Hello everyone, and welcome to PT Pioneer, your one-stop shop for all things related to the health and fitness industry.

To provide the right insight, I’ll be covering these topics:

  • What is senior fitness coaching?
  • The recommended certifications
  • Accreditation
  • Exam profile
  • Cost
  • Study time

I also highly recommend that you take the quiz and find out which senior fitness certification is best for your career goals.

What type of Certification are you looking to get?

After reading this, you should be able to find the best certification for coaching senior fitness based on your needs.

With that said, let’s get straight to it.

Best Senior Fitness Certification

Our Top Picks

ISSA Senior Fitness Instructor

ISSA Senior Fitness Instructor

Check ISSA Pricing
NASM Senior Fitness Specialist

NASM Senior Fitness Specialist

  • One of the top exercise organizations
  • Great price
  • Course is not a full certification 
Check NASM Pricing
ACE Senior Fitness Specialist

ACE Senior Fitness Specialist

  • ACE’s IFT (integrated fitness training) model matches this topic well
  • Respected organization 
  • Not a whole lot of study materials 
Check ACE Pricing

ISSA Senior Fitness Instructor

ISSA, or the International Sports Science Association, is the leader in distance-based fitness credentials, having been the first of the big-name cert agencies to offer international courses.

After acquiring the NCCPT, ISSA is the only organization to offer certifications from two major accrediting commissions, which we’ll explore later in the article.

ISSA also makes the list of the best online personal trainer certifications. I have an ISSA personal training certification review with more information on that cert for those interested.

With a top-tier heritage and a reputation as one of the most sought-after certification brands in the industry, ISSA might have the certification for you.

I always recommend having multiple certifications as it gives you more of an opportunity to stand out in the fitness industry. If you can work with multiple types of clients or coach nutrition, gyms are more likely to see you as a viable candidate, and clients can rely on you for multiple aspects of their fitness.

Normally buying multiple certs would be very expensive, but ISSA offers a very tempting Elite Trainer deal for three different certs at a reduced rate. So you could get their Senior Fitness Instructor credential along with two others and a head starts toward your fitness career goals. Make sure to head to their website to double-check if this is still available because this offer is only available at certain times of the year.

NASM Senior Fitness Specialist

The National Academy of Sports Medicine is regarded as one of the tops, if not the top certifying agency in America.

With a legacy spanning over three decades, they’ve established some of the most comprehensive credentials and produced some of the best fitness professionals in the world. They have one of the best personal trainer certifications.

For this reason, NASM certifications are considered the gold standard in fitness.

That said, it’s important to point out that the NASM SFS cert is a CEU course, not a fully dedicated one.

Therefore, it might not offer the same well-rounded approach and robust versatility as a regular NASM course.

Like ISSA, NASM runs an Elite Trainer Bundle with up to 6 certifications, like the NASM nutrition certification. The bundle is slightly more expensive than the ISSA offer, but your total value is also higher. Visit NASM’s site to see if this offer is currently running. If you’re interested in how to become a personal trainer, they certainly have some quality options. I have a complete NASM CPT review for anyone considering that cert.

AFPA Senior Fitness Specialist

American Fitness Professionals Association, or AFPA, started up back in 1994.

With over 30 years in the game, they’ve developed useful courses and hired competent health and fitness experts.

Let’s see how their Senior fitness specialist cert stacks up against the others.

Best Senior Fitness Certifications - [year] Recommendations 5
Best Senior Fitness Certifications - [year] Recommendations 6

ACE Senior Fitness

ACE, or the American Council on Exercise, is a fitness game stalwart established in 1985 as a non-profit organization to improve public health.

ACE has established a network to improve society by offering top-tier health and fitness credentials by inspiring movement.

This ethos should place well in coaching seniors, so we’ll see how ACE Senior Fitness lives up to its vision.

What Is “Senior Fitness”?

Senior fitness is a specialized form of health and exercise instruction and exercise programs aimed at older adults in society.

There is no standard classification for a senior citizen, as seniority can be perceived qualitatively and quantitatively by age.

Some older people may be perceived as more youthful than some younger people, but generally, a senior can be considered anyone in their late 50s to early 60s and older.

A good rule of thumb would be classifying seniors as old enough to be grandparents.

Senior fitness is a specialized approach because, for many obvious reasons, training people in this age category is a sensitive task.

Many more health risks, imbalances, and deficiencies will likely occur at this point in life. Your fitness assessments, training programs, and protocols must cater to older adult clients.

How to Become A Certified Senior Fitness Coach

Step 1: Understand The Needs and Wants of Seniors

Before training older people, you must understand why fitness is essential at this point in life.

Many people consider the senior years as a point in life where attention to health and fitness naturally declines with the aging process, almost as if to say there’s no point or “what’s the use.”

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There is a big point: fitness in this age range is extremely useful.

As people age and their functional capacity declines, they lose their sense of independence and self-reliance.

This decline in autonomy isn’t just a physical drawback. It also has a marked psychological impact and can make one’s twilight years miserable.

Having an understanding and passion for the plight of people who are further in their years is necessary to adopt if you choose to embark on a journey as a senior fitness specialist.

Step 2: Determine Your Prerequisites

Prerequisites are the criteria you must meet before engaging in an academic program.

For instance, your GPA and SAT stats are important metrics if you get accepted into college.

The same is true for fitness certifications, albeit less stringent.

In most cases, the prerequisites for fitness certs are that you have a high school diploma or equivalent and are 18 or older.

In the case of specialization certs such as one dealing with senior fitness, there may be other criteria to meet, but not necessarily.

You might need credentials in health coaching or wellness coaching, but as far as the certs I’m reviewing are concerned, you won’t need any of that.

Another important standard to meet is to have your first responder certs current.

These include First Aid, CPR/AED.

Getting your first responder certifications assures your clients and employers that you are poised to handle medical emergencies. 

These may arise during training sessions, especially with a health-sensitive population group prone to chronic conditions and degenerative impairments.

Step 3: Find the Senior Fitness Coaching Certification for YOU

Once you’ve ticked all the boxes regarding prerequisites, it’s time to choose the right certification for you.

I’ll review four certifications I think are the best options for you regarding senior fitness.

These are:

  • ACE Senior Fitness
  • AFPA Senior Fitness Specialist
  • ISSA Senior Fitness Instructor
  • NASM Senior Fitness Specialist

But more on those later in the article.

As we go aspect by aspect, you’ll be able to figure out which of these four best suits you.

I will give a final verdict on which certification I think is the best overall, but the one you select will ultimately boil down to your preference and circumstances.

Step 4: Prepare for Your Exam & Pass!

Once you’ve settled on a cert, it’s time to get busy.

Most certifications come with a curriculum, a body of content, and knowledge on different aspects that will equip you to be a fully-fledged senior fitness instructor.

This is typically embodied in a textbook and other accompanying study material.

The study materials will determine how well and how quickly you can learn and earn your certification.

It also depends on your input level and dedication to the study process.

I’ll go into more detail on each certifications study material, but before I do that, here’s a quick rundown of what you should look for:

  • Course textbook
  • workbook/studyguide
  • quizzes/practice exams
  • Multimedia knowledge content
  • Real-time academic support.

The practice exams are especially important as they help you familiarize yourself with the exam format you’ll be subject to.

Step 5: Start Working with Senior Clients

Once you’re certified, it’s ready to review your job options.

You’ll find most of your prospects in regular big-box gyms when working with seniors.

That’s because the membership in most large franchise gyms has a prominent representation of senior citizens.

Today’s generation of seniors was the youth when gym and fitness began trending.

Many from that golden era of aerobics tapes and step classes have continued the tradition and thus have an affinity for effective exercise.

To access this potential client base, your best bet is to find a job working in one of these gyms, coaching fitness classes, or as a private fitness trainer.

Most commercial fitness clubs employ trainers with a foundational certification as personal trainers.

Simply just having specialization in training seniors might not cut it.

I highly suggest you also qualify as a certified personal trainer.

You can work directly with seniors through other channels, such as care homes and facilities with a prominent geriatric contingent.

Best Senior Fitness Certifications - [year] Recommendations 5
Best Senior Fitness Certifications - [year] Recommendations 6


One of the first things to consider when considering which course or program to enroll in is accreditation.

Accreditation is a stamp of approval from an industry governing commission or education board that authenticates a certifying agency.

Accreditation looks at two important aspects.

These are the content of the educational products and how the education is delivered and facilitated.

Therefore, having reputable accreditation ensures you get a comprehensive and legitimate certification recognized and accepted by the industry.

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There are two major accrediting bodies when it comes to fitness credentials. These are the NCCA and DEAC.

The NCCA, or National Commission for Certifying Agencies, is the most popular accrediting commission for fitness certifying agencies.

A cert with an NCCA stamp is immediately seen as a high-standard fitness course.

As the name suggests, DEAC, which stands for Distance Education Accrediting Commission, is an accrediting commission focused on approving small learning institutes and their programs.

Aside from these two major commissions, numerous other boards and organizations will often endorse or approve certifications to a lesser-known degree.

Now that you have a basic idea of how accreditation works let’s look at how each cert is accredited.


The NCCA accredits ACE and NASM, and as leaders in the fitness credentials industry, having the most recognized commission next to their name makes them the winners in this category.

DEAC supports ISSA since they are the original distance-based fitness certifying institute.

ISSA also presents itself as an NCCA-approved organization, but that’s because of its acquisition of the NCCPT, which is an NCCA-accredited agency.

AFPA is the only one of the four not to be accredited by a major educational commission but is instead accredited by an industry-specific organization.

That organization is the NBHWC or National Board for Health & Wellness Coaches.

So does that mean AFPA is an illegitimate certifying agency?

Not at all; it just means it’s not as easily recognized as the others on this list.

Accreditation not only helps you find what’s good in terms of educational products but also helps avoid the bad stuff.

Scams and fake courses are everywhere, especially with the internet being as it is today.

Looking out for accreditation could save you some major headaches, and the best way to ensure you’re dealing with an accredited course is to check with the commission’s website.

It’s very easy for a scam course to slap an NCCA logo on the box, so check with the commission themselves if they have approved that course.

Study Materials Rating

As I’ve briefly discussed, study materials are one of the main components that could make or break your ability to get certified.

A good study package can make the difference, so we will see which cert has the best options in this category.

I will rate each cert’s study materials out of 10, with 0 being the worst possible and ten being the best.

The criteria I’ll be using will b based on the following:

  • Quality of curriculum and relevance to the subject
  • A variety of study packages are on offer.
  • Variety of materials on offer
  • Availability of physical as well as digital materials
CertificationStudy Material Rating (out of 10)

Bringing up the rear is NASM, surprisingly. 

It comes up so short because compared to the majority of cars offered by this establishment, the senior fitness specialist lacks a lot of depth.

NASM certs typically have a robust selection of study packages, but in this case, you only get a course manual, programming manual, quizzes, and an exercise library.

ACE is a similar case; the only one up on NASM is the hard-copy textbook.

NASM would have scored even lower, but I excused it because the study package is for a CEU course and not a fully fleshed-out certification.

I love hardcopy textbooks as they allow you to bookmark and highlight important sections and concepts in a way digital copies typically don’t allow.

AFPA and ISSA have the best study packages, in my opinion.

ISSA is clear, comprehensive, and concise, with the added benefit of providing a structured guide on how to space and time your studies.

AFPA wins on just how deep their study package is, including a decent amount of useful bonus materials.

Senior Fitness Certification Cost

The next thing you want to do is measure how much it will all cost.

When selecting a certification, or any learning service, the cost is an important determining factor.

For this category, the cheapest wins as I’ll be isolating the cost from all other factors; however, how much something costs and what it’s worth are often different values, values we’ll conclude on by the end of this article.

CertificationCost of certification/qualification
ACE$599.00 ($549.00)

NASM takes the cake in this one with the cheapest certification.

Just remember, as I’ve already pointed out, the NASM cert is a CEU course, so it makes sense that it’s the cheapest.

ISSA has the most expensive course, coming in at $799, while ACE has the second most expensive offering with two options.

One option includes the hardcopy textbook ($599.00) and one with just the ebook ($549.00)

Popularity and Recognition Rating

Popularity and recognition are important metrics to consider.

Like any career path, the reputability of the academic institution from which you are qualified plays into the acceptability of your credentials.

Think of college and university degrees, for instance.

A qualification from an ivy league school will get you much further than the same one from a community college, even tho both are legitimate indications of acquired practical skills.

For that reason, I’ll give each cert a popularity and recognition rating based on its standing in the fitness community.


CertificationIndustry Recognition Rating

ACE, ISSA, and NASM are undoubtedly the most popular certifications, with ACE and NASM being the top two in America. At the same time, ISSA covers the ground with its international appeal.

AFPA is not nearly as revered as its counterparts but is established enough to get your foot through the doors.

Certification Takeaway  

ACE Senior Fitness

The ACE senior fitness program presents a good case when you consider the mission behind this non-profit organization, 

However, ACE isn’t the best once we get to it, especially when cost and study materials are considered.

For that reason, I’ll give ACE third place.

I have an ACE certification review that details more information on this organization if you’re considering it.

AFPA Senior Fitness Specialist

AFPA provides a decent curriculum for senior fitness and backs it up with a comprehensive study package containing a good variety of materials.

Its shortcoming is that traditional commissions don’t accredit it, so it loses a lot of ground regarding approval.

It’s also the least recognized cert, making it less leverageable when looking for work.

I’ll give AFPA fourth place overall.

ISSA Senior Fitness Instructor

ISSA has an awesome study package and is well-recognized in the industry. 

The Senior Fitness Instructor cert follows suit with some of ISSA’s best programs in terms of structure.

Where ISSA falls short is when it comes to price.

As the most expensive cert in the bunch, It will be out of range for those on a tight budget.

Overall, ISSA manages a first-place tie.

NASM Senior Fitness Specialist

NASM’s senior fitness cert is not as fleshed out as the others on this list; the curriculum and the study package are quite minimalist, to say the least.

With that said, that is the whole point. When you consider that senior fitness can be used as an accessory to a personal training qualification or a nutrition certification program, it’s not a bad deal.

While its study material isn’t the best, it’s the price most certainly is, and with the NASM badge of honor attached to it, you can’t go wrong.

NASM is tied for first place along with ISSA.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much should a 70-year-old man exercise?

Any exercise that can be done at a low intensity and with low impact.

This, of course, depends on the fitness and stamina level of the man in question, but generally, at that age, you can expect some deficiencies that will prevent training at too high an intensity.

Such things as chronic illness, loss of bone density, cardiovascular decline, and metabolic decline.

The goal is maintenance, so any functional exercises that will allow them to maintain a sense of independence are great.

Which senior fitness certification is best?

Based on my analysis, ISSA and NASM are the best options for people who want to upskill in training seniors.

They are reputable and have a decent experience on offer.
But “the best” is always subjective based on an individual, their preferred outcomes, and current circumstances.

You might opt for the cheaper cert or the one with less of a rigorous curriculum to learn.

Or you might want one whose testing centers are more proximal to your location.

Whatever the case, the best cert is always one for you.

What is a functional aging specialist?

A functional aging specialist is a fitness professional who helps senior citizens maintain a degree of functionality and independence as far into life as possible.

This is commonly referred to as improving the health span of an individual, where lifespan is the total time lived while health span is the total time being functional and productive during life.

A functional aging specialist is a health and fitness professional who focuses on optimizing healthspan.


  1. “Is the ACE certification worth it?” Reddit, posted in r/personaltraining, https://www.reddit.com/r/personaltraining/comments/abpf9q/is_the_ace_certification_worth_it/.
  2. “Passion for fitness, is getting NASM worth it?” Reddit, posted in r/personaltraining, https://www.reddit.com/r/personaltraining/comments/gcz175/passion_for_fitness_is_getting_nasm_worth_it/.
  3. “AFPA Certification.” Reddit, posted in r/personaltraining, https://www.reddit.com/r/personaltraining/comments/embxky/afpa_certification/.
  4. “Getting certified by NETA, need help.” Reddit, posted in r/personaltraining, https://www.reddit.com/r/personaltraining/comments/6zym0y/getting_certified_by_neta_need_help/.
  5. “What is your take on ISSA?” Reddit, posted in r/personaltraining, https://www.reddit.com/r/personaltraining/comments/1q3tzz/what_is_your_take_on_issa/.
  6. “Exercise and Fitness as You Age.” HelpGuide, https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/exercise-and-fitness-as-you-age.htm.
Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read

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