The fitness/health club industry's entrepreneurial spirit is one reason it has achieved the level of public acceptance it has today. A result of a growing industry is that its business practices come under greater scrutiny from government and related public audiences. Our industry has evolved, entered new markets, and is serving new populations, which has played a role in the increasing demand for government oversight in regard to health and safety issues. Standards and guidelines that are well developed, executed, and governed by an industry reduce the need for government oversight. Public policy leaders have made it clear that when an industry does a good job of self-regulation it reduces the likelihood that government will step in to provide oversight.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) first released a set of health/fitness facility standards for the industry in 1992. This initial effort to develop and promote a set of standards for the industry was not well received. This was due in part to the fact that the industry was not ready for self regulation, but also resulted from a process that did not fully engage the industry. In 1997, ACSM released a second edition of the standards. This edition represented a marked improvement on the first, as it involved more fitness industry leaders in the process, including members of the board of the world's largest club trade association, IHRSA. While the second edition represented a more acceptable set of industry standards and guidelines, it still did not have the impact that was hoped for, nor were these standards able to lessen the demand for government intervention.
In 2004, the fitness/health club industry was receiving mounting pressure from government agencies and other groups to set a higher standard of care. Issues such as fitness professional credentialing, public access defibrillation (PAD), and pre-activity screening were being brought to the attention of the industry, the public and the government.
In response, ACSM felt it was time to create a third edition of its health/fitness facility standards and guidelines. In 2005 the College created a distinguished panel of industry experts (see Figure 1 for a list of the editorial board). The ultimate goal was to offer the health/fitness industry a set of standards and guidelines that would address the health and safety issues set forth by various public advocacy groups, by courts rendering decisions in legal cases, and by government. Ultimately, the College and the editorial team believed this version of the standards would provide a means of elevating industry practice as it applied to health and safety issues for users, and would allow a sufficient amount of entrepreneurial freedom for clubs.
The editorial team has created a draft of health/fitness facility standards and guidelines intended to be released later in 2006. The editorial team, with input from other organizations, believes that the next step in the process is to create an industry-wide dialogue regarding these standards. Figure 2 shows the planned standards to be released in 2006. Most of the planned standards are merely a more detailed description of the existing standards. The exceptions are the two standards related to automated external defibrillators (AEDs), one that addresses the need for clubs to have an AED, and one that pertains to the need for all staff involved in performing pre-activity screening, counseling, and fitness instruction to have AED/CPR certification. These two standards may be the most controversial to the industry, but the editorial team felt after careful review of existing AED research, public policy legislation (five states require AEDs in clubs and another seven states are considering legislation), statements from the American Heart Association, and current fitness industry practice, that AEDs need to be a part of every health/fitness facilities emergency response system.
The editorial team and ACSM would like to extend to industry professionals the opportunity to review and comment on the planned standards and guidelines by going to www.acsm.org. By clicking on the designated section on this site, you can view the standards and guidelines and submit comments and recommendations from March 1 through April 3. We encourage those who submit comments and recommendations to provide as much supportive data or information as possible. You will need to identify yourselves so we can make personal contact to discuss your comments, if needed. Additionally, ACSM plans to have an ongoing Web form posted so that feedback to the book can be collected after publication to help the editorial team develop the fourth edition.
On behalf of the Editorial Board for ACSM's Health/Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines, third edition, we want to confirm our desire to make this process of producing a set of well-accepted standards for the fitness and health club industry as inclusive as possible. In this way, our great industry can continue to self-regulate in a manner that promotes the health and safety of consumers and provides a business environment that allows owners and operators of fitness and health facility businesses the opportunity to maintain the appropriate degree of entrepreneurial freedom.