Future Fit - Raising the Bar 2016

Raising The Bar Report 2016 - Future Fit Training are working with CIMSPA & ukactive to improve the standards of training in the health & Fitness industry

Our Raising the Bar 2016 report - compiled in partnership with ukactive and CIMSPA - shows beyond doubt a clear call from employers for the industry’s personal training qualification standards to improve in a meaningful way to meet the shift in expectation and demand from today’s changing customer base.

No longer is the industry simply working with healthy people looking to get fit: today’s trainers are increasingly asked to work with special populations and children and tasked to helped deliver on NHS, government and Sport England policies.  The customer demand has changed dramatically over recent years but the training of professionals has not, resulting in a workforce that is ill-equipped to help people bring about sustainable improvements to their health and wellbeing.

Our 2016 Raising the Bar report was unveiled at the ukactive Summit in London on November 9, 2016 by Rob Johnson, managing director of Future Fit Training. The survey set out to identify the ability, readiness and confidence of employers and their employees to deliver the high standard of training and counsel needed, especially among special populations and children whose health needs remain under the spotlight.


The key top line findings reveal unequivocal responses and show an industry that recognises the need for change but also a definite desire to see revised training and assessment standards:

  • 100% of employers have to provide some additional training to ensure fitness staff are work ready
  • 88% of employers believe personal training staff are not currently adequately equipped to engage with special populations, including children, older adults, pre & post-natal, diabetic or overweight clients
  • 80% believe the skills to work with special populations should be included as standard in the personal trainer qualification
  • 84% of employers believe the personal training qualifications should take no less than six months to complete (48%, said they should take a minimum of 12 months)
  • 100% of employers say that practical assessment using real clients is key and accept neither remote assessments nor those done with simulated clients or peers
  • 78% of employers are uncertain of the robustness of the current children’s fitness qualifications


"This vital research explores how leading sector employers are navigating this landscape on the front line and looks at what specific steps can be taken at the national level to equip fitness staff with the technical knowledge and customer engagement skills needed to make getting active fun, easy and a permanent lifestyle change,” says Steven Ward, ukactive Executive Director.  “As government, Sport England and CIMSPA work together to develop a new workforce strategy for the sector, the views of employers must remain central.  Those who pay the bill must set the terms and pace of the debate,” he says.

Despite the challenges being faced, Raising the Bar 2016 also revealed optimism among operators

It was felt that influential bodies and professional organisations have the knowledge and tools to equip personal trainers and fitness professionals with the necessary skills and confidence to bring about sustainable change to the health of the nation. The report revealed an overwhelming commitment to CIMSPA by employers who recognise it is the only organisation capable of delivering the unified, long-term strategy required with 91% of employers working with CIMSPA, or planning to do so in the next 12 months.

Raising the Bar 2016 is published at a time of change in the industry including the formal backing of CIMSPA from both government and Sport England to develop a new workforce strategy for physical activity.  With several more changes expected in 2017, alongside the introduction of the new Apprenticeship Levy on May 1, 2017, the industry is undergoing extensive strategic reorientation of the sector’s ambitions for a professional and competent workforce.

“I’m delighted that Future Fit Training and ukactive have invited CIMSPA to introduce the latest Raising the Bar report,” says Tara Dillon, CIMSPA CEO.  “This evidence base helps CIMSPA focus on ensuring the skills requirements identified filter through to the training, CPD and qualifications ecosystem we are building.  Although the report rightly highlights our sector’s skills gaps, I’m confident that the increasing momentum of our work will help address these challenges,” she says.

Find out about how we are raising the bar in the fitness industry with our revolution in fitness education - The Pro Zone

Minimum Assessment Strategy

Setting higher standards of training and bringing all Level 3 Personal Training qualifications in line with the exacting CIMSPA Personal Training Trailblazer Apprenticeship standard is widely welcomed by operators with:

  • 100% calling for practical assessment using real clients
  • 88% wanting a clear robust grading system (eg Pass, Merit, Distinction) for all qualifications
  • 88% demanding a minimum number of work experience hours within a gym included in a trainee’s assessment
  • 76% wanting to see evidence of case study work on real people (not simulated on peers)


"Raising the Bar sets out to consistently raise awareness of the work-readiness of newly qualified fitness professionals and outlines specific steps we can take to embed the highest level of quality in the sector’s training and development practices,” says Rob Johnson, Future Fit Training Founder and Managing Director.  “This includes the importance of working with CIMSPA to develop a minimum assessment strategy, ensure momentum is not lost with the Physical Activity Trailblazer and, for the first time, to review the sector’s awareness of children’s fitness qualifications and to see they are fit for purpose.”

Special Populations

The current personal training standards have changed little since they were introduced around nine years ago. In that time, however, the number of people presenting at the gym with medical conditions – such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes – has increased dramatically.  The call on the leisure sector from the NHS and government to help address the crisis in the nation’s health, including childhood obesity, is loud and clear. However:

  • 88% of employers said they believe personal trainers are not adequately equipped to work with special populations
  • 80% of employers said the skills required to engage with and support special populations should be included as standard in the personal trainer qualification.

When it comes to children’s activity the picture is equally worrying

Operators said only 57% of staff currently working with children hold a children’s fitness qualification and the following were identified as the key skills gaps among fitness staff delivering children’s activities:

  • Communication (with parents and children) -  65%
  • Behaviour management and group dynamics - 65%
  • Child development (cognitive and physical) - 57%
  • Motivation techniques - 43%


A clear demand is there for children’s activity provision with a recent emphasis on children’s health in several government strategies to tackle childhood inactivity, Sport England’s Towards an Active Nation the Childhood Obesity Plan and ukactive Kids’ own policies.  Investment commitments are there too with funding pools being created including ringfencing of the Primary PE and Sport Premium.  “Activity professionals working with children must be adequately trained to deliver effective activity sessions and classes but they must also qualify with all the necessary skills to make being physically active safe, easy and, most important, enjoyable,” says Dean Horridge, Chair, ukactive Kids.  “Staff must have the necessary communication skills to engage with children from all backgrounds and at all levels of ability and to inspire children to adopt an active, healthy lifestyle which can last a lifetime.”

 In June 2018 Future Fit Training released their latest Raising the Bar report, read the latest findings from the health and fitness industry here.


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