Knesset drops requirement for doctor’s authorization for adults who want to work out in gyms

Until now, the authorization had to be signed by a doctor, but as the four public health funds did not agree that personal physicians sign the exact forms, it fell to sports medicine doctors.

Group exercise at a gym [Illustrative] (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Group exercise at a gym [Illustrative]
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Adults will be able to work out at a gym after signing a declaration that they are fit, without needing any longer to obtain a doctor’s letter that they are healthy. A law removing the requirement was unanimously approved by 33 MKs in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday.
Many sports medicine doctors do only a cursory examination of would-be amateur athletes, said Prof.
Naama Constantini, one of the country’s leading experts on sports medicine.
“They have never seen the person and cannot go into their medical records. While I’m glad there is no mandatory physician approval for all, I will fight for writing a suitable version of the medical declaration,” said Constantini, who is also chairman of the Israel Council on Women’s Health and an adviser to the Health Ministry. She was not consulted about the bill that just passed.
Now, people who want to work out in a gym merely have to sign a declaration that they are healthy – even though they haven’t gone to a doctor for a long time and may be unaware of their personal risk factors. The form of the declaration will be determined by the Health Ministry.
The liberalized new policy was apparently motivated by the belief that the requirement of a doctor’s authorization deterred many people from going to a gym to work out. Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, who initiated the latest version of the bill, said that, “Our job is to encourage people to work out, especially during vacations, so people will be happier and contribute more to themselves and their environment.”
The bill had been seven years in the making until Wednesday’s vote.
If the person includes in the declaration that he or she does have risk factors, the applicant will have to submit a statement from a doctor that, despite medical problems, working out is not a health risk.
Asked to comment, Constantini – who holds a Canadian diploma in sports medicine – has serious doubts about the health declaration.
“I agree that healthy, young people who have no risk factors do not need to undergo testing, but many people don’t know they are at risk.
One needn’t automatically send all who want to go to a gym to a sports medicine doctor for approval,” she said. In any case, children and youth under the age of 18 in any case have to receive approval from their parents to work out in a gym.
Constantini, who is head of sports medicine at the Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, said she was distressed to learn Wednesday that the Knesset had not invited representatives from the Israel Cardiology Society or the Israel Family Medicine Society to comment on the bill.
“I have a problem with the content of the proposed health declaration, because many people don’t know they are at risk. If somebody is 55, smokes, and is overweight and has not checked his blood pressure and cholesterol – and he signs the declaration saying he is fine – we will lose people,” said Constantini.
“There must be a relevant declaration backed up by actual knowledge of a person’s condition. The wording in the proposed declaration – taken from a 2002 form used in Canada that was not assessed in Israel and that the Canadians themselves revised in 2011 – is very bad.”
Constantini added that, as the gyms do not report the number of people who suffered heart attacks or sudden death while working out, no one knows how much of a risk there is. “But from my vantage point, I believe there are more than a few cases.”