Code of Ethics
The American Fitness Professionals & Associates (AFPA) Code of Ethics sets forth ethical values and principles designed to set the standards and define the guidelines for conduct for any and all AFPA certified professionals.
AFPA believes that maintaining specific ethical practices and adhering to a decided code of ethics and values is essential for health professionals who provide training, coaching, consulting, and other services in a professional setting.
As such, AFPA is committed to more than just teaching course content to students and aspiring professionals. True excellence is determined not only through a mastery of foundational studies and certifications but also by a commitment to the AFPA organizational values and the ethical principles outlined under the categories of professionalism, competence, integrity, and social responsibility.
Those seeking education and certification through AFPA are expected to fully comprehend and respect the core ethical values and principles outlined below. The ultimate goal is to ensure a mutual understanding between AFPA and its students on the expectations and obligations placed upon students.
Key Definitions and Terms
- Active Participation – Active participation is the set of independent actions taken by an individual to keep themselves involved in a specific matter. “Active” implies the individual maintains a keen interest and commitment to participating in a situation, rather than remaining passive, uninvolved, or uninterested.
- Client – The person or persons whom the individual is serving in the role of a trainer, coach, or other health or wellness related professional.
- Colleagues – The persons with whom an individual shares a professional environment. Colleagues may also share clients and are expected to adhere to the same code of ethics as the individual.
- Confidentiality – The practice of keeping information private. This can be applied to a range of circumstances, from client information to business practice.
- Conflict of Interest – Situations or scenarios in which the main concerns or priorities of the party involved are incompatible and pose the potential to clash.
- Credentials – The proper education and certifications required of AFPA professionals.
- Diagnosis – An official definition of a physical or mental condition based on a professional analysis and examination of a person’s symptoms.
- Ethics – Principles based on a moral structure that governs an individual’s behavior and mentality.
- Implicit Bias – Preconceived ideas or stereotypes that an individual inherently has about a situation or a group of people. Implicit biases should be challenged to ensure fairness remains at the forefront of a business practice.
- Inclusive Language – Language that is considerate of all people and social groups so as not to inhibit any individual from participation and inclusion.
- Informed Consent – Permission given by a client after having the full extent of possible consequences, risks, and benefits disclosed to them.
- Social Justice – A term used to describe how various privileges are distributed throughout society, typically used to help bring attention to areas of inequality such as wage gaps, racial discrimination, etc.
- Systemic Equality/Inequality – The level of equality or inequality that exists at an institutional and societal level. “Systemic” implies that the equality or inequality of specific individuals is built into the ruling ethics and policies of a community, society, or organization.
- AFPA Certified Professional(s) – For the purpose of this code of ethics, “AFPA certified professional” will refer to any certified or soon-to-be certified individuals associated with AFPA. This term is used as an all-encompassing umbrella for any AFPA field of certification.
- Treatment – A decided upon plan to improve a person’s health or provide care for a given diagnosis.
Core Values and Ethical Principles
Below are the specific AFPA core values and ethical principles required of any students or professionals associated with AFPA.
AFPA Core Values
There are four core values that lay at the heart of AFPA. These values set the tone for AFPA’s expectations of soon-to-be certified professionals and are the foundation from which AFPA defines its ethical boundaries and expectations as an organization. They are as follows:
- Commitment: AFPA certified professionals are committed to advancing the health and wellness of their clients and community. They devote themselves to empowering, educating, and providing their clients and community with the support and resources they need.
- Contribution: AFPA certified professionals contribute their highest level of ability, skill, knowledge, and care to their clients, community, and the industry.
- Impact: AFPA certified professionals prioritize maximizing the impact that they have through providing their services, knowledge, education, and skills to their clients, community, and industry.
- Excitement: AFPA certified professionals are enthusiastic and excited about the work that they do and the impact they have on their clients, community, and industry.
Ethical Principles and Practices
I. Professionalism – Responsibility to Clients, Peers, and Colleagues
AFPA Certified Professional to Client Relationship
- AFPA certified professionals should maintain a respectful relationship with clients that keeps in mind the client’s welfare at all times.
- AFPA certified professionals should tailor any health instruction or training to fit a specific client’s needs.
- AFPA certified professionals should maintain appropriate boundaries with clients to differentiate the trainer to client relationship from more intimate relationships, especially when it comes to physical or sexual behavior. Sexual misconduct is considered a serious offense for trainers.
Colleague and Peer Relationships
- AFPA certified professionals’ relationships with colleagues should uphold professional boundaries and be based on mutual respect and honesty.
- Cooperation with colleagues is expected, especially in situations where they may share clients.
- AFPA certified professionals are expected to resolve internal conflicts between themselves and other colleagues respectfully and thoroughly or seek mediation when conflict resolution is not easily achieved.
Clear and Appropriate Communication
- When speaking to clients, AFPA certified professionals should be mindful of using simple vocabulary related to fitness and be prepared to explain in full any difficult or complex concepts.
- AFPA certified professionals should be mindful of using appropriate language that is sensitive to clients and colleagues and excludes any offensive or non-inclusive language.
- AFPA certified professionals should confirm that their communication has been clear and thoroughly understood before moving on to other topics.
Confidentiality and Consent
- AFPA certified professionals are expected to establish and obtain informed consent with each client and maintain proper transparency about any contractual obligations or changes.
- AFPA certified professionals are expected to uphold a client’s confidentiality to the fullest extent of the law and implement proper measures to protect the client’s personal health information.
- AFPA certified professionals who have clients that are minors should ensure informed consent is given by the appropriate guardian of the client.
- Any intellectual property or information pertaining to the client, including photographs, testimonials, etc., should not be used unless explicit permission is given in writing by the client.
II. Competence – Responsibility to the Business Practice
- AFPA certified professionals should provide clients a transparent and honest representation of any certifications and education they have received.
- AFPA certified professionals should provide accurate and thorough documentation or notes pertaining to the progress and overall health status of a client.
- When advertising their services, AFPA certified professionals should ensure any materials, data, or information displayed within the advertisement is completely truthful and does not pose the threat of misleading potential clients with inaccurate claims or information. This can include ensuring advertisements do not offer false or unrealistic promises to potential clients.
Commitment to Safety
- AFPA certified professionals should not step outside the bounds of their certifications unless they have the legal licensing to do so. This refers to any medical treatment, including assessment, diagnosis, or treatment of any health conditions or injuries. Any scenario requiring licensed medical treatment should be deferred to medical professionals.
- In the event an AFPA certified professional notices symptoms of potential injuries or medical conditions that have not been noticed by or disclosed by the client, they should halt their professional services until a medical professional has cleared the client to continue through formal documentation.
- AFPA certified professionals should ensure that their professional environments maintain the proper level of sanitation and hygiene to protect any persons who enter the space. Additionally, any equipment used should be regularly inspected to ensure it is operating correctly and safely.
- AFPA certified professionals must have a working knowledge of all local, state, federal, and provincial laws, regulations, and professional rules. In addition to keeping up-to-date on laws, regulations, and professional rules, they should also maintain the proper adherence to these legal limitations.
- AFPA certified professionals should ensure they are respecting any existing copyright, trademark, or intellectual property rights laws that may pertain to any information, advertising, or other resources used within their practice.
- All client records kept by AFPA certified professionals should be kept accurate and truthful to the best of the AFPA certified professional’s knowledge.
- All financial recording and tracking, as well as IRS reporting, should be kept accurate to the best of the AFPA certified professional’s knowledge.
Maintenance of Credentials
- Any soon-to-be AFPA certified professionals will complete any AFPA coursework and certifications in a timely manner and to the best of their ability.
- Any certifications that require renewal will be renewed before the date of expiration so as to avoid any overlap of professional services offered with the period of time in which one or more of the related certifications are invalid. A certification that is allowed to expire without renewal will result in the individual no longer being in good professional standing.
- Additional credentials, such as CPR and first aid certifications, will be acquired by AFPA certified professionals so as to have the proper licensing to aid clients in emergency situations.
- AFPA certified professionals will engage in continuing their education according to new and changing health information, research, and evidence that arises; maintaining current knowledge is important to provide the most value to clients and ensure safe practice.
III. Integrity – Commitment to Honesty and Transparency
Identifying Breaches to Code
- AFPA certified professionals will immediately report breaches of the code of ethics to the AFPA when observed or discovered. This includes breaches performed by colleagues or by the individual themselves.
- AFPA certified professionals will not withhold critical information from clients, supervisors, or employers that pertain to a code breach out of personal interest to protect one’s career or the career of a colleague.
- If uncertain if a certain action or practice will be a breach of code, AFPA certified professionals should address the action or practice with a supervisor or employer before proceeding.
Conflicts of Interest
- AFPA certified professionals will actively try to identify any potential conflicts of interest between themselves and a potential client before entering into a professional relationship with said client. The well-being and best interest of the client should always be the first priority.
- If an AFPA certified professional receives any special sponsorships, products, or other items of substantial value that are given with the intention of promotion of a specific brand or company, this information should be immediately disclosed. This includes social media sponsorships. Secretive promotion of health or fitness goods or services is considered biased and unethical.
- For any and all recommendations given to a client regarding their health and wellness, AFPA certified professionals should rely on evidence-based studies and/or information to give clients the best recommendations according to current evidence-based practice and research. Additionally, AFPA certified professionals must commit themselves to stay up-to-date on new evidence or findings pertaining to nutrition, health, and fitness.
- Any contracts between AFPA certified professionals and clients should have clear terms and conditions, with clarification provided for any articles within the contract deemed confusing or unclear by either party, and should be reviewed by an attorney licensed in the professional’s state of practice.
- AFPA certified professionals should be ready and willing to respect the client’s right to terminate the contract at any point for any reason. AFPA certified professionals should also maintain this right. As such, the right to terminate at any point should be included within the contractual boundaries.
- Compensation and payment should be contractually decided on and agreed to by all parties. Thus, one party cannot later make adjustments to compensation without permission. Additionally, lack of compensation can be more clearly documented.
- AFPA certified professionals should assume full accountability for their actions and responsibilities to their clients. This includes accepting the full consequences that result from breaches of contracts or of the code of ethics.
- AFPA certified professionals should recognize that they are accountable for their clients’ health and well-being during training, consultations, coaching, etc. AFPA certified professionals must assume full accountability for any mistakes made while providing a service to a client and proactively try to anticipate and avoid such mistakes.
- AFPA certified professionals have a duty to hold their colleagues accountable for their actions as well. As mentioned under “Identifying Breaches to Code,” trainers should always report wrongdoings or mistakes performed by themselves or by colleagues that violate the code of ethics.
IV. Social Respect and Responsibility – Commitment to Social Justice, Equality, and Fairness
Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Hate Policy
- AFPA has a zero-tolerance policy for oppressive or hate speech and hateful actions, and the occurrence of such instances can result in the termination of instruction and certification.
- AFPA certified professionals shall not refuse their professional services to a client solely based on the client’s race; color; religion or belief; national, social, or ethnic origin; sex (including pregnancy); age; physical, mental, or sensory disability; HIV status; sexual orientation; gender identity and/or expression; marital, civil union, or domestic partnership status; past or present military service; family medical history or genetic information; or family or parental status. Any instances of discrimination should be reported to the AFPA or relevant employers.
- In some cases, AFPA certified professionals may not have the experience, expertise, certifications, or licensing necessary to safely provide their services to people with specific illnesses or disabilities. This should be addressed with supervisors and/or AFPA on the best way to recommend different services or providers that best meet these clients’ needs.
- Anti-discrimination policies should be clearly outlined in any contractual agreements with clients in order for AFPA certified professionals to be held accountable if discrimination occurs.
- AFPA certified professionals should prohibit any language classified as oppressive, discriminatory, or hate speech from occurring during their training, coaching, or consulting sessions. Clients should be made aware that hate speech is not tolerated and can result in the termination of contracts or professional relationships.
- AFPA certified professionals should commit themselves to learning about, acknowledging, and addressing the history and impacts of systemic oppression and implicit biases. Perceived racial stereotypes are a major example of implicit bias; any and all stereotypes should be challenged and not automatically applied to a client or peer.
- AFPA certified professionals should create an environment that is welcoming to all and considerate of cultural or societal differences and strictly prohibits racism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, ableism, transphobia, or any other sort of discrimination.
- AFPA certified professionals should make an effort to diversify the businesses they receive services from in order to be more inclusive of minority-owned businesses.
- AFPA certified professionals should be mindful of the language they use, especially when it comes to addressing their clients. AFPA recommends referring to A Progressive’s Style Guide, a resource created by SumOfUs, a 501(c)4 social welfare nonprofit organization.
- AFPA certified professionals should identify their own implicit biases and determine how they affect the ways in which they speak to clients of different cultural backgrounds than themselves and be willing to adjust their language to be more inclusive of all people.