Baby boomers grew up in an era when jogging and aerobics became mainstream. Now, as Americans age, seniors are more likely than ever before to take care of their health with exercise. New advances in medicine also help them stay active longer. If you want to work with this population, consider getting one of the many senior fitness instructor certifications now available.
Choose a certification from a well-known, respected and accredited certifying agency. The American Council on Exercise, ACE, is a long-established organization that offers a senior fitness specialist certification. The International Sports Sciences Association, ISSA, founded in 1988, offers a senior fitness certification, and the American Senior Fitness Association, SFA, offers a senior fitness instructor training program. Many other organizations will also certify you to teach in senior centers, gyms, YMCAs and other venues.
Meeting the Requirements
Some certifying bodies demand more from you than others. The widespread SilverSneakers program requires instructors to be at least 18 years old and to hold a current CPR certification. You must also be either a certified personal trainer, a certified yoga instructor or hold a two- or four-year degree in health, recreation or exercise science. To teach certain classes, you have to attend a workshop; others require a background check, liability insurance and completion of an online training course.
ACE requires a current professional certification in a health, fitness or wellness field from an accredited agency; a current license as a health-related professional; or an accredited health or wellness coaching credential.
The American Senior Fitness Association training programs do not have any prerequisites.
Some Homework Required
Depending on the certification you choose and where you’re located, you might attend an in-person training or study at home. All senior trainings have a text or workbook. You might also watch DVDs or streaming videos online.
Some of the main subjects you’ll study include anatomy, nutrition, developing personal and group exercise plans, safety, how to modify exercises for seniors, fall prevention and managing emergencies. If you're getting a more specific certification, such as senior yoga or aqua aerobics, you'll also cover information about that class format.
You may also need to obtain first aid and CPR certification prior to completing your senior fitness certification.
Time and Money Investment
Expect to pay a few to several hundred dollars to attain your senior fitness instructor certification. Some organizations charge different prices depending on whether you opt for online or hard copy study materials. There may also be add-on options for live workshops or extra study materials.
The amount of time you'll need to complete the certification depends on the type of certification, the amount of time you have to devote to studying and your existing level of health and fitness knowledge. The Senior Fitness Association says most people need two to six months to complete its advanced qualification program. While the SFA doesn't have a time limit, some certifying agencies do. ISSA, for example, gives students four months to complete the course.