Best Senior Fitness Certification - Top Recommendations in 2023

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
Exam profile
Study time

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 get more into later in the article.

ISSA also makes the list of 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 just 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 as well, 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 actually 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 start toward your fitness career goals. Make sure to head over to their website to double check if this is still available because this kind of 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 top, 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, and they have one of the best personal trainer certifications.

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

With that said, it’s important to point out that the NASM SFS cert is actually a CEU course and not a fully dedicated certification.

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

Similar to ISSA, NASM is currently running an Elite Trainer Bundle with up to 6 different certifications like the NASM nutrition certification. The bundle is a little more expensive than the ISSA offer, but the total value you get 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 consideration 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 some useful courses and churned out competent health and fitness experts.

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

ACE Senior Fitness

ACE or the American Council on Exercise is a stalwart in the fitness game, having been established all the way back in 1985 as a non-profit organization aimed at improving public health.

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

This ethos should place well when it comes to 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 as well as quantitatively by age.

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

A good rule of thumb would be to classify seniors as people 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 are likely to occur at this point in life, meaning your fitness assessments, training programs, and protocols will need to cater to older adult clients.

How to Become A Certified Senior Fitness Coach

Step 1: Understand The Needs and Wants of Seniors

Before you can begin on the path of training older people, you need to 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.”

The thing is, there is a big point, and fitness in this age range is extremely useful.

That’s because as people get older and their functional capacity begins to decline, they start to 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.

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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 you can engage in an academic program.

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

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

In most cases, the prerequisites for fitness certs are that you have a high school diploma or equivalent as well as being 18 years of age 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 gives assurance to your clients and employers that you are poised to handle medical emergencies. 

These may arise during training sessions, and especially with such 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 as far as prerequisites are concerned, it’s time to choose the right certification for you.

When it comes to senior fitness, I’ll be reviewing four certifications I think are the best options for you.

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 individual preference and circumstances.

Step 4: Prepare for Your Exam & Pass!

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

Most certifications come with a curriculum which is 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 as well as other accompanying study material.

It’s the study materials that will determine how well and how quickly you can learn and earn your certification.

It will also depend on your level of input 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.

When it comes to working with seniors, you’ll actually find most of your prospects in regular big box gyms.

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 during the time when gym and fitness were beginning to trend.

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

In order to have access to 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 large 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 other facilities with a prominent geriatric contingent.


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

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

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Most Popular Cert
ISSA - Most Popular Online Personal Trainer Certification 3 Certs for
Best Study Materials
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A Good Option
ACE Certification- A Good Fitness Course Online Option - 25% off<br />
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Best CPT for you?
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Accreditation looks at two important aspects.

These are the content of the educational products as well as the way the education is delivered and facilitated.

Therefore, having reputable accreditation ensures you’re getting a comprehensive and legitimate certification and one that is recognized and accepted by the industry.

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 remote learning institutes and their programs.

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

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


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

ISSA is supported by DEAC since they are the original distance-based fitness certifying institute.

ISSA does also present itself as an NCCA approved organization, but that’s actually because of their 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 it also helps avoid the bad stuff.

Scams and fake courses are all over the place, 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’re going to see which cert has the best options in this category.

I will be rating 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:

  • Quality of curriculum and relevance to the subject
  • Variety of study packages 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. 

The reason it comes up so short is that 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, all you get is a course manual, programming manual, quizzes, and an exercise library.

ACE is a similar case, with the only one up on NASM being the hard copy textbook.

NASM would have scored even lower, but I excused it on the basis that 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 dee 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 up how much it will all cost.

When selecting a certification, or any learning service for that matter, 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 reach a conclusion 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 by a stretch.

Just keep in mind, 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 be giving 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 out there, with ACE and NASM being the top two in America, while 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 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, once we get down to it, ACE isn’t the best of the bunch, especially when cost and study materials are taken into consideration.

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

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

AFPA Senior Fitness Specialist

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

Its shortcoming is that it isn’t accredited by the traditional commissions, so it loses a lot of ground in terms of approval.

It’s also the least recognized cert of the bunch, 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, as well as the study package, are quite minimalist, to say the least.

With that said, that is the whole point, and when you consider that senior fitness is something that 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


Tyler Read

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.

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