Working up a sweat about new fitness regulations
SOMEWHERE out there, unheralded but active, is the Ministry of Silly Legislation. I have given many examples of badly drafted legislation in this column. One of the lowlights must be the proposed Fitness Industry Regulatory Bill. The purpose of the bill is to regulate fitness and fitness establishments. Unbelievably, it is suggested that anyone who supervises fitness activities or provides equipment for physical fitness, health and wellbeing and their trainers in “any exercise modality” should be regulated — from the smallest neighbourhood yoga class to the largest gym.
Who will do the regulation? More energy regulators than the National Energy Regulator of SA, apparently. First, we have the Fitness Industry Regulatory Authority which will administer, govern and regulate fitness in SA. The authority’s primary objects are described in 18 subsections and its functions in another 33 subsections including, if you wonder whether your gym fees will go up, receiving and expending funds (probably more receiving than expending).
We are not told what this authority consists of. But it is clear it is going to have lots and lots of people to govern our fitness. The authority is controlled by a council of five people appointed by the minister. The council can appoint any number of committees for different sectors, disciplines and interests in the fitness industry. The council and all its committees are paid from the funds of the authority.
Then you have the staff of the authority including a director and three deputy directors and any number of people to see that we are not doing too many press-ups.
The next layer is fitness controlling bodies which administer, govern or regulate fitness at club level and organised fitness events. It is anybody’s guess how many committees and controlling bodies there will be to govern our “state of being physically, mentally or emotionally fit by way of any mode of equipment or fitness training”.
Does that, you may ask, include pottery at the wheel? I don’t know. It depends, I suppose, how emotionally fit pottery in motion makes you. Fitness professionals include those providing professional services as one-on-one instruction in any exercise modality. Physiotherapists beware.
If you want to go along to the gym for a sauna you may find yourself governed by the rules of the authority, the decisions of the council, the instructions of the committees, accreditation conditions of your gym and of your fitness instructor, and the constitutions, rules, regulations and codes of conduct of the controlling bodies.
And don’t think you can go from the gym to the squash court with your personal trainer because he or she is not allowed to be certified in more than one discipline for fear of a criminal conviction. A fitness instructor who takes you from the exercise bicycle to the swimming pool could go to jail for three years and the owner of the gym five years. Even if all this happens while both of you are overseas.
And so the act goes on for 56 ridiculous sections, some of them unintelligible. It doesn’t end there. You have to read the act together with the Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Act, 2010 which everyone has forgotten exists and nobody knows how it works, even those who are supposed to implement it. You also need to look at the National Sport and Recreation Act which is being amended to cover recreation which includes “all forms of physical activity that contribute to social interaction organised as recreational activity including a recreational activity”. That probably includes a gardening club and cooking classes.
Fortunately, if you don’t like any decision taken in terms of the fitness act you can appeal to the minister who has to decide the appeal without delegating it to anyone else. The minister is going to be too busy to attend title fights.
Finally, in case you are worried about our law enforcement agencies, the minister can exempt a government department “that provides fitness training as its core function”. This includes, says the act, the departments of police and defence. Fortunately despite this section, fitness isn’t the primary object of the police and defence force according to the Constitution.
You would think that parliament has embarrassed itself enough recently. Why would it want to discuss anything as silly as the Fitness Industry Regulatory Bill?
Understanding proposed Fitness Industry Regulatory Bill is more exhausting than a session in the gym
Patrick Bracher (@PBracher1) is a director at Norton Rose Fulbright.