This page deals with everthing involved in becoming an aerobics instructor:
Very little information is available at this time. Here's all we have:
The Ontario Fitness Council, known as OFC, and of course is in Ontario. You can call 416-426-7127 or fax 416-426-7372 to get an information package.
There is also CAIN, Canadian Aerobics, you can call them at 1-800-363-2246 or 1-905-847-8797, they will also send a package telling you where and when and how you can become certified. The local YMCA's and YWCA's also offer certifications.
Credit for this section goes to
The two major certifying bodies in the US for Aerobics Instructors
and Personal Trainers are the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and
the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA). Many other
organizations provide certifications as well, including the National
Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), the American College of
Sports Medicine (ACSM), and a number of regional organizations.
Currently, there is no license (as in a medical license) required to be an Aerobics Instructor or Personal Trainer. Periodically legislation is drafted, but the industry has done a remarkably good job of policing itself.
While most clubs require certifications of their instructors, there is
no law against teaching without a certification.
In the time since the dawn of aerobics, when people still exercised in bare feet, drawing from dance classes, and having soaring injury rates the industry has grown up, gotten educated, and as a whole approaches exercise very differently.
While certification is required to work at the majority of clubs these days, that alone should not be a reason to obtain one. Preparation for any of the major certifying bodies' exams will require the candidate to grasp the fundamentals of the exercise sciences - anatomy, kinesiology, physiology. In addition, the latest research and trends in exercise testing and programming will be covered, and the standards and guidelines for exercise for different populations will be discussed.
We know a lot more about group and individual exercise now than we did
ten years ago, and a lot more is expected of today's instructors than to
look fit and know a bunch of exercises and choreography.
Either ACE's Aerobic Instructor Certification or AFAA's Primary Certification are excellent starting points for aerobics instructors, and either organization's Personal Trainer Certification for Personal Trainers.
There may also be other organizations in your area. In the northeast (New Hampshire and Massachusetts) there is an organization called Fitness Resources, based in Bow, New Hampshire. (Not to be confused with Fitness Resources Associates in Needham, MA - another excellent organization). Fitness Resources offers an aerobic instructor certification program specifically targeted at new instructors that is not terribly expensive (see Is it expensive? below). There may be other such organizations in your area.
Another consideration is the preferred certification in your area. While both organizations are well-respected in the industry, some clubs (and some geographic regions) prefer one or the other. If you've got a specific place to teach in mind, find out who most of their instructors are certified by.
Other organizations offer certifications at the national level. The
American College of Sports Medicine offers six different certifications
(three on the health and fitness track, three on the clinical track),
which range from Group Exercise Leader to Cardiac Rehabilitation
Director. The National Strength and Conditioning Association offers
Personal Trainer and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
None of ACE or AFAA's certifications require a degree in a fitness-related field, nor does the ACSM Exercise Leader certification. Other ACSM certifications and the NSCA Certifications have different requirements, depending on the depth of knowledge and experience expected. You should contact those organizations for more information.
If you are an experienced instructor or personal trainer, you may be
able to pass AFAA or ACE's exams merely by studying their materials and
taking the exam. If you are inexperienced, it is strongly recommended
that you take a training course before attempting any of the exams
(except the AFAA Personal Trainer Certification, which is a 3-day
workshop complete in itself).
The ACE exams are written only, and consist of 175 multiple choice questions. Do not be fooled by this - they require a thorough knowledge of the material, and the ability to not only remember facts but to apply them to specific situations as well.
ACE offers sample examinations that can give you a good feeling for the types of questions the exam will ask and their level of difficulty.
The ACE exam is given quarterly in many cities across the US, and in
conjunction with several major fitness conventions.
The AFAA exams include both written and practical components. The written exam consists of 100 multiple choice and matching questions, and is similar to the ACE exam, though the scope is more limited.
The practical exam for the Primary Aerobic Certification includes a group exercise demonstration for appropriate warm-up, aerobic exercise, and muscle strengthening for the major muscle groups. The practical exam for the Personal Trainer Certification includes a demonstration of a fitness- testing protocol and an oral component requiring the candidate to answer questions demonstrating a knowledge of exercise science.
The AFAA Primary Aerobic Certification is usually given in conjunction with an AFAA-sponsored Primary Certification Review (1-day) or Primary Certification Workshop (2-day), though it is possible to "Challenge" the exam by paying a reduced fee and just taking the written and practical components without the workshop.
The Personal Trainer Certification is given as a 3-day workshop. There is an optional course presented during the first day called Introduction to Exercise Science. If you do not have a strong background in anatomy and kinesiology, it is recommended that you take this course as well.
AFAA tours the country, presenting many workshops each month in every
ACE does not provide training directly, but offers ACE accreditation to independent organizations to provide preparation for its exams. You can obtain more information about these by contacting ACE.
AFAA provides certification reviews, workshops, and instructor training
courses periodically. Independent providers also offer training to
prepare candidates for the AFAA exams. AFAA clearly states in its
literature that the 1-day reviews are intended for experienced instructors
who merely need a review of information before taking the exam. Do
not expect to be able to absorb enough material in the one-day review to
pass the exam if you are not already an experienced instructor.
ACE's exam costs $145. To challenge the AFAA Primary Exam is $99. AFAA's one-day review is $229, and the Personal Trainer Workshop is $299. Intro to Exercise Science is $90.
Prices on training courses vary widely, but $300-$400 is not at all
You'll need to be certified for CPR. The American Heart Association and
the American Red Cross both provide acceptable programs.
ACE publishes two excellent textbooks, their Aerobic Instructor Manual and their Personal Trainer Manual. Each is about $40, and an excellent investment.
AFAA publishes a single texbook, called Fitness: Theory and
Practice. It's also about $40.
You can reach ACE at:
American Council on Exercise 5820 Oberlin Drive, Suite 102 San Diego, CA 92121-3787 1-800-825-3636
You can reach AFAA at:Aerobics and Fitness Association of America 15250 Ventura Blvd., Suite 200 Sherman Oaks, CA 91403 1-800-446-2322
Credit for this section goes to
and Fransesco G. Fantauzzi
For Aerobic Exercise in the UK, the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) (now known as OCR) offers a "Basic Certificate in Exercise to Music". Other organisations offer their own certificates, but there is currently no awarding body established within education and training other than the RSA. The industry is in the middle of re-organising and producing National Vocational Qualifications (as have several other industries), which will then be certified by any recognised awarding body such as City & Guilds, BTEC and RSA. There are many regional qualifications, for example, local authorities may run their own courses for instructors in their areas. More advanced qualifications than the Basic Certificate are available and many are valuable and worthwhile. For some of these (ante- and post-natal exercise and over-50s exercise) the YMCA is the only body (AFAIK) offering training and certification.
[Update] A National Vocational Qualifications *has* been
produced, and it is known as Scottish and National
Vocational Qualifications (S/NVQ's). Also, the full name of
the RSA Certificate is "Basic Certificate in Teaching
Exercise to Music".
No license or qualification is required by law in the UK to teach as
an Aerobics Instructor or Personal Trainer.
Larry's answer about clubs requiring certification/getting up to date with exercise knowledge/increased expectations of instructors applies to the UK too
Also, the public are becoming more educated and many customers are
now expecting their instructors to be qualified, and inquiring about
qualifications. Some insurance companies are requiring a certain
number of hours training before they will personally insure aerobics
instructors - a requirement for hiring some private halls for
At national level in the UK, there is the London Central YMCA which offers the RSA Basic Certificate and several other of its own certificates relating to exercise such as weight training, circuit training, ante- and post-natal exercise, exercise for seniors, aqua, fitness assessment. These are offered by the area offices of the London Central YMCA throughout the UK.
At the regional level in the UK, there are many organisations such as commercial companies or colleges of further education which also offer the RSA Basic Certificate. Some organisations such as local authorities may offer their own certificates.
When choosing who to get certified with, choose carefully. The same
certification may cost more with one organisation than another, and
some organisations have a reputation for high quality. The London
Central YMCA has an excellent reputation, although its courses are
not the cheapest. You need to decide if you are only interested in
a certificate or you wish to study on a quality course. Ask the
course organiser for recent students who you can contact to find out
about the course.
Any prior exercise knowledge or experience is an advantage if you are taking the RSA Basic Certificate, however, if you are committed, you can pass the course with no previous knowledge or experience.
For more advanced courses, the RSA Basic Certificate is often a requirement.
At the moment, you cannot take the RSA examination without taking the course, however, this is set to change in the near future.
[Update] You can now take the RSA and the S/NVQ examination
without taking any course. Anyway, teaching exercise to
music is a very special coaching activity, that cannot be
earned just by books, or attending aerobics classes: one
needs to be instructed by somebody knowledgeable. The option
to go straight to the assessment could especially be of
interest for coaches with previous teaching experience, who
now want to be certified: it is in their interest to make
sure, before undertaking the exam, that they fully
understand the criteria used for the evaluation, especially
during the practical. Teaching a class is not enough to
pass the practical, as the class has to be taught according
to well defined (and definitely exigent) standards.
[NEW] The examination consists of 5 parts: a written paper, a practical, a written critique of a class, an interview, and the verification of the ability to perform Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR.).
The paper is a 1 hour test with multiple choice and true/false questions. Previously, the paper was used at including short and long answers, and diagrams to label, but the format has changed. The paper contains questions about kinesiology, anatomy, physiology and theory of fitness (not about nutrition anymore). One doesn't need any previous degree in physical education, but passing the paper does require commitment, as the pass mark is rather high (80%).
The practical consists in teaching a class, taken from the ten week plan. The class can be any in the plan, and not necessarily the one of the 5th week, as since some time ago. Also, the candidate coach chooses the level of the class he/she intends to teach. The class can last anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes, and the assessor has to evaluate it for at least 30 minutes, so not the whole class is usually held during the exam. Before the beginning of the practical observation, the candidate submits a brief written paper about safety and environmental conditions relative to his/her classes, and the intended level of fitness, age and gender of participants. Also, he/she submits a written detailed documentation, prepared at home, on the contents of the class he/she is going to teach. Participants to the class must be at least 8. The candidate coach is expected to make good use of voice, giving clear and detailed instructions, cues, coaching and safety points throughout the whole activity, giving and asking for feedback, giving encouragement and motivations; also, he/she is expected to observe the participants from different angles and positions, giving clear and accurate demonstrations, visual cues, and supervising the participants since when they enter until when they leave the class. The class must be safe and effective, addressing every component of physical fitness in a whole body approach, for participants of the stated level of fitness.
After the practical, the candidate coach has to produce a written critique of his/her own class, evaluating it in terms of safety and effectiveness, planning, teaching, contents, appropriateness of the music. Neglected details can be anyway questioned subsequently by the assessor during the interview.
At the interview the candidate brings a written plan for ten weeks of aerobics class, with 3 classes/week, outlining classes relative to the first, fifth and tenth week. The plan must show the breakdown of the individual components of the class, giving for each component information about its structure, duration and intensity. The assessor will read the plan and question the candidate in order to check that the candidate has a clear understanding of the concept of progression, and how to implement it in a aerobics class, addressing all the components of physical fitness (cardiovascular, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility). The written plan is prepared at home.
The ability to perform CPR is assessed with simulation on dummies. The candidate can produce a valid CPR certificate, so not to have to undertake this part of the exam.
The practical is usually several weeks after the end of the course of preparation (if any). The theory paper could be at the end of the course, the same day as the practical, or the candidates could be given a choice. Written class critique and interview follow the practical. Competence in CPR can be assessed during the course.
Courses and exams are run by several organisations
throughout the year on the territory.
In the UK, the RSA is a certifying body, not a training body, but all organisations offering the Basic Certificate must register with the RSA.
For details of course dates and fees, contact your local college of further education, or London Central YMCA (who may pass you on to their regional centres).
[Update] Also the RSA, on request, will send a list of
organisations offering training for the RSA Certificate.
Prices for the RSA Basic Certificate course vary widely, but including the examination, expect to pay between UKP 200 and UKP 350.
[Update] The YMCA course for the Basic Certificate,
including one attempt at the exams, typically costs from 399
to 525 Pounds, depending on status. Full time workers can
expect to pay the highest rate, while unemployed can expect
to pay even less than 399 Pounds.
In the UK, CPR certification is not compulsory by law, but may be required by health clubs and sports centres. Responsible exercise teachers should seek CPR qualification in any case. The St. John's Ambulance Brigade, the British Red Cross or the St. Andrew's Ambulance Association all offer cheap CPR courses with widely accepted certificates.
[Update] The CPR competence will be assessed as part of the
exams, and will result in the award of a Certificate for CPR
as well, unless the candidate can provide a currently valid
one (it has validity for three years, once issued).
London Central YMCA publishes CITE>The English YMCA Guide to Exercise to
Music by Lesley Mowbray and Rodney Cullum, Pelham Books, ISBN
0-7207-2021-4. This is getting a little out of date now, but is an
acceptable basic text at a price of UKP 10.99
You could also try CITE>A reference manual for teachers of Dance
Exercise by Jill May, W. Foulsham and Co., ISBN 0-572-01472-4 at
UKP (about) 10. This is aimed more at practising teachers rather
than those in training.
If your English is suitable to communicate with English
people and read English textbooks, then it is suitable to
get the RSA and S/NVQ Certificates. No certificate about
English is required, and grammar and spelling won't be
assessed or corrected. A foreign accent is fine, but you are
expected to communicate clearly, even if not always
correctly: your English has to be suitable, not necessarily
perfect. A dictionary is allowed during the written paper if
(and only if) English is not your native language.
Candidates are expected to have motorial awareness. If they
have some potential limitations (e.g., dyslexia), they will
be helped in order to provide them with the same
opportunities as any other candidate.
Quoting from the S/NVQ Documentation: "Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQ's) and National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ's) (collectively referred as S/NVQ's) have been designed specifically to recognise people's ability to perform effectively in a job or role". In particular, the S/NVQ's include a definition of criteria and qualitative standards that fitness professionals should satisfy.
There are currently three levels of S/NVQ's in Sport and Recreation.
Level 1: the Level 1 coaches assist in the delivery of sessions, and are involved in relatively simple tasks. They can also deliver part of a session, but only under supervision.
Level 2: the Level 2 coaches can operate independently, or can be supervised and/or receive help concerning session contents. They can deliver a whole session unsupervised, and are involved in complex tasks. The RSA Basic Certificate corresponds to the S/NVQ Level 2 (see below for details). Examples of Level 2 are coaches for Aerobics, Step, Circuit, Aqua, Weight Training.
Level 3: the Level 3 coaches can act unsupervised, teaching and devising programmes, assessing client needs. For instance, a coach awarded by the YMCA/RSA Certificate for Ante-natal/Postnatal Aerobics can belong to Level 3. Other examples are: Senior Weight Training Instructor, Personal trainer, Programme Director.
From the S/NVQ Documentation: "The Awarding Bodies for
exercise and fitness are City and Guilds, The Royal Society
of Arts, BTEC and Scotvec".
The S/NVQ Certificate is likely to take over with time. Also, once achieved another certificate, getting an S/NVQ as well could cost little extra effort and money. In fact, obtaining some of the other available certifications, one could already be doing what needed to get an S/NVQ certificate too.
Coaches already having a well established Certificate (say,
an RSA one) could be happy with just that, depending on
requisites in places where they want to teach. However, if
they decide to get an S/NVQ, they will be allowed to re-use
any previous coaching qualification and experience to
shorten their path toward the S/NVQ Certificate.
People with little or no experience in coaching should first train at an Approved Centre (see below for names and addresses), then will undertake opportune assessments.
Coaches with relevant previous experience or qualifications
should contact an Approved Centre for an interview, that
will accredit them any prior achievement, and will provide
them with the most opportune plan to extend their
certifications to the S/NVQ. In the extreme case, the
candidate could be awarded with an S/NVQ without any further
Any stage the candidate has to undergo for the RSA Basic Certificate, is also a stage toward the S/NVQ Certificate at Level 2. Therefore, when the candidate achieves an RSA Basic Certificate, also achieves a Provisional S/NVQ Certificate in Teaching Exercise to Music.
While the RSA Basic Certificate is permanent, the Provisional S/NVQ is not, and is valid for one year only. By that time, the candidate coach will have to teach a variety of classes of different levels, accumulating evidence of competence and written papers (worksheets). Such an evidence is putted together by the candidate in a portfolio. Then, the candidate will contact an assessor, who, during an interview, will verify the portfolio, and eventually award an S/NVQ Certificate, this time a definitive one.
Failure in having the portfolio assessed by one year since
the issue of the Provisional Certificate means that the
candidate will have to get a new Provisional Certificate,
undertaking again any necessary examination.
The S/NVQ Documentation (February 1996) reports the following:
The Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) Harold Fern House Derby Square Loughborough LE11 0AL Telephone: 01509 230 431 Fitness Scotland Caledonian House South Gyle Edinburgh EH12 9DQ Telephone: 0131 317 7243 Fitness Wales 240 Whitchurch Road Cardiff CF4 3ND Telephone: 01222 520130 London Central YMCA 112 Great Russell Street WC1B 3NQ Telephone: 0171 580 2989
You can reach the RSA at:
Royal Society of Arts Examinations Board Westwood Way COVENTRY CV4 8HS England Telephone 01203 470033
You can reach London Central YMCA at:
London Central YMCA Training & Development Department 112 Great Russell Street LONDON WC1B 3NQ England Telephone 0171 580 2989 Fax 0171 436 1278
This is part of the misc.fitness.aerobics Frequently Asked Questions page (FAQ).
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