For new fitness instructors and the general public, the terms "licensed" and "certified" can be confusing and are often used interchangeably. But are they really the same thing?
The answer is no.
In the fitness world, a license is permission granted by a branded fitness company to teach their brand of classes and use their logo and brand name to market classes. A fitness-brand license does not give the license holder qualifications to teach movement education nor does it imply such. Very often the only prerequisite for acquiring a brand license is paying the workshop registration fee. Anyone with the cash to attend gets a license. Literally anyone.
A certification, on the other hand, usually involves a written exam and could also include a skills test. A good certification will require months of study before the exam and will cover a comprehensive body of material such as anatomy, exercise science, First Aid, teaching skills, musicology, liability and legal issues, and equipment usage. The really good certifications have a high first-time failure rate, meaning that a large percentage of people who take those exams do not pass the first time they take them.
So if you've recently started teaching fitness, you owe it to yourself and your students and participants to become certified in the areas that you teach, such as group fitness, personal training, health coaching, water fitness, etc. How can you lead others if you don't know the science behind your movement selections? How can you effectively design a class or a personal training program if you don't have any education in those areas? How can you safely teach movement to a variety of ages, shapes, fitness levels and medical issues?
And in this day of lawsuit happy citizens, why take the risk of being held liable if someone should sue you when they get hurt due to your lack of knowledge and skill?
So what are some good certifications?
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), The American Council on Exercise (ACE), The Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) and The Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA), to name a few. These four are a good starting point and also require CPR/AED certification.
And once you become certified, you'll be able to keep your certification current by acquiring CECs or Continuing Education Credits every year or two to keep your knowledge and skills up to date.
So are you just licensed, or certified and licensed?
And if you're neither, then jump on your cyber surfboard and check out the certs I mentioned, order a manual and start studying for an exam.
Once you pass your first certification, you'll join the ranks of professional instructors rather than remaining an amateur. You'll feel a sense of accomplishment for getting an education in what you teach and your students will benefit.
Lover of dance, dance-fitness and aquatic fitness.