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Why Should Informed Consent Be Obtained For Personal Training?

Why Should Informed Consent Be Obtained For Personal Training

Clients should always be encouraged to provide informed consent for personal training programmes, especially as this provides peace of mind for both client and trainer.

To better explain why you should receive informed consent as a personal trainer this article will cover: 

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What Is Informed Consent In Personal Training?

What Is Informed Consent In Personal Training?

Informed consent simply means when permission is granted to fulfil a purpose. The person giving consent will do so with full knowledge of any possible consequences. 

For those questioning ‘what is informed consent in personal training?’, this refers to when a client agrees to a bespoke workout programme that you have created for them.

This consent will be passed on to your clients through a ‘consent/release’ form, which covers every aspect of their workout programme. 

Through signing this document, a client is acknowledging they are fully aware of what this training entails, including the potential risks it holds (like injuries). 

Before they can sign, clients must display that they are doing so:

  • Voluntarily - With no outside interferences influencing their decision - e.g. pressure from the PT
  • Through Their Own Capacity - This means that the person is capable of giving consent, after fully understanding the information they have been provided
  • On An Informed Basis - You must provide as much information as possible about their specific training programme

What is Informed Consent in Personal Training stock

Typically, the informed consent release will be given to the client following their initial personal training consultation, and signed before their first PT session. This helps to ensure that both client and trainer are protected prior to any physical activity taking place. 

Technically, informed consent isn’t a mandatory requirement by law. However, it can provide legal protection if a client files a negligence claim against you.

For example, if you offer personal training sessions in the park, getting the informed consent of a client will show they acknowledge the potential hazards of the environment e.g. uneven terrain.

With this in mind, let’s further explore why you should get informed consent from your clients before the commencement of their personal training programme. 

Why Should Informed Consent Be Obtained For Personal Training?

Why Should Informed Consent Be Obtained for Personal Training?

As previously discussed, receiving informed consent as a personal trainer can provide protection in the event a negligence lawsuit is filed against you. 

While informed consent cannot completely dismiss the legal case, it can help to mitigate your liability. Negligence lawsuits of this kind will typically arise when clients claim the following:

  • As their PT you were legally responsible for protecting them from injury and failed to do so
  • You acted in a way that caused the injury/failed to act in a way that could have prevented it
  • Your actions directly caused the injury to the client

For reference, solicitors at Legal Expert estimate that if your client suffers from an injury that affects their quality of life, they can claim over £1 million in a negligence lawsuit.

This brings us to the question ‘why should informed consent be obtained for personal training?’. The answer to which can differentiate between client and trainer, allow us to elaborate.

Why You Should Obtain Informed Consent as a Personal Trainer

Receiving informed consent can provide a trainer’s legal representation with a tool to argue in their favour. In this instance, the PT’s representative will claim that their client knew the risks prior to the commencement of the bespoke training programme.

Keeping this documentation can also present you in a more positive light, and could even save your career and reputation by highlighting your professional conduct. 

Having documented proof of informed consent as a personal trainer can also help to reduce legal fees covered by your insurance company. 

To offer a brief summary, the document will act as evidence that argues in favour of the trainer over their client - thus mitigating their liability in the matter. 

However, we must stress the importance of acquiring both personal training insurance and documentation of informed consent from your clients. In doing so, you can guarantee a solid legal defence that won’t result in you paying directly out of pocket.

Why Should Informed Consent Be Obtained For Personal Training Clients?

Why Should Informed Consent Be Obtained for Personal Training Clients

Throughout this article, the focus has been centred on how informed consent benefits personal trainers. But informed consent can be beneficial for your clients, too.

An informed consent document helps to reassure your clients that their training programme is safe, whilst offering them a better understanding of how their training will work. 

For example, in this release form, you can have a section that's dedicated to explaining how the training programme will help them to reach their SMART fitness goals.

You should strive to provide as much information as possible and, in doing so, your clients will be able to better prepare themselves for the sessions at hand, thus minimising any of the associated risks.

 

How Can A Personal Trainer Secure Informed Consent?

How Can A Personal Trainer Secure Informed Consent?

As previously discussed, informed consent for personal training sessions is often obtained following an initial consultation

The timing of this is relevant, as this initial meeting will allow you to get to know your clients better. For example, during these consultations clients will be expected to fill in a PAR-Q form (Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire).

A PAR-Q form is a document where clients disclose their medical history to their trainer. This information provides you with a holistic overview of any conditions that could:

For reference, a typical PAR-Q form looks something like this example we use at OriGym:

par-q personal trainer informed consent

The information provided on a PAR-Q form will then allow you to alter the wording of the consent form, factoring in any of the client’s medical conditions.

For example, let’s say a client discloses a heart condition within their PAR-Q form. The informed consent document can take this into account and be worded differently:

I (INSERT CLIENTS NAME) understand it’s my responsibility to cease exercise and report any unusual feelings (e.g. chest discomfort, heart palpitations, or shortness of breath) promptly to my trainer.

By including this information you can legally protect yourself should a client suffer any heart related issues from their programme. 

Personal Trainer Secure Informed Consent?

Another of the key principles of informed consent in personal training is having clients re-sign this document at various points.

Informed consent is an aspect of permission that must be continuously granted throughout the time you share with a client. This is especially true if any changes are made to their programme.

For example, let’s say that a client achieves their initial goal, and decides to sign up to a new personal training package to pursue a new objective. 

Another informed consent document will then have to be created, to reflect this new training programme.

Now that you know how to secure informed consent as a personal trainer, let’s explore how you’ll structure an informed consent form for your personal training business.

- - - - 

Aside from reading up on Informed Consent for Personal Training, these other OriGym articles may be of interest too:

What You Need to Include As Part of Your Personal Trainer Informed Consent Form 

What You Need To Include As Part Of Your Personal Trainer Informed Consent Form

As we’ve already touched on, when obtaining informed consent for personal training sessions, you should strive to provide your client with as much detail about their programme as possible.

This will require you to create an expansive release form that includes:

  • A statement of the release of liability 
  • A clear outline of the client’s bespoke goals 
  • An in-depth description of the workout programme 
  • Analysis of the potential benefits of the bespoke training programme 
  • A detailed outline of the potential risks associated with the training
  • An explanation for what clients should do if they feel pain or discomfort
  • Client’s contact information, signature and date

Let’s break down each section of a personal training informed consent release form in detail.

#1 - Receiving A Statement of Liability Release is Vital When Receiving Informed Consent For Personal Training

Receiving A Statement of Liability Release is Vital When Receiving Informed Consent For Personal Training

A “release of liability”, otherwise known as a “liability waiver”, is an agreement in which the client gives up legal or financial claims against their trainer in exchange for a service.

This is arguably the most important legal aspect of your personal training informed consent release document. By including this element, you can greatly improve your legal standing should a client make a negligence claim against you.

According to Law Depot, there are numerous liability waivers that are recognised by UK law. The examples you need to consider in order to gain informed consent for personal training sessions are:

  • General Release of Claims: This is a broad release that can protect you against all possible civil claims. There isn’t one defining characteristic to this, but it can mitigate your liability should a client become injured.
  • Activity Waiver and Release: PTs should ask clients to sign this when engaging with any form of physical activity. By signing this, clients are acknowledging that they are at potential risk of injury.
  • Damage to Personal Property: This will apply if you train clients in their homes, or ask them to bring their own equipment to gym sessions. This will protect you should an individual claim that you are responsible for breaking or damaging their personal property.
  • Personal Injury Waiver: The name of this is fairly self explanatory, in this instance a client will agree that their trainer is not responsible for any injuries that may occur as a result of the training.

An informed consent template for personal training can be found below from FitKidzin which a children's personal trainer is requesting a parent/guardian's general release:

informed consent template for personal training Fit Kidz

But be aware having a waiver doesn’t guarantee complete legal protection. If a claim is brought against you, the courts will still consider:

  • Whether both client and trainer fully understand the context of the waiver 
  • If one party has taken advantage of the other 
  • If the waiver appears to be excessive and unreasonable 
  • Whether the trainer was negligent in their duty to provide care

As a PT, you should make careful note of that final point. Even if you have all the correct information in place prior to receiving informed consent, if a court determines you were negligent, you will still be held liable.

By establishing this waiver from the outset, you’re setting a precedent for the rest of the personal training informed consent release, and letting the client know the purpose of the form.

#2 - To Obtain Informed Consent For Personal Training, You Must Include A Client’s Goals

To Obtain Informed Consent For Personal Training, You Must Include A Client’s Goals

Once you’ve established the purpose of the consent form, you can move on to discussing the finer details of the client’s bespoke workout programme. This begins with outlining their goals.

In this section, you should establish that the goals:

  • Are specific to that client 
  • Have been agreed upon by both you and your client
  • Are not a guaranteed outcome
  • Can only be obtained through dedicated work

As this section will need to be tailored to suit the needs of every individual client, it may be easier to customise this section of the form in a similar fashion to this example from MultiScreen World.

Here we can see that the trainer has left a blank space to mark the client’s personal goals manually. 

Goals informed consent definition personal training

This same template will be able to be reused and altered when you onboard new clients. In addition to this, existing clients can have their goals reassessed and altered at any point, such as when they re-sign after completing their initial objective. 

Failure to include this section within your own document could result in clients claiming you did not inform them of their objectives. As a result, they may state that you made the training programme harder than they expected. 

#3 - Getting Informed Consent Requires In-Depth Description of the Workout Programme

Getting Informed Consent Requires In-Depth Description of the Workout Programme

In order for clients to provide their personal trainer with informed consent, they must receive a detailed outline of their bespoke training programme. 

This is a vital component of the consent release form, as it will inform a client of everything they can expect to experience during the course of their training. By having it in writing, they cannot claim they were unaware of certain aspects in a court of law.

Having this section will also benefit the client, providing them with everything they need to know to physically and mentally prepare for sessions.

Similar to our point on goals, this section’s wording will act as a template that you can continuously use from client to client. 

This minimises the amount of work required, as you won’t have to spend too much time personalising it to cover a specific programme.  

For example, take a look at this section as it appears in MultiScreen World:

informed consent definition personal training example

Here, the trainer has provided multiple examples of potential aerobic activities and muscular endurance exercises that a client could encounter during their training sessions.

They also offer the client a chance to remove consent at any point of the training, by stating including  - “Other activities selected by my personal trainer and agreed upon by me”.

When obtaining informed consent for personal training, this wording will protect both trainer and client:

  • Should a negligence claim be brought against the trainer, they can claim the client had the right to refuse to partake in a specific workout if they felt uncomfortable.
  • The client will receive peace of mind knowing they can refuse specific activities should they not feel ready.

When discussing informed consent, its definition in personal training always relates back to how much a client knows about the programme prior to signing up. 

You should strive to offer detail, whilst also leaving an opening for the client to remove consent at any given point.

 

#4 - A Personal Trainer’s Informed Consent Form Should Highlight the Potential Benefits Of The Training

A Personal Trainer’s Informed Consent Form Should Highlight the Potential Benefits Of The Training

In order to obtain a client’s informed consent, they must be aware of every possible outcome of their training. With this in mind, listing the potential benefits and risks of the programme is absolutely essential.

An emphasis must be placed on the word ‘potential’, as these outcomes are never guaranteed, and rely on a client’s hard work to achieve their goals. 

The benefits section doesn’t need to be overly detailed, and instead should relay basic information about the benefits of general exercise, which you’ll have learnt as part of your personal training diploma.

When looking to secure informed consent for personal training can be used, your wording should be clear and concise, like this example from True Fitness:

informed consent definition personal training benefits

Here we can see that the consent release covers basic benefits that are often associated with exercise, such as:

  • Lowering of blood pressure 
  • Improvement of cardiovascular function
  • Reducing the risk of heart disease

These can all be regarded as potential benefits of a client’s exercise program, as they are all general benefits of regular exercise. 

#5 - Why A Personal Trainer’s Informed Consent Form Must Highlight Potential Risks 

Dangers personal trainer informed consent

Ensuring that your clients know the potential risks associated with their training programme is arguably one of the most important elements of an informed consent document. 

The purpose of this section is to get clients to acknowledge the potential risks associated with training. In addition to this, you should stress that whilst you’ll strive to keep them safe during sessions, there’s an unavoidable risk to all exercise.

In a similar vein to our previous point, you can also choose to include a holistic list of potential risks that clients may be exposed to during their programme.

All of these aspects can be seen below, in the same example pulled from True Fitness:

why should informed consent be obtained for personal training the risks

Keep in mind this is merely an informed consent template for personal training forms, and the actual finished draft may require you to personalise this section from client to client. 

For instance, should a client flag potential health risks in their PAR-Q form, this section should make reference to this potential risk. 

#6 - An Informed Consent Document Should List The Client’s Responsibilities 

An Informed Consent Document Should List The Client’s Responsibilities

In the instance that one of these risks does occur, clients should know what course of action to take. This is why it’s so important to outline a set of rules that these individuals can follow in case of an emergency.

For example, True Fitness follows up their section on the potential risks with a breakdown of what clients should do in the instance they feel pain or discomfort:

Participant Response informed consent definition personal training

Including this section within your informed consent release is vitally important, as it provides clear guidelines for what is expected of the client in order to ensure their safety. 

In addition to this, if a client fails to disclose their medical history they cannot claim that you were aware of it prior to the commencement of training. 

This helps to relieve some of the burden from the trainer, and reminds the client that they are just as responsible for their own wellbeing.

Within this section you may also choose to use these sessions to discuss the general expectations of your clients. 

For example, you could make reference to your personal training cancellation policy here, and explain the etiquette you’re expecting when it comes to missing a session.

 

#7 - Informed Consent For Personal Training Will End With A Client’s Signature 

 Informed Consent For Personal Training Will End With A Client’s Signature

Finally, this documentation of informed consent for personal training should conclude with the client providing a signature.

This will confirm that they read and agreed to the contents of the form. Essentially, it’s the aspect of the document that highlights the client has provided consent.

An example of this can be found below from ACSM:

Signed document informed consent definition personal training

For legal purposes you should also get a recording of the date, as this will ensure that the document was signed before the start of the client’s training programme. 

You may also choose to have a witness present, although this is not mandatory. Instead, this will simply allow for a third party to verify that both parties agreed to the consent form at the moment of signing.

Full Informed Consent Template For Personal Training

informed consent template for personal training example

To support the claims made within the previous section, a full informed consent template for personal training will be provided below.

We will cover all of the points we’ve touched on, but bear in mind that this is only an example. When crafting your own informed consent document, you should make it as specific to your business as possible.

_________________________________________

Clients Name: ___________            Date:_______

Legal Waiver: I acknowledge that I am willingly partaking in a personal training programme with (PT NAME). These sessions will contain physical activities such as weight training and cardiovascular endurance exercises. 

I hereby hold (PT NAME) and their respective agents and employees exempt from any and all claims, demands, damages, rights or cause of action, present and future.

This waiver and release from liability includes, injuries which I may incur as a result of, the advice and guidance provided by (PT NAME), incorrect use of any amenities and equipment supplied by (PT NAME), malfunctioning equipment, slips and falls that occur in the PTs presence. 

Programme’s Goals: I understand that my personal training programme has been tailored to meet the goals agreed upon by both my personal trainer and myself. I understand that these goals cannot be guaranteed by my trainer, and accomplishing them will require dedication on my behalf.

My bespoke training goals are:

  • __ Cardiovascular time
  • __ Improved muscular endurance 
  • __ Increased muscle mass
  • __ Decrease body fat
  • __ Weight Loss
  • Other Personalised goals: ___________________

Outline of the Workout Programme: I understand that my exercise programme will require me to partake in a variety of fitness activities. These will vary depending on my pre-established goals and objectives.

These training sessions may therefore include, the likes of:

  • Aerobic Activities - such as the use of treadmills, stationary bicycles and rope machines
  • Muscular endurance and strength building exercises- such as the use of free weights, kettlebells, medicine balls and exercise bands
  • Other activities selected by my personal trainer and agreed to be me
  • Selected physical fitness tests

Description of the Potential Benefits: I understand that regular exercise has been shown to provide benefits to participants' general health and well-being. I’m aware this can include weight loss, reduction of body fat and the lowering of blood pressure. In addition to this, I am aware of the physiological benefits that I may also experience as a result of the training sessions, such as the general relieving of stress and tension.

Potential Risks of the Training Sessions: My personal trainer has explained the inherent risk of general workouts, and I understand that regardless of their actions, my PT cannot guarantee my personal safety.

For example, I am aware that cardiovascular stress can cause minor injuries such as strained muscles, as well as serious issues such as heart attacks and strokes. Likewise, I am aware that the likes of strength training can cause a similar range of problems, including the likes of bruises to herniated disks. 

I realise that when participating in this training programme, there is always a possibility of both minor and major injuries occurring.

Participant Responsibilities: I understand that when signing up for personal training it is my responsibility to:

  • Disclose any health conditions or medications I may take that are relevant to the participation in said exercise programme 
  • Stop exercising immediately and report any unusual feelings to my PT during the sessions, this can include but is not limited to - Chest pains, nausea, and difficulty breathing.
  • Clear my participation in the programme with a doctor 
  • Cancel scheduled sessions with 24 hours notice, without good reason. Failure to comply will result in forfeiting the session without a refund.
  • Take seriously and attend all scheduled training appointments, during which I will perform to the best of my ability 

By signing below I acknowledge and agree that I have read the foregoing document, and know the nature of my personal training programme. I have agreed to all of the terms and conditions of this release.

Clients Signature: ______________

Clients Name in Print: ___________

Personal Trainers Signature: _________


Before You Go! 

Now that you know how to gain informed consent for personal training you can begin to write your own document. 

Remember, gaining informed consent as a personal trainer is an absolute necessity, one that protects both you and your client. Therefore, creating this form should be a top priority of any business owner.

Completing a specialism such as our Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course will strengthen your understanding of the relationship between diet and exercise, meaning you can help your clients even further!

OriGym’s FREE prospectus is also available to download! 

 

 

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Written by James Bickerstaff

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

James holds a BA (Hons) in Creative Writing and Film Studies and has recently gained a MA degree in Film, both of which he attained from Liverpool John Moores University. After taking up the couch to 5K challenge on a whim, James found a new passion for running, which he combines with his love for healthy cooking and writing. All of this led him to becoming a copywriter for OriGym.  

When he is not writing content for the site, James can be found researching new recipes, writing music reviews, reading and watching latest film releases.   

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