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Code of Ethics

Code of Ethics and Professional Practices

NCSF Certified Exercise Professionals have ethical responsibilities to their organization, employers, clients, society, as well as to other professionals. The following ethical foundations for professional activities in exercise related roles serve as a code of conduct for practicing professionals. The code implements many of these foundations in the form of rules of ethical conduct. Noncompliance with the code may affect an individual's initial or continuing status as a recognized certified professional by the National Council on Strength & Fitness Board for Certification.


Client means any individual or group receiving instruction or guidance from a NCSF certified exercise professional.

Trainer means any NCSF certified professional regardless of the role.

Colleague means any other professional with any level of fiduciary responsibility for the health or wellbeing of an individual or group.

Ethical Foundations

I. The Trainer-Client relationship: The welfare of the client is central to all considerations in the trainer-client relationship. Included in this relationship is the obligation of the trainer to respect the rights of clients, colleagues, and other health professionals. Trainers have an obligation to communicate only factual information and never misrepresent competency on any level particularly one that is outside the scope of the profession. Trainers must respect that the right of a client to make his/her own choices about his/her health activities as fundamental. The principle of justice requires strict avoidance of discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, color, religion, national origin, or any other basis that would constitute illegal discrimination.

II. Trainer conduct and practice: A trainer should only deal honestly with clients and colleagues. This includes not misrepresenting himself or herself through any form of communication in an untruthful, misleading, or deceptive manner. Furthermore, maintenance of professional competence through study, application, and enhancement of health and fitness knowledge and skills is an obligation of the practicing trainer. All trainers certified by the NCSF are required to participate in, and report, continued learning. NCSF certified professionals are obligated to respond to evidence of questionable conduct or unethical behavior by any other NCSF certified professional through appropriate procedures established by the NCSF Board for Certification.

III. Avoiding conflicts of interest: Potential conflicts of interest are inherent in the practice of physical training. Trainers are expected to recognize such situations and deal with them in accordance with the best interests of the client.

IV. Professional relations: Trainers should respect and cooperate with other trainers, fitness instructors, and allied health professionals. They should not participate in activities of a professional nature, nor represent themselves as qualified to perform tasks, which are outside the scope of their respective profession. NCSF certified professionals have an obligation to identify those individuals perpetrating acts that are professionally inappropriate.

V. Societal responsibilities: Trainers have a continuing responsibility to society as a whole and should support and participate in activities that enhance the community. As a member of society, trainers must respect all governing laws. As professionals and representatives of the NCSF, trainers are required to uphold the dignity and honor of the profession and comply with professional standards of practice.

Code of Conduct

I. Client-Trainer Relationship

1. The Client-Trainer relationship is the central focus of all ethical concerns, and the welfare of the client should form the basis of all judgments.

2. The Trainer should serve the client by exercising all reasonable means to ensure that the most appropriate training, health and fitness recommendations are provided to the client.

3. The Client-Trainer relationship has an ethical basis and is built on confidentiality, trust, and honesty. The trainer must adhere to all applicable legal or contractual constraints while in the client-trainer relationship.

4. Sexual misconduct on the part of the trainer is an abuse of professional power and a violation of client trust. Sexual contact or a romantic relationship between a trainer and a current client is always unethical.

5. The trainer has an obligation to obtain the informed consent of each client or comply with rules of governing organizations. In obtaining informed consent for any course of physical measurement or activity, the trainer should present to the client, or to the person legally responsible for the client, in understandable terms, pertinent facts and recommendations consistent with good professional practice. Such information should include alternate modes of testing or physical activity and the objectives, risks, benefits, possible complications, and anticipated results of such activities or testing protocols.

6. It is unethical to recommend, refer, prescribe, provide, or seek compensation for therapies or products that are of no benefit to the client.

7. The trainer should respect the rights of clients, colleagues, and others and safeguard client information and confidences within the limits of the law. If during the process of providing information for consent it is known that results of a particular test or other information must be given to governmental authorities or other third parties, it should be identified and explained to the client.

8. The trainer should not discriminate against clients based on race, color, sex, gender, age, national origin, religion, or on any other basis that would constitute illegal discrimination. This being said, trainers should know their professional limitations and not engage in exercise prescription for clients with special needs that the trainer is not educated or trained to manage safely or effectively.

II. Trainer Conduct and Practice

1. The trainer should recognize the boundaries of his or her particular competencies and expertise, and provide only those services and use only those techniques for which he or she is qualified by education, training, or experience.

2. The trainer should participate in continuing education activities to maintain current scientific and professional knowledge relevant to the professional services he or she renders. The trainer should provide services involving new preventative therapies or training techniques only after undertaking appropriate training and study.

3. In any training environment, the trainer should exercise careful judgment and take appropriate precautions to protect the client's welfare with regards to equipment, facilities and environmental factors as well as evaluate the condition of the client before each training session to ensure the designated activities are appropriate for the client at the time of delivery.

4. The trainer should not publicize or represent him or herself in any untruthful, misleading, or deceptive manner to clients, colleagues, other health-care professionals, or the public. This includes identifying oneself as certified if the certification credential was never designated by the NCSF Board for Certification or the date of certification has expired.

5. The trainer who has reason to believe that he or she is infected with a virus or other serious infectious agents that might be communicated to clients should voluntarily be tested for the protection of his or her clients. In making decisions about client evaluations, physical testing and training activities, a trainer infected with such an agent should adhere to the fundamental professional obligation to avoid harm to clients.

6. The trainer should not practice or attempt to provide professional services while impaired by alcohol, drugs of any kind, or physical or mental disability. The trainer who experiences substance abuse problems or who is physically or emotionally impaired should seek appropriate assistance to address these problems and limit his or her professional practice until the impairment no longer affects the quality of client service.

7. The trainer may not imply NCSF endorsement for commercial venture. Disclosure of affiliation and/or use of the initials NCSF, NCSF Board for Certification or NCSF CPT or CSC are not to be made as part of a firm, partnership or corporate name. Disclosure in violation of this article may be grounds for disciplinary action.

III. Conflicts of Interest

1. Potential conflicts of interest are inherent in the field of health and fitness. Conflicts of interest should be resolved in accordance with the best interest of the client. If there is concern about a possibly significant conflict of interest, the trainer should disclose his or her concerns to the client. If a conflict of interest cannot be resolved, the trainer should take steps to withdraw as a service provider for the client. If conflicts of interest are unresolved, the trainer should seek consultation with colleagues or an institutional ethics committee, or the NCSF Board for Certification’s Professional Practice and Disciplinary Committee.

2. Commercial promotions of fitness or health-related products and services may generate bias unrelated to product merit, creating, or appearing to create, inappropriate undue influence. The trainer should be aware of this potential conflict of interest and offer fitness advice that is as accurate, balanced, complete, and devoid of bias as possible.

3. The trainer should recommend nutritional modifications based solely upon published evidence-based findings and guidelines health considerations and client needs, regardless of any direct or indirect interests in or benefit from a supplement company or other supplier.

4. When the trainer receives anything of substantial value, including royalties, from companies in the health-fitness industry, such as a manufacturer of supplements and fitness devices, this fact should be disclosed to clients and colleagues when material.

IV. Professional Relations

1. The trainer's relationships with other trainers, employers, physicians, physical therapists, and other allied health professionals should reflect fairness, honesty, and integrity, sharing of mutual respect and concern for the client.

2. The trainer should consult, refer, or cooperate with other trainers, health professionals, and institutions to the extent necessary to serve the best interests of their clients.

3. The trainer should respect all laws, uphold the dignity and honor of the profession, and accept the profession's self-imposed discipline. The professional competence and conduct of trainers is best examined by professional associations and peer-review committees; active professionals should remain in good standard with these groups. These groups deserve the full participation and cooperation of the trainer.

4. The trainer should strive to address, through the appropriate procedures the status of those trainers who demonstrate questionable competence, impairment, or unethical or illegal behavior. In addition, the trainer should cooperate with appropriate authorities to prevent the continuation of such behavior.

V. Societal Responsibilities

1. The trainer should support and participate in those health programs, practices, and activities that contribute positively, in a meaningful and effective way, to the welfare of individual clients, the health fitness community, or for the public good. This includes maintaining certification in Cardio-Pulmonary Recessitation (CPR) and participating in AED training and basic first aid when applicable.

2. Trainers who provide expert testimony in courts of law recognize their duty to testify truthfully. The trainer should not testify concerning matters about which he or she is not knowledgeable. The trainer should be prepared to have testimony, given in any judicial proceeding, subjected to peer-review by an institution or professional organization to which he or she belongs. It is unethical for a trainer to accept compensation that is contingent upon the outcome of litigation.