the legal resource for fitness entrepreneurs
the legal resource for fitness entrepreneurs

9 things the health and fitness industry needs to stop doing

We want you to succeed. We really do. Which means we need to have an honest conversation about some things the health and fitness industry needs to stop doing. We’re just trying to save you some grief and help you grow a thriving, successful, and legal fitness business!

So wait no further, here are 9 things the health and fitness industry needs to stop doing!

  1. Not Reading Contracts Fully Before You Sign Them

Even if you don’t understand every word, understanding what is in the contracts you sign is the best way to avoid breaching the contract (that is doing or not doing things you’ve agreed to). It also helps know what your rights are under the contract. You should always seek your own independent legal advice if there’s something you’re unclear about – don’t let anyone push you to sign a contract immediately if you feel you need to seek advice, or let their attorney tell you everything is fine – they don’t represent you! Their job is to look out for the best interests of their client.

  1. Searching For An Attorney Only After A Legal Problem Has Emerged

Prevention and established relationships are an investment in your business. There is much to be said about why you have an ongoing relationship with your bank, accountant, and insurance broker, but far too often a relationship with an attorney is pushed down the list. This is a sooner rather than later priority task, because do you really want your first call to an attorney to be after you’ve been sent a nastygram from a client or vendor, or served with a lawsuit?

  1. Offering Services You’re Not Accredited To Offer

You might think you are a fitness and training Rockstar – and you might be. But, you may have trouble getting insurance if you don’t have accreditation for all of the services you offer, or having your insurance cover illness or injury suffered as a result of services you provided but for which you are not trained or accredited. What we are saying here still applies even if you don’t legally need to be accredited to work as a fitness professional. Read this article for more about legal requirements for accreditation.

  1. Giving Medical Advice

It can happen more easily than you might think. A client has a twinge, or shares health information, and looks to you for advice, and you offer your opinion about how to treat whatever they have going on. You might even share information that is “well this worked for me.” Bottom line: unless you have medical training and licensing, don’t give medical advice in your capacity as a fitness professional. Read this article for more…

  1. Playing Music Without An Appropriate License

It might not seem like a big deal to have a little music playing in the background. But it can cause a headache. The copyright owner of music legally controls its public performance. If you are a contractor-instructor, check with the gym facility to make sure they have a performance license. If they don’t, you may need to secure one of your own. For more see this article.

  1. Giving Nutritional Advice – “Prescribing” Supplements

It might seem like it’s not a big deal, and in fact you might be proud of your product lines or side hustle marketing supplements from a particular brand, but giving nutritional advice isn’t something to be messing around with. In many US states, giving nutritional advice, including prescribing supplements, is a licensed occupation – meaning it might actually be a criminal offence. By recommending or selling supplements, you also increase your risk of liability for illness and injury. For more information about the risks of providing nutritional advice, read this article.

  1. Not Being Adequately Insured.

Here’s the thing. Even if you do everything right, you can still find yourself being sued. Your insurance isn’t just for paying out if something goes wrong, it is to ensure you have a team to defend you and your business practices. Professional Liability Insurance (sometimes called Malpractice Insurance) can pray for your legal defense and cover any settlement costs, up to the amounts of your policy limits.

  1. Not Having An Illness And Injury Waiver Or Writing Your Own.

One of the most straightforward ways to limit your risk of liability as a fitness professional is to have all clients agree to an illness and injury waiver. A waiver is simply an agreement that the client understands that the activities they will engage in under your instruction and supervision involve risks of illness and injury, that the client agrees to accept the risk and waives the right to sue if they do get injured. Some states (jurisdictions) don’t allow for wavier of negligence so it’s best to have your attorney draft this waiver – we love DIY options, but this is not the time for that.

  1. Copyright Infringement On Social Media

For Athletes: We see you, thinking that this social media thing is a lark. Happy to take on a brand ambassador role here and there, loving the free product, but thinking that not marketing like a business might, and that laws relating to copyright infringement don’t apply to you. If you’re receiving product (or even a hefty discount not available to the general public), financial compensation, or sharing affiliate links in your social media feed, blog, or website, your online activities will likely be found to be commercial activity. If what you’re doing is commercial activity, then the laws around tax reporting will be invoked along with scrutiny of any images you don’t own the copyright for (or don’t have permission) to post.

Finding yourself the subject of a federal copyright infringement suit is not my idea of a good time. Examples of this include reposting images of athletes or products – even if you’re saying nice things about them, your reposting could be considered endorsement (and may also be trademark infringement) and they may not want to be associated with you (even if you’re giving them free advertising).

For Coaches and Brands: We see you, using that “regram” or “repost” app, and you’re probably thinking that this means you’re okay on the copyright front because you’re crediting or “regramming” leaving the original posters information visible. Here’s the thing, credit is not enough. We understand that often you think you’re doing the right thing and you aren’t trying to steal, I mean that’s why you “reposted” right? Nice thought. If you don’t have permission (a license) to use an image for which you don’t own copyright. Then don’t use the image.

As an added bonus, in addition to the rights of the copyright owner, if there is an identifiable person in the image, and that person is not you, then you might also be potentially infringing the publicity rights of that person. What this means for brands, is that just because someone is wearing your product in an image you own doesn’t mean you have a right to post or repost that image (unless the identifiable person has given you a license covering their publicity rights). This goes double when you don’t own the image in the first place.

 

 

About the author

Anna Blanch Rabe is a communications consultant, writer, and speaker. A non-practicing attorney, she works with social impact businesses and non-profit organizations to develop and effectively execute narrative initiatives to gain exposure, develop community capacity, and reach new customers. A former college level athlete, she now enjoys yoga and swimming, and crewing for her trail and ultrarunning husband.

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