On Thursday 19th November 2020, EuropeActive successfully hosted the 11th annual International Standards Meeting (ISM), our flagship event for training providers, employers, practitioners and other key stakeholders in the fitness and physical activity sector. Although this year’s ISM had to be reconfigured into a virtual format to abide by important safety measures, more than 100 participants from 27 different countries tuned in. Speakers and panellists more than made up for this situation, sharing their knowledge, expertise and insights under the theme of ‘Facing the New Normal Together’ and exploring the significant challenges Covid-19 has posed on the fitness and physical activity sector.
EuropeActive President David Stalker launched the International Standards Meeting by welcoming the speakers and audience and highlighting "the crucial role Standards play in the fitness and physical activity sector as well as for EuropeActive’s Manifesto".
Professional Standards Committee, EREPS and the future of Personal Training
The morning sessions kicked-off with Julian Berriman, Director of EuropeActive’s Professional Standards Committee, Anna Bogdanova, Deputy Director at EREPS, and Anna Szumilewicz, Deputy Director of Standards, updating the audience on the recent review of the educational standards within the Sector Qualifications Framework by the Covid-19 Standards and Skills Task Force: "Technology, healthcare needs and customer retention are critical drivers of change in the fitness industry. In response to this, fitness professionals must improve both their professional skills, especially as they relate to service provision for special populations as well as their soft skills. The results are relevant as ever", Anna Szumilewicz explained.
Julian Berriman also underscored the "need for professional identity and standards for our workforce and facilities. Science and evidence-based standards for both our exercise professionals and places of business are key for creating attractive jobs and occupations".
They also discussed the new Lifelong Learning Qualification Standards for the ‘Online Provision of Fitness Services’, plans for the EREPS Ambassador Programme, the recommendations regarding the provision of online courses by training providers and the work toward establishing a common EuropeActive assessment and Certification. Anna Bogdanova stated that "EREPS Ambassadors are important role models when it comes to best practices and current industry trends. They also create a passion for the profession by inspiring and supporting other fitness professionals".
Leading with a presentation on the Future of Personal Training was Bryan K. O’Rourke of the Fitness Industry Technology Council, an industry expert with over 30 years of experience. He emphasised the potential benefits of the ongoing challenges for those working as personal trainers: “The Covid-19 situation accelerated trends that were already underway in our sector. Those include many variables, one being the adoption of technologies. Coaching on a platform is going to be a very big and real opportunity for coaches, as part of a solution or to break out on their own on new platforms”.
Following Mr O’Rourke’s presentation, panellists Jennifer Halsall from Basic-Fit International, Julian Berriman, PSC Director at EuropeActive and EREPS Ambassadors Anna Bogdanova and Rocco Venizelos further discussed what personal trainers will need to do to adapt, survive and prosper in the post-Covid-19 realities.
Ensuring good practices and informing the sector: The CEN Standards & THINK Active
The afternoon sessions gave way to Cliff Collins, Director of Programmes at EuropeActive to speak about the CEN Standards, the need for adherence to them and the positive implications of these Standards in the time of Covid-19: "For the first time in the European fitness sector we have brought together high-quality standards for people and now for places. The European Committee for Standardisation (CEN), has published part of the standards for fitness centres known as EN17229:2019. These define the minimum requirements that health and fitness facilities should meet in order to demonstrate good practice in their operations and management", he stated.
He also underlined that "these standards are already in force and in 2021 a second part will be published which covers supervision requirements. They are based on EuropeActive’s standards for fitness and group instructors, personal trainer and exercise for health specialist".
Head of THINK Active Professor Alfonso Jiménez updated attendees on the plans for EuropeActive’s new research centre ‘THINK Active’ and its aim of "becoming Europe’s main research centre and eventually a think tank for the fitness and physical activity sector". He also shared the latest information on the SafeACTiVE Study, the preliminary results of which revealed the extremely low levels of Covid-19 risk in fitness clubs and leisure facilities across Europe. The full report is envisaged to be released in the next few days.
Active Leaders Programme - Educating our future industry leaders
EuropeActive Executive Director Andreas Paulsen took central stage and updated the audience on the Active Leaders Programme in partnership with ukactive: "For more than a decade EuropeActive has been passionately dedicated to building professionalism of the European fitness and physical activity sector. Our most important tools have been high-quality standards for exercise professionals and through EREPS".
"As we continue to improve EuropeActive’s standards for exercise professionals, we have recently thrown ourselves into an exciting partnership with ukactive to improve the strategic and tactical skills of our sector’s leaders. We can’t wait to launch Active Leaders with ukactive in 2021, as strong leadership skills are absolutely vital to our sector’s ability to turn the current challenges of Covid-19 into promising future opportunities", he concluded.
Exploring the value of the online delivery of fitness training courses
The day culminated with Charlie Heywood, EuropeActive Accreditation Manager, and Arnar Hafsteinsson of Keilir Health Academy in Iceland, exploring online delivery as an effective and viable method of educating students. They both underlined the importance of "online alternatives as they have become increasingly prevalent and the pace of its introduction into many fitness courses has been hugely accelerated by the Covid-19 crisis".
Director of Professional Standards Committee Julian Berriman wrapped up the 11th International Standards Meeting by thanking participants and reinforcing the need “to continue to upskill our workforce as well as to provide effective solutions and evidence-based resources to grow and prosper as a solid industry".