Nutrition and exercise go hand in hand when striving for a healthful lifestyle. It’s likely that your clients will ask about appropriate exercise during nutrition counseling, or you may refer clients to local fitness professionals for an exercise program that will accompany dietary recommendations. So why not consider adding a fitness certification to complement your career as a dietitian and expand the services you offer clients?
A career as a personal trainer was ranked 18th on a CNN Money/Payscale.com list of the best jobs in America. Moreover, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) surveyed more than 3,000 health and fitness professionals worldwide and found that the demand for personal trainers in group fitness settings has increased and will continue to do so. The ACSM also reported that personal training isn’t just for health clubs anymore; corporate wellness, community-based, and medical fitness programs are growing and require certified personal trainers for fitness training and program management.
Through a national survey of more than 1,700 certified fitness professionals and exercise scientists, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) identified several career trends for 2013 that are relevant for dietitians and are expected to continue for several years. Similar to the ACSM survey, the ACE survey found the following:
• Career growth: About 87% of those surveyed reported that their fitness business grew or remained steady despite a high national unemployment rate and economic recession.
• Workplace wellness: In response to the Affordable Care Act and an emphasis on preventive medicine, many companies have created or expanded workplace wellness programs to promote a healthier workforce. Hoping for cost savings related to improved employee health, employers are seeking certified fitness professionals to provide on-site wellness activities.
• Small-group personal training and «no-frills» fitness activities: Gone are the days of complicated choreography and packed classrooms.
Demand for small groups with a personal trainer is high; exercisers can get the benefits of working with a trainer while splitting the cost of the session with others. And clients are interested in simple but effective exercises that require little or no equipment and can be performed anywhere. This trend means that trainers don’t need a dance background or an affiliation with a health club.
• Collaboration with allied health professionals: In response to exercisers looking for total wellness, including physical fitness, nutrition, and stress management, fitness professionals increasingly are collaborating with allied health professionals, such as dietitians, to offer what the ACE calls a «360-degree approach» to wellness.
• Continued poor eating habits: Individuals struggle with maintaining a balanced diet. Surveyed fitness professionals noted that the majority of their clients focused on exercise rather than diet because it was easier.
These last two trends identified by the ACE bode well for dietitians who want to pursue a fitness certification. Once certified, they can offer a «one-stop shop» for nutrition and exercise to more effectively help clients achieve a healthful lifestyle. For those who just want a part-time involvement in fitness, a specialty certification, such as Zumba or senior fitness, may be an attractive alternative.
In response to the growth in personal training, fitness certifications and certifying organizations are numerous, but not all are reputable. The organization and type of certification you choose will depend on your career goals and interests. The organizations mentioned in the sidebar on page 57 will help you start researching a part-time or dual career in fitness. I recommend browsing each organization’s website and certification offerings, knowledge/experience required before training, and continuing education requirements for recertification. Speaking with certified fitness professionals in your area of interest also will provide useful information.
Keep in mind that certification through some organizations may be more expensive than through the ACE, the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), and the American Aerobic Association International/International Sports Medicine Association, the three most common and recognizable certifying organizations for group fitness instruction.
The rapidly aging population makes older adult exercise another ACE fitness trend for 2013. A specialty certification in senior fitness is less expensive and time consuming than more comprehensive fitness certifications. For a dietitian interested in part-time work in fitness with the intention of building clientele, working with older adults can be quite rewarding. The ACE and AFAA, for example, offer specialized certifications in older adult exercise. Or check out Silver Sneakers, a provider of senior fitness classes reimbursed by many health insurers.