I would, which means I’m not creating any jobs. So it’s hurting my own location; it’s hurting everyone else; it drives prices up, so people are paying more for training, [and] we can help fewer people.”

Additionally, King raised doubts about the proposal to give the responsibility of drafting new regulations to the Board of Physical Therapy Licensing, rather than to experts in the fitness industry.
“Physical therapy deals with injured people,” King said. “Personal trainers deal with well people.”

However, the Board of Physical Therapy Licensing is confident the regulations are necessary, and that they will have a positive impact on the industry.

“The Board of Physical Therapy remains firm in its belief that there should be regulatory oversight of the personal fitness profession and is aware of recently raised concerns over the drafting of regulations,” Director of Communications and Community Relations in the Department of Health Marcus Williams wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The Board is working to achieve a balance that would address both public safety and protection as well as maintain an open and supportive approach to both the public demand for fitness services and the industry that responds to that demand.”

In response to the concerns of local gym owners, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans introduced legislation this week to repeal the licensing requirements for personal trainers.

“The proposed regulation of personal fitness trainers is an overreach by the District that would significantly harm the well-being of our residents and the entrepreneurial climate of the District,” Evans said in a statement posted on his website.

Additionally, Mayor Muriel Bowser did not reappoint Senora Simpson, former Chair of the Board of Physical Therapy Licensing, who led the initial drafting process. Simpson has been replaced by Timothy Vidale, who proposed the current licensing requirements.

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