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This years International Standards Meeting, supported by EHFA, was hosted by Dr László Zopcsák and his team from the International Wellness Institute (IWI) in the beautiful city of Budapest, Hungary.

50 experts from the field of education and training representing 17 different countries came together on 21-22 November to critically review the progress of international cooperation and standards development. Technical sessions and keynote presentations reinforced the need for a radical re-think and overhaul of current practices. In the new era of omni-channel working, the developing range of products and services by the fitness sector, and a clear direction of tacking the problems associated with growing levels of inactivity the ISM delegates formed a consensus that the existing occupational standards would need to be extensively updated for exercise professionals. A greater focus needs to be applied to people, motivational and behavioural skills in addition to the technical requirements of working with special populations and alongside health professionals.

The fitness sector qualification framework, developed by EHFA, is already the most extensive system in the world and next year there will be a new graduate entry programme so that graduates can join the European Register of Exercise Professionals (EREPS). The wide consultation process of employers, academics and industry stakeholders does guarantee that the standards are very thorough and the on-going review will capture the very latest thinking and expectations. The first attitudinal survey of employers and exercise professionals showed expected trends and where skills development was particularly needed for the future. EREPS continues to develop and with the integration of the Irish and Hungarian national registers as part of the EREPS Programme there is growing capacity and international cooperation.  

The event opened by Prof Tóth Miklós, the President of the Hungarian Society of Sport Sciences and Vice-President of the Hungarian Olympic Committee, who underscored the immense importance of physical activity to achieve a high quality of life.

Prof Thomas Rieger (Chairman of EHFA Standards Council) introduced to the proceedings and summarised the achievements of the Standards Councils in terms of standards development through the last year and how they are linked to the outcomes of the previous International Standards Meeting in Barcelona.

The current set of fitness standards encompasses the complete range of vocational levels (2-5) of the European Qualification Framework (EQF) and the European fitness sector, represented by the EHFA, has already referenced its education on the EQF. For a relatively young industry this is a tremendous achievement that many other industries have yet not realized. The EQF is based on a common political decision of the European Union that will form the shape education in Europe.

The international delegate group was composed of representatives from higher education, vocational training and accreditation bodies. The programme contained four keynotes plus four workshop sessions.

Dr László Zopcsák, CEO of the International Wellness Institute (IWI) clearly illustrated in his keynote the similarities and differences between the developed and emerging fitness markets in Europe. Cliff Collins, the Director of European Register of Exercise Professionals (EREPS), focused on the different EHFA activities in relation to EU affairs and outlined the various opportunities for the European fitness sector.

Prof Alfonso Jimenez, Dean of the Faculty of Sport Science at the European University Madrid, presented how the European fitness sector can benefit from research activities and projects in order to strengthen the relations to public health stakeholders.

Bryan O’Rourke, President of the Fitness Industry Technology Council, impressed the audience with his presentation about how advancing technologies, globalism and changing consumers are converging to create a new era of opportunity and the requirement for collaboration in the health and fitness sector.

Prof Thomas Rieger (EHFA Standards Council Chairman) signed two important Memorandums of Understanding and Trust with Dr László Zopcsák from the Hungarian Register of Exercise Professionals and Mark McManus from REPs Ireland to join the European Register of Exercise Professionals (EREPS) programme. Separate agreements are also in place to aid the two-way administration and supervision of fitness trainers who join the Registers and enter into the wider EREPS Programme.

The four workshops included covered instructor registration of US based instructors, top trends, active living and customer service. This dialogue-based part of the meeting enabled the delegates to actively participate and offer feedback. A very useful approach, that supports the Standards Council in identifying wishes and needs of the industry due to the involvement of many different stakeholder perspectives.

Prof Rieger said “this meeting was a huge success in terms of common agreements and creating the future of standards development. The delegate engagement was excellent, as we had participants from seventeen different countries. It is quite obvious that the European fitness industry is more and more growing together. The different stakeholders underlined that it is a common interest to continuously promote the benefits of regular physical activity and exercise. Delegates were strongly impressed by the promises that we kept from the ISM 2012 to 2013 regarding standards development and addressing new markets in Europe.”

The ISM has now established itself as one of the foremost forum for international standards development in fitness and improving cooperation surrounding operational requirements for registers of exercise professionals.

To view the full ISM presentation including introductory sessions click here