Fitness trainers and instructors lead, instruct, and motivate individuals or groups in exercise activities.
What they do
Fitness trainers and instructors lead, instruct, and motivate individuals or groups in exercise activities, including cardiovascular exercises (exercises for the heart and blood circulation), strength training, and stretching. They work with people of all ages and skill levels.
Fitness trainers and instructors typically do the following:
- Demonstrate or explain how to perform various exercises and routines to minimize injuries and improve fitness
- Watch clients do exercises to ensure that they are using the correct techniques
- Provide alternative exercises during workouts or classes for different levels of fitness and skill
- Monitor clients’ progress and adapt programs as needed
- Explain and enforce safety rules and regulations on sports, recreational activities, and the use of exercise equipment
- Give clients information or resources about nutrition, weight control, and lifestyle issues
- Give emergency first aid if needed
Both group fitness instructors and specialized fitness instructors plan or choreograph their own classes. Classes may include cardiovascular exercises, such as aerobics or dance; strength training, such as lifting weights; or both. Instructors choose music that is appropriate for their exercise class and create a routine or a set of moves for participants to follow. Some may teach pre-choreographed routines that were originally created by fitness companies or other organizations.
Personal fitness trainers design and carry out workout routines specific to the needs of their clients. They may work with individual clients or teach group classes. In larger facilities, personal trainers often sell their training sessions to gym members. They start by evaluating their clients’ current fitness level, personal goals, and skills. Then, they develop personalized training programs for their clients to follow, and they monitor the clients’ progress.
Fitness trainers and instructors in smaller facilities often do a variety of tasks in addition to their fitness duties, such as tending the front desk, signing up new members, giving tours of the facility, or supervising the weight-training and cardiovascular equipment areas. Fitness trainers and instructors also may promote their facilities and instruction by various means, such as through social media, by writing newsletters or blog articles, or by creating posters and flyers.
Gyms and other types of health clubs offer many different activities for clients. However, trainers and instructors frequently specialize in only a few areas. The following are examples of types of fitness trainers and instructors:
Personal fitness trainers work with an individual client or a small group. They may train in a gym or in clients’ homes. Personal fitness trainers assess the client’s level of physical fitness and help them set and reach their fitness goals.
Group fitness instructors organize and lead group exercise classes, which can include aerobic exercises, stretching, or muscle conditioning. Some classes are set to music. In these classes, instructors may select the music and choreograph an exercise sequence. They may lead classes that use specific exercise equipment, such as stationary bicycles.
Specialized fitness instructors teach popular conditioning methods, such as Pilates or yoga. In these classes, instructors show the different moves and positions of the particular method. They also watch students and correct those who are doing the exercises improperly.
Fitness directors oversee the fitness-related aspects of a gym or other type of health club. They often handle administrative duties, such as scheduling personal training sessions for clients and creating workout incentive programs. They may select and order fitness equipment for their facility.
Fitness trainers and instructors may work in standalone fitness centers or centers maintained by other types of establishments for their employees or for members of civic and social organizations. Some work in clients’ homes.
How to become a Fitness Trainer and/or Instructor
The education and training required for fitness trainers and instructors varies by type of specialty, and employers prefer to hire those with certification. Personal fitness trainers, group fitness instructors, and specialized fitness instructors each need different preparation. Requirements also vary by facility.
Almost all trainers and instructors have at least a high school diploma before entering the occupation. An increasing number of employers are requiring fitness workers, particularly personal trainers, to have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree related to a health or fitness field, such as exercise science, kinesiology, or physical education. Programs often include courses in nutrition, exercise techniques, biology, anatomy, and group fitness. Personal trainers also learn how to develop fitness programs for clients of all ages.
Employers prefer to hire fitness trainers and instructors who are certified. Many personal trainers must be certified before they begin working with clients or with members of a gym or other type of health club. Group fitness instructors can begin work without certification, but employers often encourage or require them to become certified. Most specialized fitness instructors receive certification for their preferred type of training, such as yoga or Pilates.
Many organizations offer certification. The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, lists certifying organizations that are accredited.
All certification exams have a written part, and some also have a practical part. The exams measure the candidate’s knowledge of human physiology, understanding of proper exercise techniques, and ability to assess clients’ fitness levels and develop appropriate exercise programs. Many certifying organizations offer study materials to prepare for the exam, including books, webinars, other audio and visual materials, and exam preparation workshops and seminars.
Most trainers or instructors need certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillators (AED) before applying for certification in physical fitness.
The median annual wage for fitness trainers and instructors was $40,390 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,110, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $75,400.
Employment of fitness trainers and instructors is projected to grow 15 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.
As businesses, government, and insurance organizations continue to recognize the benefits of health and fitness programs for their employees, incentives to join gyms or other types of health clubs are expected to increase the need for fitness trainers and instructors. For example, some organizations may open their own exercise facilities onsite to promote employee wellness.
Similar Job Titles
Aerobics Instructor, Fitness Coordinator, Fitness Director, Fitness Instructor, Fitness Specialist, Fitness Trainer, Group Exercise Instructor, Group Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, Yoga Instructor
Vocational Education Teacher-Postsecondary, Preschool Teacher, Self-Enrichment Education Teacher, Teacher Assistant, Physical Therapist Assistant
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- AAAI/ISMA Fitness
- American College of Sports Medicine
- American Sports and Fitness Association
- Aquatic Exercise Association
- Athletics and Fitness Association of America
- IDEA Health and Fitness Association
- International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association
- National Academy of Sports Medicine
- National Strength and Conditioning Association
Magazines and Publications
Want to be at the head of the class? Fitness trainers and aerobics instructors are leaders of all their classes, leading exercise groups at health clubs, exercise studios, and other facilities. They demonstrate correct exercise form and the proper use of equipment. These teachers also instruct students on weight training, flexibility, aerobics, and other workout styles, often developing programs for people with special needs or goals. Aerobics instructors plan routines that work different sets of muscles and combine a high-energy sweat session with music. The job may require maintaining equipment and keeping records, as well as promoting membership and enrollment in a gym or health club. Good communication skills and an approachable manner are essential; some positions may require expertise in weight control and nutrition. Running several classes a day requires stamina and energy, so it's expected that you be in good physical condition. Many instructors work in the field part-time. Instructors often enter the field with experience in fitness classes, dance, or other sports disciplines. Certification in first aid, and in a fitness field such as personal training, weight training, or aerobics may be required. Becoming a fitness trainer is a great way to share your commitment to an active lifestyle.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org