Health and Fitness Instructor

The Job and What's Involved

GymHealth and fitness instructors are responsible for teaching people how to exercise in a safe and effective manner. They work in private gyms, independent health clubs, leisure centres and village halls. Instructors may deliver group exercise classes, such as group indoor cycling, aerobics and circuit training, or they may give one-to-one tuition.

Depending on where they work and the level at which they are on the Register of Exercise Professionals, a health and fitness instructor may be responsible for:

  • Running initial assessments or consultation sessions with members.
  • Writing individual training programmes.
  • Inducting members and showing them how to use the equipment.
  • Adapting training programmes for members with health problems or fitness injuries.
  • Offering advice and guidance on nutrition and lifestyle.
  • Implementing marketing initiatives to motivate members to use the gym or attend classes.
  • Supervising customers, ensuring they are correctly using the equipment.

They may instruct in a range of activities in one or more centres. They devise routines for their exercise classes, choose music and check that the necessary equipment is available, such as weights, steps and mats. They need to change routines on a regular basis and ensure that their routines are appropriate for the level of class they are teaching.

Instructors may also carry out jobs such as:

- Keeping the exercise areas clean and tidy
- General administration and record keeping
- Health and safety checks
- Co-ordinating and running children's clubs

Fitness instructors often work 38 to 40 hours a week in a shift pattern, which includes early mornings, evenings and weekends. Gyms are usually open from 7am until 11pm. Many instructors work part time or on a freelance basis.

Freelance instructors may take classes in more than one location, such as school halls or community centres, and may work for various private gyms or health clubs. They may work in clients' homes and run personal training sessions. Instructors may find it useful to have their own personal travel arrangements in place.

A uniform normally consists of a polo shirt and tracksuit bottoms. Instructors running classes adapt their clothing accordingly.

The job requires a high degree of physical fitness. Bending, standing and lifting are all part of the work.

Starting salaries may range from approximately £12,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The health and leisure industry is worth over £1.7 billion a year. There are up to 3,500 private fitness clubs and over 1,500 leisure centres around the country, employing around 50,000 people. Over the next ten years employment levels are expected to increase.

Opportunities are found throughout the UK, both in rural and urban areas. Employers include:

- Health and fitness centres
- Local authority leisure centres
- Large and small gyms
- Country clubs
- Community projects

There can be strong competition for jobs. Instructors may work abroad for tour operators, running fitness activities for holidaymakers in overseas resorts.

Vacancies are found through national and local newspapers, and specialist trade publications. They may also be advertised directly with employers. There are various internet job boards, including www.leisureopportunities.co.uk and www.leisurejobs.co.uk.

Education and Training

Academic qualifications are not usually needed, and people with qualifications at all levels enter this career.

Applicants need to be aged 18 or over to obtain public liability insurance.

In conjunction with SkillsActive, The Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) was developed to protect the interests of people who use the services of health and fitness instructors. The register uses a system of self-regulation that oversees training, recognises industry based qualifications and requires members to follow a code of ethical practice. To be placed on the register, fitness instructors need an approved national qualification, such as an NVQ/SVQ or a related vocational qualification at level 2 or above, and hold current insurance.

It may be possible to enter the profession as an assistant instructor without a qualification. Applicants may then work towards an NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Instructing Exercise and Fitness. This would then allow an individual entry to REPs. Apprenticeships may be available.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

For people aiming at senior and management posts, there are relevant degrees and postgraduate qualifications in subjects such as sports science and leisure management.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most employers provide induction training and many have extensive in-house training courses. Areas such as customer care, health and safety and first aid are normally covered.

REPs is committed to the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of health and fitness instructors. Registered instructors need to achieve a required amount of training within a specified time period. As part of their CPD, they must keep up to date with new trends and developments.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Health and fitness instructors should:

  • Have good communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Be physically fit.
  • Be outgoing and friendly.
  • Have drive and enthusiasm to motivate people.
  • Be diplomatic and tactful.
  • Be patient and caring.
  • Be a team player.
  • Be able to work on their own.
  • Have a smart appearance.
  • Be able to think up new ideas for exercise sessions.
  • Have a working knowledge of first aid.
  • Be aware of health and safety.
  • Be informed about nutrition and healthy diets.
  • Keep up to date with developments in the fitness industry and new equipment.

Your Long Term Prospects

Health and fitness instructors can be promoted from assistant to senior instructor, and then to supervisory and management roles, such as fitness manager, leisure manager and sports facility manager.

Some instructors gain additional training to move into teaching or coaching a sport. They may decide to become self-employed and specialise as a personal trainer. There may also be opportunities to combine a hands-on-role with management or administrative responsibilities.

Get Further Information

ActiveIQ, Suite 3, Unit 4, Cromwell Business Centre,
New Road, St Ives, Cambridgeshire PE27 5BG
Tel: 01480 467950
Website: www.activeiq.co.uk

Central YMCA Qualifications (CYQ),
112 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3NQ
Tel: 020 7343 1800
Website: www.cyq.org.uk

UK Active,
4th and 5th floor,26-28 Bedford Row,
London WC1R 4HE
Tel: 020 7400 8600
Website: www.ukactive.com

Fitness Professionals, Kalbarri House,
107-113 London Road, Plaistow, London E13 0DA
Tel: 0870 513 3434
Website: www.fitpro.com

Fitness Scotland, 2 Lint Riggs, Falkirk FK1 1DG
Tel: 01324 886506
Website: www.fitness-scotland.com

Fitness Wales, 1B Clarke Street, Ely Bridge,
Cardiff CF5 5AL
Tel: 029 2057 5155
Website: www.fitnesswales.co.uk

The National Register of Personal Trainers,
PO Box 3455, Marlow SL7 1WG
Tel: 0870 200 6010
Website: www.nrpt.co.uk

Register of Exercise Professionals, 3rd Floor,
8-10 Crown Hill, Croydon CR0 1RZ
Tel: 020 8686 6464
Website: www.exerciseregister.org

SkillsActive, Castlewood House,
77-91 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1PX
Tel: 020 7632 2000
Website: www.skillsactive.com

Sport England, Information Centre, 3rd Floor,
Victoria House, Bloomsbury Square, London WC1B 4SE
Tel: 020 7273 1500
Website: www.sportengland.org

Sport Scotland, Caledonia House,
South Gyle, Edinburgh EH12 9DQ
Tel: 0131 317 7200
Website: www.sportscotland.org.uk

Sports Council for Wales,
Sophia Gardens, Cardiff CF11 9SW
Tel: 0845 045 0904
Website: www.sports-council-wales.org.uk

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