Club Insider

Health and Fitness Facility Certification - What's the Real Story?

Stephen Tharrett, CEO, Russian Fitness Group and President, Club Industry Consulting

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Stephen TharrettStephen Tharrett

Over the past several months, health and fitness club operators have been introduced to a new and exciting initiative that is being facilitated by NSF International (NSF). This initiative involves the development of standards --collectively, a process that has been designed to lead to a voluntary health and fitness facility certification process. Regrettably, most of the information concerning this NSF-facilitated effort that is currently being disseminated to the industry has come from a single source, IHRSA. As a result of this unilateral attempt to frame information about this initiative, the message that has been communicated to the industry, as a whole, concerning this undertaking has often been both lacking and misleading. As someone who is integrally involved in the initiative, I am writing this article to provide owners and operators of health and fitness facilities, irrespective of their affiliation or operating structure, with an unabridged overview of the effort to create a voluntary certification process for health/fitness facilities.

Objectives of Voluntary Health and Fitness Facility Certification

When the industry-wide discussion of developing and offering health and fitness clubs an unbiased and credible voluntary certification program was initiated, the parties involved identified the following primary desired objectives or outcomes of the process:

  1. 1. To provide a tool that would enhance industry credibility in the eyes of consumers. The underlying concept was that if and when consumers were made aware of the fact that a facility received a "seal of approval" from a globally-recognized certification authority (with no "vested interest in the business"), it would help alleviate at least some of the public's negative perceptions about health and fitness club facilities.
  2. 2. To provide a tool that would show healthcare professionals that health and fitness club operators had taken purposeful action to help ensure that a safe environment existed within their facilities. In turn, such an environment would help facilitate the effective delivery of physical activity programs to healthy and special populations, including potential members with chronic, but controlled, disease.

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