The Fitness Zone

How to grow your PT business and improve lives with the NDIS

Jul 21, 2022 | by Network

The National Disability Insurance Scheme provides a huge opportunity to not only improve the lives of people who have the most to gain from exercise, but to also grow your PT business, writes Scott Hunt.

As personal trainers, most of us are all about helping people achieve goals that they can’t on their own. Our industry is populated by some amazing PTs, group fitness instructors, gyms, classes and other fitness options to get fit people, fitter. By ‘fit’ I don’t just mean gym junkies, I mean anyone that has the physical and intellectual ability to walk into a gym and achieve their goals. Of course, a huge proportion of the 26 million people in Australia and 5 million people in New Zealand don’t currently have the motivation to do this – but they at least have the ability to participate, if they choose.

What about people who don’t have the ability?

The 4.3 million Australians with a disability have extremely limited opportunities or access, meaning most simply can’t engage in physical activity in the fitness industry in a safe and fun manner. This isn’t a small niche, this is 17% of Australia that 99% of the fitness industry doesn’t adequately cater to. And, of course, there are many more in other niches, such as seniors, that our industry has limited offerings for.

This isn’t a small niche, this is 17% of Australia that 99% of the fitness industry doesn’t adequately cater to.

The fitness industry has become much more inclusive and diverse over the decades, and I’ve seen more and more personal trainers doing an amazing job in the area of disability fitness. Sadly though, this is still the minority of the industry. In addition to the small number of fitness professionals with the additional skills to service this demographic, there exists the challenge of our industry’s perception among many in society: in a world of body beautiful people and extreme goals flooding both social and mainstream media, it’s no wonder that the people who need our help the most are the ones least likely to feel confident enough to seek it.

What can we do?

There is a lot that any fitness business can do to help people with a disability feel welcome – there’s plenty of good information on this in the disability sector. But, just as importantly, you need to publicise that you cater for people living with disabilities and not let that message be drowned out by everything else your potential client sees about the fitness industry.

In the case of our own personal training operation, we set up a whole extra brand name, ‘Fit Your Ability’, with its own website and supporting materials, social pages and more, under our original name ‘Fitness Enhancement Personal Training’. Same great PTs, but a name and website that instantly show our commitment to training clients with a disability. You may not be in a position to go as far as establishing a secondary brand, but if you intend to work in this area, you could at least add some extra pages to your website in which you candidly discuss the disabilities you are able to work with.

Excitingly for the fitness industry, NDIS funding can be spent on personal training – where approved

The NDIS game-changer

Making your PT business inclusive for people living with disabilities is extremely important, but the key to getting an influx of people with a disability is the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). We’ve been training clients with disabilities for two decades, but it had always been a tiny portion of Fitness Enhancement. That is until we became NDIS registered in 2019, shortly after the scheme was made available in Queensland (following a gradual rollout across the states in the preceding years).

In layman’s terms, the NDIS is government funding for people living with a disability to become as able bodied as possible and increase their quality of life. Funding is predominantly spent with registered providers and/or specialist disability businesses. It’s extremely diverse and complicated in terms of who can receive funding, and for what services.

Excitingly for the fitness industry, this funding can be spent on personal training – where approved. This is the first time that personal training has ever been specifically government funded for anyone at all, and is a huge step forwards for both personal trainers and people with a disability who have goals that align with what a personal trainer can do.

NDIS registration = Credibility

Being able to say you are NDIS registered is seen as a tick of approval by people with a disability, people working in the disability industry, allied health and the medical industry. Since 2016, my PT company has used the tagline “Award-winning personal trainers since 1999”. While a great line that few others can say, it barely gets the attention of allied health – a frustration that I know much of the industry shares.

Now, when we approach allied health professionals or anyone else who has a basic understanding of the NDIS, we use the line “NDIS registered Personal Trainers”. Everyone is pleasantly surprised to hear that a personal trainer is NDIS registered and wants to know more, with a view to connecting us with new clients. If you want to grow your business by working with allied health providers, there’s no faster way than being able to tell them you’re NDIS registered.

Interestingly, in addition to getting us clients with disabilities, it also gets us able bodied clients who until that point have been reluctant to start exercise due to the intimidating stereotypes of ‘fitness’. When they see that we are able to help individuals with a disability, they feel confident that we can help them, no matter what shape they’re in.

This is the first time that personal training has ever been specifically government funded for anyone at all

An untapped market

Disability fitness, in particular for NDIS registered providers, is one of the last untapped niches in the fitness industry. In your local area you’ll likely have a huge variety of gyms specifically catering to all types of goals and all types of able bodied people, but you’re unlikely to find any that proactively promote themselves to people with a disability, or are equipped to handle many disabilities.

This presents an amazing opportunity for those that want to train people with a disability.

Do a Google search and you’ll see a seemingly infinite number of gyms, boot camps, PTs, studios and more. However, search for ‘NDIS personal trainer’, or even something broader such as ‘disability fitness’ and you’ll likely only find one or two businesses in your area, at best, that cater to the 17% of Australians with a disability. The market is there, but sadly it’s been neglected, and at the expense of those who need our help the most. This presents an amazing opportunity for those that want to train people with a disability.

It’s not all good news 

One of the reasons this is such an untapped market is the registration costs and paperwork. We’re in an extremely unregulated industry with no real mandatory paperwork, in part because we get nothing from the government. The NDIS is a government agency that gives $22 billion a year to people with a disability to spend with providers. As a result, you can imagine the paperwork and expense involved in becoming registered and staying registered with the scheme!

Our business now has a whole team that works on exactly this, including NDIS specialists. NDIS registration simply would not have been possible where my business was 10 years ago, and we were a team of about 30 then. Without the skill sets and budget, we simply wouldn’t have been able to register and maintain compliance if the NDIS had existed back then. Today, 99% of PT businesses are still in this position, meaning they simply have to pass up this opportunity.

What about unregistered NDIS providers?

In certain situations, PTs can accept NDIS funding as an unregistered provider. Most commonly, PTs will pick up this work if they already have a connection to a friend, family member or support worker of the person with a disability. A trusted and familiar PT that is unregistered is likely a better fit than an NDIS registered PT you don’t know.

At other times, it simply won’t be possible to find an NDIS registered PT because we are so few in number. The next best option is to find an amazing unregistered PT with experience with disabilities. However, if the participant is NDIS managed, it’s simply not possible for an unregistered provider to accept funding. Despite this, it is a better option for the vast majority of PTs than going through the process of their own NDIS registration.

This is a massive area of opportunity to not only improve people’s lives through the power of exercise, but to also grow your business

The best of both worlds

Another option is to come under Fitness Enhancement’s and Fit Your Ability’s NDIS registration. Whether working for a franchisee, or purchasing your own exclusive franchise territory, you’ll be able to be an NDIS registered PT. We not only have PT registration, but a variety of other line items meaning that when participants want a PT, but don’t have funding for it, we can accept it from core funding (a collection of much more than common line items) if the goals of the funding align with our diverse range of services. With our carefully developed wealth of skills in this area, we take care of all the registrations and ongoing compliance, as well as the bulk of paperwork – and we don’t charge anything extra for doing so.

This is a massive area of opportunity to not only improve people’s lives through the power of exercise, but to also grow your business. I urge you to get out there, do your research and find the direction that’s right for you. Let’s work together on the disability industry, and show the world the amazing results a personal trainer can facilitate for anyone of any ability.

Scott Hunt

Scott founded Fitness Enhancement in 1999. Today it is Australia’s largest Mobile PT company and Australia’s largest NDIS registered PT company with its network of PTs servicing over 2,000 suburbs across 7 cities. To find out more about working for Fitness Enhancement or owning a franchise visit fitnessenhancement.com To find out more about their disability fitness division visit fityourability.com.au

Network
Network is an education subscription service that offers a broad range of upskilling courses for fitness and wellness professionals. Established in 1987, Network has played a pivotal role in the continual evolution of the fitness industry.

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Disclaimer: Where Certificate III in Fitness or Cert III/cert 3 is mentioned, it refers to SIS30315 Certificate III in Fitness. Where Certificate IV in Fitness or Cert IV/Cert 4 is mentioned, it refers to SIS40215 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Certificate IV in Massage or Cert IV/Cert 4 is mentioned, it refers to HLT42015 Certificate IV in Massage Therapy. Where Diploma of Remedial Massage is mentioned, it refers to HLT52015 Diploma of Remedial Massage.

Important Information: As of 9th November 2021 SIS40215 Certificate IV in Fitness and SIS30315 Certificate III in Fitness have been replaced by SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness and SIS30321 Certificate III in Fitness. A transition period applies to enable currently enrolled students to fulfil their study goals and complete their qualification. The transition period concludes on 8th November 2022. If you have not completed all the requirements by this date you will be transitioned and enrolled into the replacement qualification SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness and SIS30321 Certificate III in Fitness. View the SIS40221 Master Trainer Program Flyer here. View the SIS30321 Certificate III – Fitness Coach Flyer here.