With soaring rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and other chronic health conditions in the United States, demand for cost-effective, quality health-promotion and prevention is also at an all-time high.
Recognition of the benefits of good nutrition and exercise in preventing chronic disease has created a wide-open career path for qualified fitness professionals.
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A wide range of options
Today’s fitness centers cater to diverse populations with specific needs—programs includes personalized nutrition classes, body composition testing and weight training, massage therapy, personal training, and yoga. These programs are developed for the young, the overweight, the athlete, and the elderly.
“The future looks bright for those willing to go through the training and become educated. It is important to choose the right path for you so that the appropriate time and resources are considered when pursuing an advanced fitness career,” says Steve Washkevich, director of the Fitness & Wellness Center at Mount Wachusett Community College in Massachusetts.
Know your talents
Do you enjoy exercise? Are you interested in medicine, rehabilitation, teaching, fitness training? Do you enjoy classes such as physical fitness, biology, and health or nutrition? Do you enjoy helping and working with people? If you can answer yes to most of these, a fitness career might be a good fit for you.
Training and certification
Education for fitness careers can range from a specialized certification to an advanced degree. Career options include athletic or personal trainer, rehabilitation specialist, exercise physiologist, dietician, sports coach, club director, or physical therapist to name a few.
For personal trainers and group fitness instructors, organizations such as the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and American Council on Exercise (ACE) provide professional certification and licensures. This is typically required as a minimum as well as CPR and first aid certification. Many fitness centers prefer a bachelor’s or master’s degree in exercise science or a related field, as well as certification from a recognized organization.
Gain real-world experience
Beyond degrees and certifications, don’t forget the importance of practical experience. Working at a gym or fitness center, coaching a sports team, or obtaining an internship at a hospital, nursing home, or doctor’s office can help provide the real world experience and clinical skills needed to excel in a health and fitness career.