Stronger hold on the fitness world
Colleges are expected to play a big role in making private gyms suitable for a wider range of fitness-minded people.
A shake-up of occupational standards among sports and fitness trainers - many of whom work in further education - is expected to result from a round of national consultations, beginning in London on Tuesday.
Among the issues affecting the fitness industry is the need for instructors to be trained in how to cater more appropriately for vulnerable people - such as children, the elderly and those with disabilities - who often need to take a more cautious approach to using exercise facilities and equipment.
Employers within the health and fitness industry will be taking part in discussions around the country. The talks are being organised by Skills Active, the sector skills council for sport which sets occupational standards in the industry.
With the publicity surrounding the build-up to the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the number of job vacancies in sports training is expected to increase over the next few years.
It is also likely that there will be increased demand for people in the sports training business to learn their trade in colleges, universities and other training organisations.
There will be new qualifications, new occupational standards and new approaches to continuing professional development for sport and sport science. Fitness instructors who work in colleges are now required, in line with all lecturers, to spend 30 hours per year updating their skills.
A spokeswoman for the Register of Exercise Professionals, a new membership body in the fitness industry, said: "The series of regional consultations, starting with this one in London, will be across the whole of the UK. We represent the people who are instructors, wherever they work, as a professional body with voluntary membership.
"But this consultation exercise is being led by Skills Active as an umbrella organisation. One of the things likely to change is an increased emphasis on how instructors should cater for people with specialist needs.
"People who have a disability, children, older people and people who have had a heart attack are examples of this."
Many of the courses leading to the register's list of recommended qualifications are provided by FE colleges. These include qualifications in exercise and movement, gym and advanced fitness instructor training.
A number of the industry-recognised courses are also provided by universities and private training companies.
With the increased availability of private gyms, and doctors often recommending light exercise for patients recovering from illness, the exercise industry is increasingly attracting the kind of people who need to be more careful about how hard they exercise.