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Legal Limitations for Personal Trainers

FoundationsThe basics

Introduction

The role of a Personal Trainer carries with it a high degree of personal responsibility; potential responsibility for affecting clients’ habits, health, lifestyle and general wellness. Whilst the skills of a personal trainer can have an impact on all of these, there are definite legal limits as to the advice a personal trainer can give and the actions they can perform. Whilst all PTs should aspire to improve their clients’ lives, they should also be aware of these legal limits in order to protect both themselves and their clients. This article will present some of the main legal limitations for personal trainers. Whilst this is obviously not a complete list of the actions they cannot perform and advice they cannot give, it does provide some clarity around the grey areas where there may be a lack of understanding of the personal trainer’s professional and legal limitations.

Legal Limitations for Personal Trainers

Medical Related Problems

All PTs and Gym Instructors in the UK should steer clear of medical diagnoses, tests and treatments. Personal trainers lack the knowledge, authority and qualification to diagnose clients, therefore during consultation if a potential medical condition or issue arises, the personal trainer’s action should always be to refer the client to a medical professional promptly. Remember, as a Personal Trainer, even if you possess a certain level of self-education, diagnosis is not within your scope if you do not possess a medical licence.

Beyond diagnosis, conducting diagnostic tests is another off-limits area. Blood pressure readings and basic physical assessments are acceptable, but anything beyond that, such as cholesterol testing, goes into the territory of medical professionals. If diagnostic tests are deemed necessary, the personal trainer should always guide the client toward discussing it with their GP.

Nutritional Advice

Specific nutritional advice is a very grey area for personal trainers. Personal Trainers in the UK can offer general nutritional information and advice, however, creating meal plans or prescribing dietary choices is legally reserved for licensed dietitians. Instead of offering a prescribed meal plan, personal trainers can focus on improving their clients’ relationship with food and offer general guidance. PTs should look to engage in conversations about their eating habits to gain insights without overstepping legal boundaries and putting both themselves and their clients at risk.

Dietary Supplements

Similar to nutritional advice, recommending or selling dietary supplements can be legally precarious for personal trainers in the UK. Even if supplement brands seek endorsement from Personal Trainers, offering dietary supplement advice without adequate knowledge of clients’ allergies or health can lead to legal ramifications. While affiliations with supplement brands are common for personal trainers, they should always be cautious about recommending specific products to clients.

Physical Therapy & Sports Massage

A very important distinction is between personal trainers and physiotherapists. Personal trainers should always refrain from providing physical therapy without proper qualifications. Both diagnosing and treating injuries falls within the role of physiotherapists. If clients encounter any issues from exercises whilst training, the personal trainer should refer the client to a qualified physiotherapist.

Similarly, providing sports massage without certification is a violation of legal boundaries for Personal Trainers in the UK. If interested in sports massage, you should pursue the necessary qualifications beyond an L3 Personal Trainer Course.

Mental Health

Personal Trainers should absolutely avoid diagnosing or treating mental health conditions in clients. Whilst exercise is good for mental health, providing mental health diagnoses or treatment is beyond Personal Trainers’ professional capabilities and role. If clients share mental health struggles, PTs should encourage them to seek guidance from psychologists or GP.

Conclusion

To conclude, whilst this list is by no means a complete list of legal boundaries for personal trainers, it does provide some guidance in areas whereby there may be some common confusions on where the Personal Trainer’s professional boundary lies. If you’re a Personal Trainer and you’re ever not sure on whether something is part of your role, or perhaps you’re considering new personal training revenue streams, then always firstly question whether you are qualified to do so based on your Personal Training Qualification level. If you are still not sure then you should check in with your qualification provider.
If you’re a personal trainer or perhaps you are thinking of making a career change to personal training, and you want to know and understand more about the role, then be sure to check out our Personal Training FAQs. If you’re not yet qualified with your L2 or L3 qualifications, then perhaps consider taking a look at our Combined Level 2 and Level 3 Personal Trainer Course.

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