Anytime Fitness manager Marc Johnson says the inclusion of a mental health class into Griffith TAFE's fitness courses from next year 'has been needed for years.'
From 2024, Griffith TAFE's Certificate III in fitness will include an elective unit titled "working with people with a mental health condition", which came about following consultation in the industry.
The certificate III in fitness qualifies graduates to become instructors, a profession set to grow 9.8 per cent over the next five years, according to Jobs and Skills Australia.
It comes amid new research showing almost a third of gymgoers now exercise to aid their mental health, and Mr Johnson says this is no surprise.
He points out memberships at the gym have risen tenfold since the pandemic and believes more and more are taking to the treadmills, bikes and weights to look after their minds as much as their bodies.
He says the inclusion of the mental health unit into the course will ensure future MIA fitness instructors are better equipped to help clients navigate their personal fitness journey.
"After COVID we saw an influx of people joining and we did find ourselves as counsellors as much as facilitators," Mr Johnson said.
"That's because we are the first point of contact for those who come in.
"Some people are anxious about starting a gym membership and getting a personal trainer. The scariest thing can be simply stepping through the doors. They need a safe space to work in and a safe person to help them along.
"While many of my staff have personal experience in the mental health space and are excellent in nurturing our clients, they aren't necessarily trained in that.
"If those doing the course can obtain the tools to do that, the better for our gyms and the better for them in their respective careers.
"The fact Griffith TAFE are taking the lead on this is an amazing step forward," Mr Johnson said.
A recent 20,000-person AusPlay survey found 31 per cent of respondents were motivated to exercise to maintain mental wellness, a figure that has almost doubled in the past five years.
Griffith TAFE fitness teacher Jared Kahlefeldt said the fresh focus on mental health training for fitness professionals was in response to the changing needs of industry.
"The current research shows the number one reason people are attending gyms is to see improvements in their own mental health," Mr Kahlefeldt said.
"Local gyms are crying out for TAFE NSW graduates but it's important we prepare them to work effectively in the industry to make a real difference."
The head of the nation's peak fitness group, AusActive CEO Barrie Elvish, applauded the move by Griffith TAFE.
"The inclusion of mental health in the Certificate III in Fitness is a fantastic step forward by TAFE NSW," Mr Elvish said.
"Physical activity is just as important for our mental health as it is for our physical health and most people work or get active to feel better, rather than look better."
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