(last updated July 2019)
What has been happening in the personal fitness training sector
In recent years, personal health and fitness has become an issue of national concern. Increasingly sedentary lifestyles and a growth in the popularity of convenience foods have led to a significant rise in the levels of obesity of both children and adults in the UK.
Recent surveys indicate that, while consumers realise the need for regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle, a large percentage of them are still not actually doing so. The challenge for personal trainers and the rest of the fitness industry is to motivate people that have previously not exercised into changing their lifestyles.
The personal fitness training sector in the UK is still a relatively young industry. The concept was popularised in the United States and has made its way to this country. At first thought of as something only the rich could afford (possibly because every celebrity seems to have one), employing a personal trainer has become more commonplace and the industry has grown to meet this demand. Other individuals who don't use a personal trainer regularly attend instructor-led groups and classes, of which there are plenty choose from in most areas.
The Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) was set up in the early 2000s and aims to drive up standards and reassure clients of the competence of the fitness professionals on the register. To gain entry, a fitness professional must have appropriate qualifications and insurance.
'Virtual coaching' services have become popular in recent years. Virtual coaching enables a personal trainer to set a fitness and diet plan for his or her client. The client then receives feedback by phone, email, text and sometimes via a webcam. This is an attractive option to many consumers as it means they can fit in their exercise when it's convenient - and it can be less expensive than employing a real-time personal trainer.
Of course, the economic downturn which began in the late 2000s and continued into the early 2010s didn't help the industry. Hiring a personal trainer is hardly an essential, and this type of expenditure was among the first to be cut by people who were forced to reduce their outgoings. However, people remained keen to stay fit and healthy, so well-qualified professionals were still able to find enough work. The economy began to pick during 2013 and continued to improve during 2014 and the first half of 2015.
The economy slowed somewhat towards the end of 2015 and continued weak throughout 2016 and 2017 due to the uncertainty following the Brexit vote in June 2016. The uncertainty continued throughout the Brexit negotiations, leading to low growth in 2018. The fall in the value of the pound following the Brexit vote led to rising inflation and both businesses and consumers restricted their spending, cutting back expenditure on non-essential items. No change is expected for the rest of 2018 or 2019, with growth predicted to be sluggish for the foreseeable future.
Something else that hasn't helped the industry is the growing number of local authorities which have started charging fitness professionals for a permit to work in their parks and other open spaces. Often these permits cost personal trainers several hundred pounds a year.
Keeping up to date with developments
Joining a trade association is an excellent way of staying up to date with developments in your industry.
UK Active represents the whole of the fitness industry and has many useful statistics and publications, as well as other member benefits. You can find out more about UK Active on their website.
The National Register of Personal Trainers (NRPT) actively represents the sector and provides information to the public on why they should use a personal trainer and how to find one, as well as information on how to become a personal trainer. You can contact the NRPT through their website.
Subscribing to a professional journal is another excellent way of staying up to date with the latest developments. Specialist magazines for the fitness industry include Fitpro Network, which is aimed at personal trainers and gym instructors. You can find out more on the Fitpro website.
You can get a lot of useful information by visiting a trade show for the fitness industry, such as the BP Fitness Trade Show. You will be able to meet manufacturers of equipment and exchange ideas with fellow professionals. Visit the Exhibitions UK website for information about forthcoming exhibitions.