The Board of Physical Therapy for the Department of Health in the District of Columbia will hold a public meeting Tuesday on a set of regulations for personal trainers in Washington, D.C.
Items on the board’s agenda include regulating the practice of physical therapy in D.C., evaluating applicants’ qualifications and recommending standards and procedures. The rules, if passed, would take effect after a 30-day period for public comment, followed by possible revisions.
The topic of personal trainer licensing has been discussed in articles on Watchdog.org as well as Reuters and The Washington Post in recent weeks. The D.C. Council unanimously passed a bill last year that the mayor signed into law. The Board of Physical Therapy was then tasked with writing the new regulations.
Watchdog.org, which has been critical of personal trainer licensing legislation in D.C., reported Monday that four of the five members of the Board of Physical Therapists are required by statute to be licensed physical therapists. Eric Boehm, the author of the Watchdog.org article, suggests that presents a conflict of interest—the board has the power to regulate businesses that are in direct competition with them, he writes.
“That’s not government of the people, by the people or for the people,” Boehm writes. “It’s a niche special interest using the regulatory power of the government to build a protective wall around its own interests, at the expense of other business owners and the general public. It’s a cartel.”
Other opponents of the Board of Physical Therapy also worry that the pending rules will increase client costs and decrease health club profits.
Graham Melstrand, president of the board of the Coalition for Registration of Exercise Professionals (CREP), supports the District of Columbia’s effort.
“First and foremost, the purpose of the law is to enhance consumer protection for the residents of the District of Columbia,” Melstrand told The Washington Post. “At the end of the day, all of the fitness organizations are looking for the respect of practitioners. As our space is maturing, there have to be greater expectations around the people who are practicing our craft.”
There currently is no personal training licensing legislation in any of the 50 states.
UPDATE: D.C. Councilman Jack Evans, who represents the city’s Ward 2, introduced a bill on Tuesday titled the “Omnibus Health Regulations Rationalization Amendment Act of 2015.” The bill would amend the original act to remove the D.C. Board of Physical Therapy’s authority to regulate personal fitness 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.
“The Board of Physical Therapy should continue to oversee and license physical therapists. Physical therapy is a medical professional with standardized research, educational training, and administration that appropriately requires licensure. Personal fitness training, on the other hand, encompasses a broad range of activities with different theories, approaches, and levels of support by trainers to clients. There are no universally accepted standards of training, education, or operation that the District could reasonable hold a practitioner to and therefore we should not attempt to regulate and license this industry just for the sake of collecting revenue for the District.”