Educational programs dedicated to both fitness and nutrition teach students how diet and exercise impact health and athletic performance. Online diploma programs in the field are rare, but hybrid or online certificate programs are quite common. The material covered tends to be the basics of the field, such as human anatomy and dietary science. Students usually have six months to complete the coursework.
Anyone may enroll in the introductory programs; however, the curriculum generally attracts health enthusiasts seeking roles as trainers. That said, students should exercise due diligence before choosing an educational program. In the case of fitness trainers, certain employers prefer to hire individuals who hold professional certification (not to be confused with an educational certificate program), and certification may require a bachelor's degree.
Information and Requirements
Certificate programs are offered completely online as well as in hybrid format which requires both on-campus and online courses. Students need access to a computer with a high-speed Internet connection. A CD-ROM/DVD player is also a common requirement.
Fitness and nutrition programs may include classes in leadership skills, legal liabilities, and weight-related illnesses. The bulk of the coursework, however, is completed in health science classes. A few of the most common ones are listed below.
Anatomy and Physiology
Students learn the inner workings of the body, including the impact of disease and environmental factors. Classes teach students about the major organs and structures like the digestive and nervous systems.
The basic principles and theories of nutrient intake and metabolic processes are analyzed in this class. Students also discuss current nutritional developments and diet fads. Some classes examine the unique nutritional needs of athletes and ways to use diet to enhance performance.
Students examine how the body responds to exercise. Training practices and weight control methods are also explored. Students can study how the muscles react to both aerobic and anaerobic activity.
Program graduates may find employment as fitness trainers and instructors for health clubs or private clients. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted jobs for trainers and instructors would grow 8% over the decade spanning 2014-2024. As of May 2015, fitness trainers and aerobics instructors earned a median salary of $36,160 (www.bls.gov).
The BLS stated that many fitness workers pursue an associate's or a bachelor's degree in order to advance into administrative roles. Popular majors for fitness workers include kinesiology and exercise science. Students may also pursue a minor in business or management to prepare them for managerial duties. The business background is also useful to personal trainers starting up their own fitness businesses.
Many professionals must also seek certification to work as a fitness trainer or an instructor at a gym or health club. For example, the International Society of Sports Nutrition administers a Certified Sports Nutritionist designation to those who hold a bachelor's degree and pass a certification test (www.sportsnutritionsociety.org). According to the BLS, many certifying agencies require students to pass both written and practical exams. Fitness professionals usually must also be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to work with clients.
Online programs in fitness and nutrition provide students with knowledge about health, exercise and physical training. Further education is available at the associate's or bachelor's degree levels, and may help students further their careers as fitness professionals.