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Group Exercise Leader

Group exercise leaders promote exercise as a healthy lifestyle choice and teach participants strengthening, endurance, aerobic, flexibility or resistance training exercises.

  • Avg. Salary $19,222.00
  • Avg. Wage $20.07
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook below avg
  • Employed 13,900
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Educator, Fitness Instructor, Teacher, Trainer, Weight Instructor

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Program Leaders and Instructors in Recreation, Sport and Fitness (5254) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Program Leaders and Instructors in Recreation and Sport (F154) 
  • 2011 NOC: Program leaders and instructors in recreation, sport and fitness (5254) 
  • 2016 NOC: Program leaders and instructors in recreation, sport and fitness (5254) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

Average Wage
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Interest Codes
The Group Exercise Leader is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Program Leaders and Instructors in Recreation, Sport and Fitness

Interest in manipulating and assembling supplies and sports and game equipment; and in monitoring recreational and sports activities to ensure safety and provide emergency and first aid assistance when required


Interest in instructing groups and individuals in arts, crafts and similar activities; in leading groups and individuals in recreational and leisure programs, and in attending clients with special needs by conducting therapeutic recreational and athletic activities


Interest in co-ordinating information to plan recreational, athletic, fitness and sports programs

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Updated Dec 15, 2016

Duties vary depending on the type of exercise involved but, in general, group exercise leaders:

  • determine or develop suitable group exercise sessions, classes or programs to meet the needs of participants
  • demonstrate correct exercise methods and proper use of exercise equipment
  • ensure participants exercise safely
  • teach proper breathing techniques
  • lead participants through exercise routines
  • monitor participants' progress and adapt programs as needed
  • provide resources to participants regarding nutrition, healthy living and physical activity.

Group exercise leaders who teach classes also:

  • plan routines and choose appropriate music
  • choose appropriate and applicable movements for each set of muscles depending on participants' capabilities and limitations
  • help participants gauge their levels of exertion to get the maximum benefit from their exercise routines
  • offer alternatives during classes to accommodate different levels of fitness.

Group exercise leaders who work for health clubs may have additional responsibilities such as:

  • recording member information
  • promoting the club through membership sales
  • teaching and demonstrating the use of equipment
  • cleaning and maintaining equipment
  • advising clients about proper clothing and shoes
  • leading or assisting with workshops and information sessions.
Working Conditions
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Group exercise leaders may work in a variety of surroundings. Clubs may have separate showers and lockers for leaders. Studios may have mirror-lined walls and special flooring designed to reduce injuries such as shin splints. These amenities may not be available in community facilities. Appropriate footwear, equipment and clothing can be expensive but in some settings clean, comfortable, casual clothing is acceptable.

The work is physically and mentally demanding. Group exercise leaders are constantly moving while coaching and giving instructions out loud. They are responsible for the safety of the class and must ensure that all participants are performing exercises correctly to prevent injury.

Early morning, noon hour, evening and weekend work is common. Group exercise leaders spend a considerable amount of their own time preparing for classes.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Group exercise leaders need the following characteristics:

  • physically fit and well co-ordinated
  • patient, approachable and enthusiastic
  • organized and creative
  • excellent oral communication skills
  • able to motivate participants
  • able to work with a minimum of supervision.

They should enjoy having clear rules and organized methods, dealing with people and designing new exercise programs.

Educational Requirements
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Most employers prefer to hire group exercise leaders who have a high school diploma and, although not required by law, certification from the Alberta Fitness Leadership Certification Association (AFLCA). Some employers require employees to have related post-secondary education as well.

To qualify for AFLCA certification, group exercise leaders must:

  • successfully complete an Exercise Theory course (minimum of 24 hours) and subsequent theory exam
  • successfully complete specialty training in an area such as group exercise, aquatic exercise, resistance training or fitness for older adults (minimum 20 hours) and subsequent theory exam
  • hold current certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • complete a practical assessment by an AFLCA certified trainer or assistant trainer.

Many employers require professional liability insurance coverage for group exercise leaders. Alberta Fitness Leadership Certification Association (AFLCA) accreditations include automatic professional liability insurance and are nationally recognized by the National Fitness Leadership Alliance (NFLA).

Exercise Theory training and specialty courses are offered by a variety of agencies throughout the province. They may be offered by:

  • the AFLCA
  • the continuing education departments of post-secondary schools
  • YMCAs, YWCAs or other fitness facilities.

CPR training also is available from:

  • continuing education departments of post-secondary schools
  • Canadian Red Cross
  • St. John's Ambulance
  • Alberta Heart and Stroke Foundation
  • Lifesaving Society
  • recreational facilities.

To ensure that group exercise leaders keep their skills and knowledge up to date, AFLCA recertification is required. For more information on AFLCA certification and recertification requirements visit their website.

Some employers (for example, YMCAs and YWCAs) provide their own in-house training and certification. Those holding YMCA/YWCA national certification can challenge AFLCA exams.

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Embody School of Pilates

Grant MacEwan University

Lethbridge College

Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

Simon Fraser University

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Dec 15, 2016

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Group exercise leaders are employed by:

  • private health clubs
  • public leisure centres 
  • retirement centres
  • dance schools
  • municipal recreation centres
  • YMCAs and YWCAs
  • community leagues
  • large corporations
  • resorts and hotels.

Many group exercise leaders are employed on a contract basis for a specific class or number of classes. They may work for several employers at the same time.

Some group exercise leaders teach as a second job to earn extra income or maintain their own fitness. Some group exercise leaders volunteer their services to community groups.

Group exercise leaders employed by clubs may move into supervisory and management positions responsible for organizing classes. Some group exercise leaders set up their own businesses.

Group exercise leaders are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5254: Program leaders and instructors in recreation and sport and fitness. In Alberta, 75% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

In Alberta, the F154: Program Leaders and Instructors in Recreation and Sport occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 1.5% from 2016 to 2020. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 179 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Group exercise leaders' incomes vary greatly depending on their experience, the number of classes they teach and the type of employer. Some group exercise leaders are volunteers.

Program leaders and instructors in recreation, sport and fitness

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $15.00 $25.00 $18.18 $16.50
Overall $15.00 $32.50 $20.07 $18.00
Top $15.70 $43.75 $25.06 $22.00

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Industry Information
Educational Services
Public Administration
Health Care & Social Assistance
Information, Culture, Recreation
Other Services (Repair, Personal Services and Related)
Accommodation & Food Services

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years


Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties


Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months


Vacancy Rate

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Physical Education and Recreation
Other Sources of Information
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Alberta Fitness Leadership Certification Association (AFLCA) and Provincial Fitness Unit website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 09, 2016. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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