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.
Informally, it does help to have prior knowledge of 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. There are no high school, college, or university courses required to take NSFA courses.
It is important to remember that becoming a certified instructor or trainer is about teaching. It is great if you can lift a lot of weight, run really long distances, or have a very slim body, but that is not what makes a good trainer or instructor. We want students in our courses who are passionate about teaching skills and helping in our communities.
At this point we 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.
We have an English-Arabic volunteer translator, Zane, who can help newcomer Arabic speakers navigate our course information. He can be reached at email@example.com.Also at this time, we do not have anyone capable of offering our courses in French, however you can attend courses with our sister organization Fitness New Brunswick (FNB). We can offer the written exams locally in French and have a course conductor from FNB grade them. If you require a practical evaluation in French too, we can arrange to do that by video with an FNB evaluator.
We currently offer the following 8 courses:
(note: ET is not a certificate, it is a foundation course required for all certificates)
Group Exercise Leader
Total classroom hours for each course
(not including study time, mentorship, or practicum hours):
We also have a special designation for Youth Fitness Leaders. This is for 16 to 18 year olds who take Fitness Leadership 11 in high school and challenge our NSFA exams to become certified. When they turn 19, if they are still teaching/training, they will be re-certified and insured in whichever certification they wrote the exams for. If there is a break in their teaching practice they can be re-evaluated according to the Challenging and Transferring policy (see below) to re-certify. Please see our information page on Fitness Leadership 11 for more details.
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 a 24 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):
The RT program focuses on use of equipment and exercises, safety, exercise precautions, exercise technique, training methods and program design. Students completing this certificate will be qualified to do basic fitness training with clients who do not present any major health problems. RT's can train 1-on-1 (i.e. personal training) and can teach non-music, non-dance based fitness classes such as small group resistance training, circuit training, bootcamps, and HIIT classes. RT is a 16-hour course and is a mixture of classroom learning and practical learning and practice in a weight room and classroom.
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):
Indoor Cycling Exercise Leader:
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 and Body Leader:
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.
1st Aid & CPR Certification
The following regulations apply to all NSFA certifications:
Exams & Evaluations
To complete any of our courses for certification a written exam is required. The educator courses (i.e. all except ET) also have a practical evaluation that is 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 taking courses or writing exams with our fellow NFLA associations are doing the same material and exams, 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 in addition to the written exam.
If you cannot attend the provincial exam days (we offer 2 annually: end of January and end of June, in Halifax) you can contact our Exams & Evaluations Coordinator, Stacey, at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a separate time with an exam proctor. If you do not live in the Halifax area and do not wish to travel to Halifax for exams, please also contact her to arrange for a proctor in your community. We will make every effort to find an exam proctor in your area to reduce the need to travel again.
If you require exam accommodations due to a disability, please let Stacey or your exam proctor know before the date of your exam. Exams are also available in French if so desired. Please let us know in advance if you wish to have the French exam as we may need to coordinate with our colleagues at Fitness New Brunswick to get the exam paper.
Practical evaluations are also standardized across the NFLA Member Organizations. By "practical evaluation" we mean a live exam with real fitness students or clients in which we can observe your work. These can be set up with your course conductor or through Stacey. If you live outside of the Metro Halifax area we will try to match you up with an evaluator in your area. If that can't be done we can arrange to have you mentored and evaluated by video technology. Your course conductor will give you a copy of the evaluation criteria at the end of your course so there will be no surprises on the day of your evaluation.
We suggest 8 to 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 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 a 6 months-or-less timeline helps to keep 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. This is a process known as PLAR: Prior Learning Assessment & Recognition. We may also choose to waive one part of the evaluation process but not others. Each case will be handled individually.
Anyone moving to Nova Scotia who is already certified by an NFLA or an ICREPs member organization needs to simply contact us with proof of your certification and your current 1st Aid & CPR. We will instruct you on how to set up your online profile and how to pay your annual fee to us when the time comes.
Please contact our Membership Services Coordinator, Zena at email@example.com to request a PLAR or a transfer.
All NSFA members in good standing with one of our certifications (GEL, RT, MBL, ICE, AEL, OAL) *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 else requiring Class 2 insurance for non-NSFA certifications must contact HUB directly.
NFLA members insured through our plan with HUB are insured for $2 Million (CAD) professional liability insurance. This insurances is for our teaching practices only, (i.e. it is malpractice insurance) and is only valid for the scopes of practice for which we are individually certified. Exercise educators who own their own businesses have to purchase separate business insurance for those needs. Those who teach additional programs outside of our scopes of practice must also obtain additional insurance for those programs - this includes ANY non-NSFA certifications in sport or dance as well.
The HUB insurance covers us anywhere we teach or train in Canada. Therefore guest teaching, teaching/presenting at conferences, or re-locating for a short stay and doing some teaching work outside of your home province/territory does not require you to register and insure in each separate Canadian province or territory.
Anyone teaching/training in a foreign country must obtain separate insurance in that country. This includes short stays, even in other ICREPs member countries. For those doing working vacations in Caribbean & South American resorts, please verify before you go that your employer knows your Canadian insurance does not cover you outside of Canadian territory.
The Nova Scotia Fitness Association is a non-profit organization.