Dubai is moving to bring a level of professionalism to the fitness industry in the UAE and, in the process, laying the groundwork for what could become the global standard in a business that too often goes unregulated. This move should be welcomed by all those who use gyms or other fitness facilities, and other emirates will likely be tempted to bring in similar rules.
By the end of the year, the Dubai Sports Authority says, all fitness instructors will have to be qualified Registered Exercise Professionals. This means that to work in a health club or gym as a trainer or workout adviser, you will need to meet specific standards, have received a certain level of training, and sign on to a code of ethics. It will no longer be good enough to be in great shape yourself and to have a vague idea about which exercises can help build which muscles. Gyms, too, will have to be registered.
Exercise is big business, and people trying to choose a gym or health club can often be won over by the quantity and quality of workout machines. For an experienced fitness buff this may be all that's needed, but the situation is different for those just setting out to improve their shape or endurance or cardiovascular system. For them, even the shiniest exercise apparatus can be almost useless, or even dangerous, unless prudent advice is part of the package.
In a nation with such high rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and general inactivity, fitness trainers must be more than motivators. They must be professional practitioners of exercise science. Now they will be.
To be sure, the training and certification requirements may drive up prices, a little. But owners of reputable gyms grumble that their prices can now be undercut by smaller operators whose workers may be neither trained nor insured. Dubai's move will put an end to that problem.
The year-end deadline for all trainers to be qualified seems tight. But this is clearly an idea whose time has come. Many countries have some sort of registration process, though not all are mandatory, as Dubai's will be. Other emirates have varying degrees of regulation but Dubai's comprehensive plan will break new ground.
Training for trainers should include emergency first-aid measures and education about the dangers of steroids, along with the basics of sport science and the skills to provide individual workout programmes for each client.
This Dubai plan is a sound way to make sure that the fitness industry itself is fit for purpose.