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What does a Fitness Instructor do?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A fitness instructor teaches his students how to lead healthier lives through improved exercise and diet. He is generally expected to motivate them and help them reach realistic, mutually agreed upon goals. He normally provides instruction and advice to groups as well as individuals.

In recent years, the position of fitness instructor has grown in popularity based on the public’s increased awareness of health and diet issues. A fitness instructor was once commonly found only in a health club or gym or worked as a personal trainer in the homes of clients. He is now employable in a variety of environments, including sports training facilities and on-site corporate fitness centers.

To achieve success as a fitness instructor normally requires a good understanding of human behavior and how to inspire different personality types. An instructor is normally expected to understand how and why each of his students developed unhealthy habits and advise on how to correct them. He is generally required to address each person’s situation with empathy and a personalized plan to help them achieve goals.

Popular culture often has a significant influence on what exercise programs are preferred by clients and what diet programs they perceive as successful. A reputable fitness instructor is traditionally expected to promote fitness and nutrition programs based on his expertise instead of fads and trends. His students’ respect for his guidance and the results it produces traditionally enhance his reputation in the fitness community.

The approach favored by many fitness instructors is to first evaluate each student’s needs and goals. This normally involves weighing the student, evaluating body mass and identifying problem areas. Assessing eating habits is also an essential part of the appraisal. Recommendations are normally made based on the goals and self-motivation of each student. Monitoring student progress is an ordinary part of the program.

Exercise programs led by the fitness instructor may be standardized or personally developed by him based on the needs of his students. He generally provides instruction at different levels to accommodate their ages and physical fitness levels. If he works in private homes for individual clients, the regimens he suggests are typically highly personalized.

Most fitness instructor positions require a high school diploma or equivalent. A significant number of jobs in this category provide on-the-job training. Instructors in some regions are required to have certifications to teach certain exercises or advise on health and nutrition. Though not normally a requirement, many fitness instructors have degrees in health education, physical fitness or related fields.

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Discussion Comments

By icecream17 — On Apr 15, 2011

@Moldova – I totally agree with you. I think that fitness instructors also have to make sure that the students are using proper form and are breathing correctly.

They have to monitor students that are becoming increasingly flushed and out of breath. It is really important that they offer alternative exercises to these students so that they don’t harm themselves.

They really have to be alert as to what is going on in the class because when students do the exercises incorrectly they risk having an injury.

By Moldova — On Apr 13, 2011

@SauteePan -I think that one of the biggest benefits when you become a fitness instructor is that it keeps you from overeating because you have to set an example for your class.

A fitness instructor’s qualification not only includes that they are physically fit, but they also have to look the part. An overweight instructor does not motivate students to do their best.

Many will question his or her commitment. It happened to me at a gym once. The instructor was about 30 to 40 pounds overweight but in terms of her cardiovascular fitness she was in tip top shape. She just did not look like a typical lean fitness instructor.

I think that people questioned her credibility because although she was able to teach the class, the fitness instructor is seen as a role model and an overweight person is not the ideal role model in that situation. I know that I have a few pounds to lose and while my endurance is good I could not teach an exercise class.

By SauteePan — On Apr 11, 2011

@Cupcake15 - I always thought it would be fun to take a fitness instructor training course. I know that some fitness centers will train some of the regular students that are physically fit.

It does seem like a fun job because you get paid to teach an exercise class to a group that is already excited to be there. I always thought that it would be great to be a spinning instructor.

They have the best legs. It is also challenging and you really feel that exercise high when you finish the workout. I also think that there is a certain amount of bonding that you get to do with your students which really can make becoming a fitness instructor even more fun.

You get to see positive changes in your students and your encouragement makes them and you feel incredible. It is really a nice profession.

By cupcake15 — On Apr 10, 2011

I just wanted to say that most fitness instructors that I know have gotten their fitness certification by national companies that are widely recognized.

They take these exams in various fitness areas in which they have an interest. They have courses for Pilate’s certification, spinning certification and the general group fitness instructor certification.

The courses really cover a lot of exercise physiology and anatomy and the exams are really intimidating. It is not as easy as it sounds. Many of the certification courses offer prep videos and books to help with the studying. I looked at all these materials that my friend had and I decided that I will remain a student.

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