Instructor Certifications

Quality Leadership in Exercise Education
- It All Begins Here!

Certification Process
To become an NSFA certified exercise educator you must:
- Take Exercise Theory and

- Take a Teaching Module (any one of the following: WT, GEL, MBL, ADE, & ICE)

- Note: AQX/AEL has its own exercise theory for movement in water course that is part of the certification.   Exercise Theory is not a prerequisite for AQX/AEL

- Pass all of the exams and evaluations for both courses

- 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. You cannot train or teach until all of the requirements are completed.

Our Personal Training (PT) certification is a higher level and requires more education than the courses listed above. Participants must have a completed WT or GEL (with portable equipment) certification before applying to take out PT course.  

If you have learning from other, non-NSFA courses that you think might be equivalent to ours, please see our Exams, PLARs, & Transfers page.

Download the NSFA WT completion guide.pdf or NSFA Group Formats Completion Guide.pdf to find answers to the most common questions. 

Maintaining Certification

Those who complete a full credential are required to do the following to continue to be certified:

- Complete annual Continuing Education Credits (CECs).  For GEL, AEL, ADE, MBL, ICE, & WT certificates the requirement is 6 CECs per year. For Personal Trainers & Course Conductors the requirement is 12 per year.

- Re-certify on CPR annually.

- Pay the annual Member fee ($125/yr for GEL, AEL/AQX, ADE, MBL, ICE & WT, $185/yr for Personal Trainers).

- Maintain a regular teaching practice throughout the year.

Anyone who's certification has lapsed can apply for a PLAR to be re-instated.


- Be over the age of 19 (see below for information on Youth members)

- Be legally, physically, & mentally capable of being a First Aid provider and assuming responsibility for other people's safety

- Speak, read, & write fluently in English (see Language Requirements below)

 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 register for NSFA courses.

 It is important to remember that becoming a certified instructor or trainer is about teaching.  It is great for you if you can lift a lot of weight, run really long distances, or have a very toned 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.

Language Requirements

 At this time 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.

 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.

Event/Course Registration & Cancellation Policy

The full NSFA Policy for registering and paying for events and courses can be found hereNSFA Event Registration and Cancellation Policies.docx

Course List

 We currently offer the following 8 courses:

Exercise Theory (required for all certifications)

Teaching Modules:

Weight Trainer (formerly Resistance Trainer)

Personal Trainer

Group Exercise Leader

Aqua Fitness Leader

Adapting for Diversity in Exercise (formerly Older Adult Exercise Leader)

Indoor Cycling Exercise Leader

Mind & Body Exercise Leader

     We also have a special designation for Youth Fitness Leaders.  This is for 16 to 18 year-olds who take Fitness Leadership 11 in a Nova Scotia high school and challenge our NSFA exams to become certified. This certification does not come with insurance due to the members being under the age of majority, therefore they must work under the in-person supervision of an insured fitness instructor.  When they turn 19, if they are still teaching/training, they will be re-certified & insured. If there is a break in their teaching practice they can be re-evaluated.

    Course Descriptions

    Exercise Theory

     Please Note: ET is not a certification or a credential to teach.  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 except AQX/AEL which has it's own theory course for movement in water.

    ET is a classroom-based course that may be offered in person or online, or a combination of both. Please see our Events & Courses page for the current offering.

     ET introduces participants to the basics of Anatomy, Exercise Physiology, Bio-mechanics, Nutrition, Safety, and Legal Liability. We also cover the psychological & social barriers to exercise, principles of adult learning, instructor pedagogy, working with diverse clientele, & instructor self-care. Students will be given a text book & study guide (included in the course tuition) and will be required to read some additional documents from Health Canada. Students will be expected to read textbook chapters, government documents, and do weekly homework assignments on their own.

    Responses to frequently asked ET questions:

    * 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 the Manitoba Fitness Council (MFC).  Body Blueprint also offers a self study prep online course.  Use code NS-FT-25 and save $25 on checkout. Both of these courses will prepare you for the national ET exam. 

    Once you complete the course through them you can write the national exam through us.  Both NSFA & MFC are members of the FLC (Fitness Leadership Canada) therefore we all write the same exam.

    Weight Trainer

    The WT 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.  WT's can train 1-on-1, supervise fitness centres, and can teach non-music, non-dance based fitness classes such as small group resistance training, circuit training, boot camps, and HIIT classes.

    The WT course is a mixture of online learning, classroom learning, and practical learning and practice in a weight room and classroom. 

    Click here for the free NSFA WT completion guide.pdf

    Personal Trainer

     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 WT or GEL or ADE 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.

    Group Exercise Leader

     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. 

    The GEL course 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.

    Download GEL Certification Checklist here!

    Click here for the Group Formats Completion Guide

    Aqua Exercise Leader

    Dive into the principles of aquatic fitness and learn how to harness the resistance and buoyancy of water to design engaging exercise programs suitable for diverse populations!

     The NSFA has partnered with AQX, a leader in Aquafit training and certification,  to provide aquafit certification instruction for the NSFA. 

    The training consists of 2 Modules: 

    Module 1: ( No prerequisite) This is the online portion of the course which includes: a 20-hour online Exercise Theory for Movement in Water, including videos and application activities and a downloadable manual. In-courses quizzes are included and there is no post theory exam. This is a self directed online course and can be done on your time, anytime!

    **Module 1 is a prerequisite for Module 2. With the successful completion of Module 1 you are eligible to attend the in-person portion of the training; Module 2.

    Module 2: ( Level 1 is the prerequisite) This is the in-person portion of the  training and includes live instruction over 4 days. (4 - 5 hours per day) with certified AQX Master Trainers. Practice applying what you have learned in the online portion of the course both in the pool and in dryland training. 

    Certification is earned by completing Modules 1 and 2 and with the successful completion of a practical teaching assessment with an AQX Master Trainer (your instructors).  Those who have completed Module 1 and Module 2 can arrange for their practical assessment with their AQX instructor when they are ready. *An additional practical assessment fee may apply.   

    Adapting for Diversity in Exercise Leader

    (formerly Older Adult Exercise Leadership)

    The ADE course is very specialized training regarding the fitness needs, safety concerns and social needs of older adults or people of any age with physical conditions that limit them from regular classes.  Various techniques that focus on improving the wellness will be explored.  ADE is a 16-hour course and is a mixture of online & classroom learning.

    Click here for the Group Formats Completion Guide

    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.

    Click here for the Group Formats Completion Guide

    Mind and Body Leader

    Mind & Body Leadership is a group fitness certification that is based in yoga and incorporates other exercise formats that are calming, slow to moderately paced, & non-competitive.   

    Students will learn fundamentals of a yoga-fitness class format with focus on teaching alignment, core work, pelvic floor health, balance, stretching, breathing, vocalizations, and meditation/visualization. This course is primarily about yoga, but students who certify in MBL are allowed to incorporate elements from other slow physical activity methods such as Pilates, tai chi, qi gong, ballet & other dance forms, if they have additional training. Certified MBLs can also, with additional training & exams, incorporate portable equipment such as yoga props, foam rollers, and dance or martial arts props, in their classes.  Students will also learn skills needed for teaching any fitness class such as lesson planning, cueing, giving corrections, safety, and proper use of music.

    This certification & the related insurance excludes any version of hot yoga or any inversion asanas.

    Click here for the Group Formats Completion Guide

    Course Conductors, Proctors & Evaluators, Practicum Mentors


    In addition to the certifications that allow people to work as exercise educators, we have two additional levels of qualification in the NSFA. A Course Conductor is someone specially designated to teach NSFA certification courses. They must currently hold the credential they wish to teach as well as an education credential such as an education degree or a train-the-trainer diploma. CCs, like Personal Trainers, are required to do 12 CECS per year, including some that are specific to adult education.

    Proctors supervise students doing written exams. Evaluators grade students on their practical exams. Both must be fully certified NSFA Members in good standing with a minimum of 2 years of experience (with no gaps in teaching) in their exercise education career & take an additional workshop on proctoring & evaluating skills

    Practicum Mentors are experienced NSFA members who take on mentoring a student member before the to their written & practical exams. A mentor's role is to allow the student to job shadow and eventually practice teach in their classes or fitness centres. 

    1st Aid & CPR Certification

    The following regulations apply to all NSFA certifications:

    • A current 1st Aid & CPR certificate is required to complete ALL NSFA certifications. 
    • NSFA members must re-certify on CPR annually to maintain their membership & insurance.  The 1st aid portion is not required annually (it expires on whatever date is on your 1st Aid card), but most course instructors cover both in their re-cert courses anyway.
    • Any level of 1st Aid & CPR Is acceptable for certification so long as it comes from one of the 4 recognized providers (see below).  That being said, individual employers of exercise instructors may require a specific level so if you already have an employer or have a preferred employer in mind, it is a good idea to check with them on what level they require.
    • 1st Aid & CPR does not have to be done before taking NSFA courses, but it must be successfully completed before your NSFA certificate will be granted.

    The NSFA recognizes 1st Aid & CPR certificates from all CSA compliant course providers including the following education providers:


    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 FLC, of which we are a founding member.  All students taking courses or writing exams  with our fellow FLC 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. 

     Most written exams are done on the final in-person day of the certification. We also have additional dates for written exams which we post on our website under events.   If you are unable to attend these days, you can send an email to 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 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 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 will need to coordinate with our colleagues at Fitness New Brunswick to get the exam paper.

     Practical evaluations are also standardized across the FLC 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  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.

    See our certification completion guides here for more information:

    NSFA Group Formats Completion Guide.pdf

    NSFA WT completion guide.pdf


    Regular and Personal Trainer NSFA members are insured through SBC Insurance Agencies (Sport BC); this is included with your membership fee. ( Insurance is not applicable to Associate members)

    NSFA Regular Members insured through the SBC Insurance are insured for $2 Million (CAD) professional liability insurance and NSFA Personal Trainer Members are insured for $5 Million (CAD) professional liability insurance.  This insurance is part of the full Regular and Personal Trainer membership for those members in good standing. 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 SBC Insurance 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.

    We acknowledge that we are in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people.  

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