The Health Promotion Board (HPB) is taking the lead to raise the standards of fitness programmes in Singapore by mandating that trainers must have an exercise-related certification covering basic sports science knowledge before being allowed to teach at their community programmes.
On top of the standard Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) that trainers today use to assess the physical ability of participants, this new certification will help equip trainers with better knowledge on how to execute higher quality, safer, and more holistic programmes.
HPB’s New Initiative to Certify Trainers
This new requirement will apply to all trainers conducting HPB’s physical activity (PA) programmes, and will be implemented in HPB’s upcoming Mega Tender.
This initiative comes after a review of HPB’s current database revealed that while most (if not all) trainers are equipped with workout-/activity-specific certifications (e.g. Zumba, Yoga, KpopX), only a small proportion of them have a general fitness/exercise-related certification (i.e. personal trainer, group fitness instructor).
As such, they realised that while the trainers have sufficient knowledge to conduct specific workouts, knowledge of basic exercise science is still lacking. With HPB PA programmes intended to support and enable participants to lead a more active lifestyle, they thus felt that it was vital for trainers to be armed with the relevant knowledge to conduct safe and well-designed exercises.
The exercise-related certification obtained by trainers will have to minimally cover the following topics of: anatomy, exercise physiology, biomechanics, principles of training, safety, exercise prescription and/or design, as well as exercise behaviour and psychology.
Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) will be applicable for trainers who already have a recognised exercise-related certification. Meanwhile, there will be a transition period after the award of the Mega Tender for trainers who have yet to receive an exercise-related certification to obtain one.
Trainers who are keen on obtaining an exercise-related certification can consider attending the Basic Exercise Science (BES) course developed by HPB, in collaboration with Republic Polytechnic. To ensure its accessibility, the BES course is funded by SkillsFuture Singapore to keep it affordable. Interested participants can also pay for this course using their SkillsFuture credits.
What Does the Sports Industry Think of This Move?
TheHomeGround spoke to independent trainers Shawn and Michelle to gather their thoughts on this new initiative.
Both Shawn and Michelle welcome this new change from HPB, with Shawn acknowledging the importance of having an exercise science background in helping to “safely design and conduct exercise programs [for] different age groups and individuals with medical or physical conditions”.
Michelle stressed that it’s important for trainers “to have at least some basic knowledge about fitness, have a little [understanding] of our body, and not just solely about the programme(s) they teach – just [possessing] a licence to teach that programme is not sufficient to [call ourselves] ‘Fitness Trainers’.”
However, both Michelle and Shawn believe that being a trainer extends beyond just executing classes and following any standard operating procedures such as PAR-Q; instead, a trainer also has to be a positive influence on the participants, motivating them and inspiring them to lead active lifestyles in a fun and meaningful way.
Both trainers also underscored the importance of tailoring exercise programmes to the demographic, something with which a basic knowledge of sports science will undoubtedly help. Michelle shared that in her classes, the PAR-Q helps her better understand the needs and abilities of her participants and allows her to provide regression in the workouts where necessary.
Shawn expressed similar sentiments, adding that during training sessions, he remains “on the ground to ask the participant about their fitness and medical history.”
Additionally, they also emphasised a need to be observant during the course of these programmes and moderate exercises should they see a need to.
The Future of Fitness Training in Singapore
With HPB spearheading the integration of sports science into the basic repertoire of knowledge for fitness trainers, Shawn believes that it is only a matter of time before this becomes an industry-wide standard.
If you’re a fitness trainer looking to get ahead of the curve, the BES course has upcoming enrolments for 18 and 19 February, as well as 25 and 26 February. More information can be found here.
Ultimately, this is a win-win move for everyone, and participants can now attend programmes with greater confidence, knowing that our trainers are qualified and trained to keep us safe and healthy in our goal to lead active lifestyles.