Understanding Business Insurance for Fitness Instructors and Personal Trainers

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  • Personal fitness is a major priority for a growing number of Americans. Millennials in particular are passionate about staying fit and are willing to spend big money on it. According to reporter Jeanette Settembre, Americans spend $155 per month on health and fitness, with at least $33 of it going to gym memberships and $14 to training. 

    But for fitness instructors and personal trainers to stay profitable and thrive, they must protect themselves from business-related liabilities. As an independent agent, you can help them with this by explaining key liabilities and guiding them to the proper coverage.


    The Three Main Types of Liabilities 

    Fitness instructors face three specific types of liabilities for which they need to be insured. 


    Client Injury

    The first and most glaring threat is client injury and the personal liability of the fitness instructor. Any time a personal trainer leads clients in exercise routines and workouts, there’s always the potential for injury. In fact, the Insurance Information Institute writes that over 526,000 exercise injuries were reported in 2017 alone, according to the National Safety Council. 

    In most cases, trainers will rent a studio or workout space. While the landlord will likely have insurance, it usually only covers the structure of the building, meaning trainers will be held liable if a client sustains an injury. 

    “Any harm that comes to your clients is your responsibility,” explains the team at insurance quote comparison site CoverHound. “If a client trips over their yoga mat, falls off of a stationary bike or hits their head on a pull up bar, you are responsible for their resulting injury.”


    Employee Injury

    The second form of liability is when an employee becomes injured while on the job. The position of fitness instructor or personal trainer is a physically demanding one. Employees face considerable risks on a daily basis, even if they rigorously follow safety standards. 

    Stress fractures to the foot or shin and biceps tendinitis — an inflammation of the tendon that connects the upper biceps to the shoulder bones — are two of the most common workout injuries, writes certified strength and conditioning specialist Linda Melone. And for individuals who exercise daily when instructing clients, their risk level will naturally rise. So any time a fitness instructor employees other people, their liability level increases. 


    Exercise Equipment 

    A third type of coverage is insuring the actual equipment used by the fitness instructor’s students. Opening up a fitness business is expensive and can cost up to $500,000, says journalist Vivian Giang.  

    For instance, a basic indoor cycling bike can cost $239, while a high-end version can cost upwards of $2,000, notes Rachel Morris, a health and wellness writer. Multiply that by 10 or 15 bikes to accommodate a full class of fitness students, and it can add up. 

    If a personal trainer is unfortunate enough to have their studio broken into and their equipment stolen, it can be a huge blow financially. So it’s important that they’re fully insured in the event of a worst-case scenario. 

    Similarly, if a critical piece of equipment becomes damaged, insurance may help cover the repair costs.

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    How to Cover Each Liability 

    Now that we know about the liabilities that fitness instructors face, let’s discuss the different types of insurance needed to ensure adequate coverage. 


    General Liability Insurance

    For starters, there’s general liability insurance, which acts as a base level of protection for fitness instructors. 

    “General liability insurance helps cover third-party claims resulting from bodily injury and property damage resulting from your instruction,” business and technology writer Kelly Sheridan explains. “If a student is injured in your class, insurance can help cover the costs for their resulting medical expenses and lost income.”

    Third-party claims are some of the most common for fitness instructors, says finance and insurance writer Virginia Hamill. Therefore, general liability insurance is an important investment and should cover the costs that stem from medical expenses and lost income. 

    Since many gyms and fitness centers require personal trainers to have this type of insurance before they can teach, it’s basically a must. 


    Professional Liability Insurance 

    In most cases, it’s wise to go beyond just general liability insurance and also invest in professional liability insurance. 

    “Professional liability, sometimes known as Malpractice Insurance, includes most everything you will need for your growing business,” according to fitness instructor training resource Bolt Fitness. “Legal fees and costs related with the defense settlements and property are also covered under this highly recommended insurance policy.”

    Here’s an example they give when this coverage would be beneficial. Say a personal trainer suggests that a client eats a particular type of food like acai berries to get more antioxidants, but the client ends up getting sick because of an allergic reaction. This could result in an expensive lawsuit — something which general liability insurance wouldn’t cover. 

    The Bolt Fitness team points out that professional liability insurance is also recommended when you have employees. Even though staff members are expected to operate safely and responsibly, there’s always the potential for injuries during workout sessions. Professional liability insurance serves as a robust safety net that will cover them in situations where general liability insurance may not. 


    Workers’ Compensation Insurance for Employees

    It’s also smart to have workers’ compensation insurance in case employees get injured performing an exercise while instructing clients. This ensures that employees receive proper benefits and medical care when injured on the job, says business writer Jean Murray

    Workers’ compensation requirements vary significantly from state to state, says the National Federation of Independent Business and isn’t always mandatory. However, failing to carry it can potentially lead to a personal trainer getting hit with stiff fines, lawsuits and in some cases criminal charges. It’s important to familiarize yourself with workers’ compensation requirements in your state. You can then relay that information when suggesting coverage to fitness instructors.


    Commercial Property Insurance 

    As mentioned, purchasing exercise and workout equipment is a costly investment. If equipment is stolen or damaged, it can create a huge financial strain — and that’s where commercial property insurance comes in. 

    It covers a personal trainer’s physical assets like exercise bikes, weight racks and treadmills from damage, loss and theft, explains insurance writer Priyanka Prakah. Having it can make a huge difference and gives a business owner peace of mind that they can stay open even in a catastrophic situation where equipment is stolen or damaged.

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    How to Navigate the Insurance Discussion 

    Your job as an independent agent is to help your personal trainer customers understand the ins and outs of liability coverage and match them with the ideal policies. 

    This starts with educating yourself on the four main types of coverages above and knowing which types of personal trainers can benefit from them, writes Voldico, a network of independent agents in Indiana and Ohio. Doing so not only makes your customers feel more confident and comfortable with you, it helps you fine tune your offerings so they get exactly what they need without buying unnecessary extras.  

    Bolt Fitness notes that a personal trainer must first receive a nationally certified personal trainer certification before applying for liability insurance. So before making any suggestions, you’ll want to make sure they’ve received certification. 

    Next, ask specific questions about the size of their business and what they need to insure. Have they made large investments in exercise equipment? Are they a one-person operation, or do they have employees? Are they giving dietary advice to their clients?

    These are just a few examples of questions that should help you gauge a customer’s needs. 

    Consider the types of occurences a customer needs coverage for, suggests small business insurance provider Verifly. For example, if nutrition coaching is included, they will likely need coverage that extends beyond general liability. 

    Finally, focus on giving them coverage that’s simple and flexible, says Lukas Urech, senior business development manager and head of insurance at Zühlke Group, an IT service management company. These are two of the top insurance needs in 2019, so be sure to break features and benefits down into readily understandable pieces of information, and customize your offerings as much as possible.


    Keep Your Fitness Instructor Customers Fully Covered 

    The personal training industry is experiencing steady growth and generated $9.2 billion in 2019, according to IBISWorld, a publisher of industry research reports. As the number of fitness instructors increases, so does the need for liability insurance. 

    Given the wide range of risk factors like client injury, employee injury, damage to or theft of exercise equipment, it’s critical that personal trainer customers find comprehensive coverage that addresses all of their needs.

    Understanding common liabilities, the various types of coverage and how to approach the insurance conversation should help you keep your customers fully covered so they can grow their business and have peace of mind. 

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