x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

New Dubai fitness regulations spark surge in refresher courses

To work as a fitness professional in Dubai from August 31, the municipality and Sports Authority requires all coaches to be accredited by the Register of Exercise Professionals (Reps).

DUBAI // New legislation to regulate the fitness industry has resulted in a surge of students in need of refresher courses.

To work as a fitness professional in Dubai from August 31, the municipality and Sports Authority requires all coaches to be accredited by the Register of Exercise Professionals (Reps).

The international database details trainers’ education and experience. To keep their names on the list, they must complete at least 10 hours of exercise-science training each year.

“The Government will take legal action against anyone who is not Reps-registered. Nowhere else in the world is it actually government regulated,” said Clifford Tindall, the regional manager of ETA College, which will open next month and offer personal trainers short courses in professional development and full training for coaching.

Mr Tindall said the move would force trainers to keep their skills and knowledge up to date.

The move will also protect the public, said Catherine Hanson, the UAE Reps representative.

“There were a lot of rogue instructors and boot camps on the beaches where people weren’t qualified,” Ms Hanson said.

“It’s good for so many people. Not only does it show people are qualified but how does the client know? This way they can check the register online and see everything they need to know.”

The move to make Reps compulsory is long overdue, according to Amanda Brewer, founder of Impact Fitness in Abu Dhabi.

“We have world-class cities but we don’t have world-class trainers,” she said. “There was a misconception that it was enough to look good.”

Good coaching is about taking on a big responsibility, she said.

“You have to work with all kinds of people: those with ante or prenatal needs, people with conditions such as diabetes and obesity. These require experts,” Ms Brewer said.

Her company has been running courses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai for about 10 years, and has seen a rise in demand since the Reps registration was introduced.

“It will put the UAE on the map for quality,” she said. “It’s an internationally recognised standard, so nobody can say anything untoward is happening.”

Reyhana Sallie, a personal trainer with Ignite Fitness in Dubai, will be registering with Reps and is happy to take courses to update her skills and knowledge.

“It’s crucial we go regularly for further education because when you’re doing something for a long time you tend to forget,” she said.

“It’s not enough to have just got your qualification several years ago. Things are evolving all the time and we need to keep up.”

Trainers will need support in keeping their education up to date, said Ian Houghton, founder of Scandinavian Health and Performance, which offers training in Norway, Sweden and Dubai.

“Trainers here simply don’t earn enough salary to get a decent living and then have time and money to pursue any further education,” he said.

Mr Houghton, an educator as well as a trainer, aims to deliver his courses in the UAE. But he said support should also come from gyms. He said he would support all of his staff to become Reps-accredited to ensure the fitness centre remained in line with international standards and local laws.

Grant Goes, founder of FitnessLink, a website offering information such as where to find healthy cafes and gym facilities, said he was looking forward to the benefits of the REPs register and the mushrooming training opportunities for professionals.

“With more and more education providers coming into the region, we will see an increase in the standard of health and fitness providers,” he said.

mswan@thenational.ae