EuropeActive hosted the 13th annual International Standards Meeting (ISM) on November 3rd and 4th in Prague, at the Hermitage Hotel. With more than 120 participants, the European flagship event for training providers, employers, practitioners and other key stakeholders involved in training and education, explored key topics to further professionalise and upskill our sector through professional standards.
The ISM began with the Czech National Sport Agency Chair Filip Neusser, Member of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, Michaela Šebelová, and EuropeActove President David Stalker welcoming attendees to Prague and giving a brief insight into the development the fitness Sector in the Czech Republic. Director of Professional Standards Committee (PSC), Julian Berriman then gave an overview of the work of the EuropeActive Educational Services Department and PSC: "This 13th ISM is the perfect opportunity to update and actively involve delegates in the on-going work of EuropeActive’s Educational Standards Committee and Professional Standards Committee in reviewing core occupational roles within the fitness and physical activity Sector, from Personal Trainers to Pilates Teachers. This work is essential to the on-going professionalisation of the industry workforce."
Day 1: Client retention, the digitisation of health & fitness and Standards development towards 2025
Sessions kicked-off with keynote speaker Dr. Paul Bedford, ‘The Retention Guru’, talking about the skills trainers need to support the retention of clients. He described how training providers can best teach these skills to their learners to ensure fitness professionals are ready to communicate successfully with clients online and in-person when entering the labour market. On the training offered to personal trainers from operators to ensure they add value, he said: "We need to move from compliance to competence. The difference between competence and compliance is that compliance is just ticking boxes but it doesn't give people the competence they need to be good at what they do". Ensuring that trainers add value to an operator takes effort and guidance. 
Following on from his presentation, a get-to-know-each-other session allowed participants to discuss Mr. Bedford’s main takeaways in small groups, as well as the importance of staff to member interaction to increase member confidence and competence while reducing anxiety.
The afternoon sessions began with Jana Havrdová presenting the state of the fitness sector in the Czech Republic. She outlined the activities of the Czech Chamber of Fitness and other important players in the Czech fitness environment in promoting an active lifestyle and regular exercise, as a necessary part of personal health care and public health care solutions.
The main ISM panel was moderated by Rosita Kastro of Athletic House Academy and included panellists Graham Melstrand (American Council on Exercise), Ari Langinkoski (Nordic Health Academy), Prentiss Rhodes (National Academy of Sports Medicine) and Dr. Simona Pajaujiene (Lithuanian Sport University) to discuss the developing science of health coaching and behaviour change and its potential for breaking down barriers with the health care sector. On the importance of health and wellness coaches, Graham Melstrand pointed out that "when people go to the doctor, they are told to exercise more, eat better, but they already know that. What they need is leadership and expertise."
"8/10 of my clients don't need a personal trainer - they need someone to talk to to clear their own heads about lifestyle. We only seem to prescribe exercise to combat NCDs but in lifestyle medicine you need more than that. You need lifestyle coaches" commented Ari Langinkoski. "We have created great standards with EuropeActive such as the healthy lifestyle promoter (level 2) - and the feedback from PT has been positive as it was something that was missing" said Dr. Simona Pajaujiene.
Leading with a presentation on how digital technology can improve fitness and health professionalism was Silvano Zanuso from Technogym. He took the audience through the importance of digital literacy, the use of ‘big data’ and the adoption of a balanced approach to a successful digital transition. On the benefits of fitness trackers and applications, he underscored the "correlation between connectivity and the level of physical activity and adherence to it".
Following Mr. Zanuso’s presentation, EuropeActive Advisor Cliff Collins explained that every fitness club in Europe will soon have to work towards the operational management requirements of EN 17229 Parts 1 and 2. This will now affect the fitness trainers they employ and who works in their clubs. Compliance can be assessed through the new scheme known as FITcert.
Dr. Anna Szumilevicz, Deputy Director of the EuropeActive Professional Standards Committee, then facilitated an interactive discussion with the audience on Standards development from the core occupations to newly emerging occupational roles. The day concluded with the announcement of a EuropeActive brand-new event for 2023, the Exercise For Health Summit, which will take place on 22-23 November in Madrid, Spain.
Day 2: State of the workforce, the value of EREPS and EuropeActive’s Strategy towards 2025
The ISM Day 2 started with Espen Arntzen (Academy for Personal Training) providing an insight into the current efforts in Norway to continue to raise the standards of professionalism in the fitness sector while ensuring that employers provide the opportunities and rewards to merit investment in qualifications and on-going learning. The session was complemented by Lara Pablos-Martínez (GO fit) who presented a case study on the innovative intervention model developed by the GO fit LAB. This model is fully based on evidence and informed by science and includes and educational programme developed to upskill the GO fit workforce. 
George Xiros from Studio One took center stage to announce the forthcoming plans for an EREPS Summer School to be held in 2023 in combination with the first EREPS Awards which will recognise EREPS members for their outstanding achievements as Personal Trainers, Group Fitness Instructors and innovators in the fitness and physical activity Sector. He also reviewed the existing benefits of EREPS and discussed with attendees how these benefits can be communicated to the wider industry: "This a new era and we have to do things in a different way - we need to be in motion" he said, highlighting the importance of change and innovation to improve growth and retention.
Ph.D. student Ana Myriam Lavín-Pérez explored the role of fitness clubs and leisure centres supporting individuals facing serious health challenges in non-clinical environments. She introduced her PhD clinical trial which integrates technology solutions and online support for cancer survivors.
The sessions concluded with EuropeActive Executive Director Andreas Paulsen presenting ‘Moving Forward Together’, EuropeActive’s Strategy towards 2025 to achieve the vision for the future outlined in the four pillars of the Horizon 2025 Sectoral Manifesto, namely health, digital, community and standards. He also placed the focus on the essential role Standards and the Educational Services Department will play in fulfilling the strategy. 
Director of Professional Standards Committee Julian Berriman wrapped up the 13th International Standards Meeting by thanking participants and reinforcing the importance of Standards: "This is a time of great change in our sector and this has been reflected at this year’s ISM. The key underlying drivers of health engagement and digital transition will continue to shape the occupational roles within our sector and we must be ready for the challenges and opportunities this presents. The input of ISM participants has been hugely relevant in this regard".
Nov 7, 2022 By Ioana Marica