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Where fitness and education meet   


Quality Leadership in Exercise Education
- It All Begins Here!

 To become NSFA certified you must take Exercise Theory AND a second education course (see below), pass all of the exams and evaluations for both courses and complete a 1st aid & CPR training from a recognized training organization. These can be completed in any order, but all must be complete before we can finalize your certification, thus allowing you to train or teach.


 The only formal prerequisite for our courses is to be over the age of 19, or be between 16 and 18 for the YFL certification.   At this point we also require all students to be proficient in reading, writing and speaking English as we do not yet have any non-English course conductors or materials.  Some written exams are, however, available in French.  We also have an English-Arabic volunteer translator, Zane, who can help newcomer Arabic speakers navigate our course information.  He can be reached at zane@nsfitness.ca. 

 Informally, it does help to have prior knowledge of physics, anatomy, kinesiology and principles of education for all certifications. Those who wish to teach group exercise, aqua fitness, or specialize in group programs for youth or seniors will also find the material easier to learn if you have prior experience or training in music, dance, or theatre arts. 


 We currently offer the following fitness leadership certification courses:

  • Exercise Theory
  • Group Exercise Leader
  • Resistance Training Leader
  • Aqua Fitness Leader
  • Personal Trainer
  • Older Adult Fitness Leader
  • Youth Fitness Leader
  • Indoor Cycling Exercise Leader
  • Mind & Body Exercise Leader

Total hours for each course (Not including study time, mentorship, or practicum hours)


Exercise Theory (ET):

 Please Note: ET is not a certification in and of itself.  We do not issue a certificate for completion of this course, however we will write a letter of completion upon request, if it is required for school or an employer.

 The ET Module is a requirement for all NSFA certifications. ET is a24 hour, classroom-based course.

 ET introduces participants  to the basics of Anatomy, Exercise Physiology, Bio-mechanics, Nutrition, Safety and Legal Liability.

* Once you attend your ET course you are automatically an Associate Member of the NSFA for 1 year.  To become a Regular Member (including our national insurance plan) you must complete a full certification. 

* You do not have to have the 1st Aid & CPR complete to take these courses, but it must be compete before we can finalize your certification.

* You may register for other modules at the same time as you register for ET.  Your full certification will not be finalized until you successfully complete ET. 

* ET is available online through our sister organization, the Manitoba Fitness Council (MFC).  Once you complete the course through them you will have to write the exam through us, in person.  Both NSFA and MFC are members of the NFLA therefore we all write the same exam.

Group Exercise Leader (GEL):

 The GEL module is the practical application of ET Module for on-floor group fitness, i.e. aerobics.  This program focuses on the components of teaching a fitness class, use of music, cueing, teaching methods, choreography and leadership skills.   GEL is a 16-hour course and is a mixture of classroom learning and practical learning and practice in a fitness classroom. 

GEL certified instructors also have the option of declaring sub-specialties in Step and Portable Equipment.  These require additional training and evaluation.  Workshops will be offered by the NSFA, or members can take workshops elsewhere and challenge the NSFA standards to receive these special designations.

Resistance Training Leader (RT):

 RT is the practical application of the ET Module for working with clients in a Weight room or fitness centre.  This program focuses on use of equipment and exercises, safety, exercise precautions, exercise technique, training methods and program design.  RT is a 16-hour course and is a mixture of classroom learning and practical learning and practice in a weight room.

Aqua Exercise Leader (AEL):

 The Aqua module focuses the requirements for a fitness class in water, In addition to use of music, cueing, teaching methods, choreography and leadership skills, participants will also focus on water-specific safety and the effects of water on movement of the body.  AEL is a 20-hour course and is a mixture of classroom learning and practical learning & experience in the pool. 

Personal Trainer (PT):

 This course is designed to prepare applicants to complete the NSFA Personal Trainer (PT) exam, practical and case study assignment. Course content includes Health Conditions and Screening, Information Gathering, Exercise Science Review, Exercise Planning and Program Design, Safety and Injury and the Business of Personal Training.  Participants must have ET and RT or GEL certification before taking this course.   Acceptance is by application only.  PT is a 52-hour course and is a mixture of classroom learning and practical learning & experience in various fitness settings.

Older Adult Fitness Leader (OAL):

The OAL course is very specialized training regarding the fitness needs, safety concerns and social needs of older adults.  Various techniques that focus on improving the wellness of seniors will be explored.  OAL is a 16-hour course and is a mixture of classroom learning and practical learning & practice in various fitness settings.

Youth Fitness Leader (YFL):

The YFL is a bit different from the other NSFA certifications.  This program is specifically designed for teenagers aged 16-18 to learn how to lead programs for children and fellow teens.  Participants will explore fitness and social needs specific to youth and will learn and practice the teaching techniques to best deliver their programs.  At this time the NSFA is not offering this course directly, but some high schools offer it as part of PAL or Fitness 11.  Please check with your high school for details. 

NEW Courses!!

The 12- hour ICE Certification Course will give you the knowledge and skills you need to conduct a highly motivated and technically correct cycling class. Your 10 hour course will include an Intro to Cycling which covers bike safety and bike setup, tips on how to dress and remain comfortable while participating in a cycling class. The chapter on Cycling Basics will include body positions, biomechanical and alignment considerations, pedal stroke efficiency and intensity. And finally, Physiology and Class Design covers class breakdown, training principals, cycling physiology, training zones, sample class designs paired with music, and leadership.

Mind & Body Leadership is a 32-hour exercise course that teaches introductory level yoga & meditation skills and protocols for people working with exercise clients.  Students will learn several asanas, as well as teaching tools. class design, risk management, continuing education, and much more.  Those who complete this certification are qualified to teach basic fitness-focused yoga and meditation classes to a general audience , excluding any version of hot yoga or any inversion asanas.

CPR Certification

 A current CPR certificate is required to complete ALL NSFA certifications.  NSFA members must re-certify on CPR annually to maintain their membership.  The NSFA recognizes CPR certificates from the following education providers:

Exams & Evaluations

 To complete any of our courses for certification a written exam is required.  In the specialization modules a practicum and a practical evaluation are also required. the exams are all multiple-choice questions. The pass mark for all exams is 80%.  Our exams come from the NFLA, of which we are a founding member.  All students writing exams for NFLA affiliates associations and courses are writing the same exam, thus making the standard of certification nationally transferable and internationally transferable to other ICReps member organizations.

 The ET (Exercise Theory) course is a written exam only.  The other modules all require a practicum and practical evaluation as well. 

 At this point our courses can only be offered in English.  The exams, however can be written in either English or French.  We do not, at this time, have any course conductors or practical evaluators who can teach in any other language, but we are hopeful that as we grow we will find professionals who can do this.  We do have a volunteer member who can translate English into Arabic if you need help with understanding the process.  His name is Zane and he can be reached at zane@nsfitness.ca.  We are not translating the exams into Arabic at this time, but accommodations will be made for Arabic writers who are new to speaking and reading English.

 If you require accommodations for your exam writing due to a disability, please let your course conductor know well in advance of the exam date.

 If you cannot attend the exam sitting the course conductor has scheduled for your class, please let her/him know ahead of time and they can arrange a different date. 

 If you are not residing the the same area where you are taking your course (i.e. many people travel to the Metro Halifax area from the rural communities of Nova Scotia) and would like to avoid traveling again for your exam, please inform your course conductor in advance of the end of the course.  We will make every effort to find an exam proctor in your area to reduce the need to travel again. 

 Practicum and evaluations can be set up with your course conductor too.  Again if you live outside of the Metro Halifax area we will try to match you up with a mentor and evaluator in your area.  If that can't be done we can arrange to have you mentored and evaluated by video technology.  


 We suggest 10 hours of practicum time, although this may vary depending on your other education or experience.  In your practicum you'll work with a mentor to observe them working in your subject area and to job shadow and gradually practice teach.  You do not have to do your practical evaluation until you are comfortable and confident that you will succeed.  We do strongly encourage you to start your practicum as soon as possible after you do your course, and to do your exams and evaluations in 6 months or less from the time of your course.  Most people find 6 months or less keeps the information fresh for your final assessments. 

Challenging & Transferring

 In the event that you have another fitness credential or you have university or college training that could lead to a credential, we may allow you to challenge for certification without doing the courses and assessments. We may also choose to waive one part of the evaluation process but not others.  Each case will be handled individually.   Please contact us at info@nsfitness.ca to request a PLAR (prior learning assessment & recognition) evaluation.

 Anyone moving to Nova Scotia who is already certified by an NFLA or an ICREPs member organization needs to simply contact our Membership Services Coordinator at memberships@nsfitness.ca to provide proof of certification and to enroll you in the NSFA. 


All NSFA members in good standing with one of our own certifications (GEL, RT, Aqua, OAL or YFL)  *except PT* automatically have Class 1 liability insurance through Hub International. The details can be found here: https://www.hubinternational.com/en-CA/programs-associations/fitness-professionals/

Personal trainers and anyone requiring Class 2 insurance for non-NSFA certifications must contact Hub directly. 


The Nova Scotia Fitness Association is a non-profit organization.

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