American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Certification Examinations
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. ACSM certifications open up many career opportunities for those who wish to become an exercise instructor, personal trainer, and other certified health fitness specialists. Many employers require ACSM certification as a condition of employment. The ACSM offers the following eight certifications:
Health fitness certifications:
1. Group Exercise Instructor (GEI)
2. Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)
3. Health Fitness Specialist (HFS)
4. Clinical Exercise Specialist (CES)
5. Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist (RCEP)
6. Cancer Exercise Trainer (CET)
7. Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer (CIFT)
8. Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist (PAPHS)
Health fitness Certifications
1. The Group Exercise Instructor (GEI) works in a group setting with both healthy individuals and those with health conditions who have their doctors’ permission to embark on an independent exercise program. To become an ACSM Group Exercise Instructor (GEI), you must be 18 years of age or older, have a high school diploma or the GED equivalent, and hold a current adult CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification. The breakdown of test material is as follows:
Participant and program assessment (10 questions)
Class design (25 questions)
Leadership and instruction (55 questions)
Legal and professional responsibilities (10 questions)
2. The Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) works with people on an individual basis; with healthy clients and with clients who have their doctor’s consent to exercise. A personal trainer will develop an exercise program to meet their client’s personal fitness goals. To become an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT), the applicant must be 18 years of age or older, have a high school diploma or the GED equivalent, and hold a current adult CPR certification with a practical skills component. CPR certifications from the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross meet this requirement. Topics covered on the examination, and to the extent in which they are covered, break down as follows:
Exercise training and the establishment of an exercise program: 28 percent
Exercise science and physiology: 24 percent
Health appraisal and fitness exercise testing: 13 percent
Clinical and medical considerations: 10 percent
Nutrition and weight management: 9 percent
Safety, injury prevention, and emergency procedures: 8 percent
Human behavior: 4 percent
Program administration, quality assurance, and outcome assessment: 4 percent
ACSM Exam Cardiovascular Conditions
3. The Health Fitness Specialist (HFS) typically works in a university, business, or hospital setting. An HFS conducts physical fitness assessments, and recommends healthy behavior lifestyle changes to patients based on the results of these assessments. To become an ACSM Health Fitness Specialist (HFS), it is necessary to have a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, exercise science, or another exercise-related field. The applicant must also have a current adult CPR certification with a practical skills component. The following topics are covered on the certification examination:
Exercise training and the establishment of an exercise program: 31 percent
Exercise science and physiology: 23 percent
Health appraisal and fitness exercise testing: 12 percent
Nutrition and weight management: 8 percent
Program administration, quality assurance, and outcome assessment: 8 percent
Safety, injury prevention, and emergency procedures: 7 percent
Pathophysiology and risk factors: 5 percent
Human behavior: 4 percent
Electrocardiography and diagnostic techniques: 1 percent
Medical and surgical management: 1 percent
4. The Clinical Exercise Specialist (CES) works with individuals who have controlled cardiovascular, pulmonary, and/or metabolic diseases. A CES implements the best possible exercise programs for their clients and their individual medical conditions. A bachelor’s degree in an exercise science-based field is required in order to become an ACSM Clinical Exercise Specialist (CES). Examples of fields related to exercise science include kinesiology, kinesiotherapy, physiology, exercise physiology, and exercise science.
A student in his last semester, term, quarter, or trimester of his degree program may sit for the examination. An accumulation of at least 400 hours of clinical experience in a program approved by the Committee on Accreditation for the Exercise Sciences (COAES) is required. Programs not accredited by the COAES require at least 500 hours. Current certification as a basic life support provider or CPR certification for the professional rescuer is also required. Examination material is as follows:
Health appraisal and fitness exercise testing: 26 percent
Development of an exercise program: 19 percent
Electrocardiography and diagnostic techniques: 17 percent
Exercise science and physiology: 10 percent
Pathophysiology and risk factors: 10 percent
Human behavior: 5 percent
Safety, injury prevention, and emergency procedures: 5 percent
Nutrition and weight management: 2 percent
Patient management and medications: 2 percent
Program administration, quality assurance, and outcome assessment: 2 percent
Medical and surgical management: 2 percent
5. The Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist (RCEP) provides exercise counseling for people with cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, orthopedic, musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, immunological, and/or hematological disorders. A master’s degree in exercise science, exercise physiology, or kinesiology is necessary to become an ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist (RCEP).
Current certification as a basic life support provider or CPR for the professional rescuer is required. Also required is a current or expired ACSM Clinical Exercise Specialist (CES) certification, or 600 hours of clinical experience. The ACSM’s recommendation for the 600 hours of clinical experience breaks down as follows:
200 hours working with cardiovascular patients,
100 hours of pulmonary study,
120 hours working with patients with metabolic disorders,
100 hours working with patients with orthopedic or musculoskeletal difficulties,
40 hours of neuromuscular study, and
40 hours with patients with immunological or hematological disorders.
The certification examination covers the following topics:
Health appraisal, fitness, and clinical exercise testing: 25 percent
Exercise program development: 21 percent
Exercise science and physiology: 19 percent
Medical and surgical management: 13 percent
Pathophysiology and risk factors: 9 percent
Human behavior: 5 percent
Safety, injury prevention, and emergency procedures: 4 percent
Program administration, quality assurance, and outcome assessment: 4 percent
The following areas are also covered in the RCEP certification examination:
General population: 40 percent
Cardiovascular patients: 15 percent
Pulmonary patients: 10 percent
Metabolic patients: 14 percent
Orthopedic and musculoskeletal patients: 7 percent
Neuromuscular patients: 5 percent
Immunologic, hematologic, and neoplastic patients: 9 percent
6. The Cancer Exercise Trainer (CET) is a fitness professional that works with cancer patients who have a low risk of treatment complications from vigorous exercise. A CET implements appropriate exercise programs for their clients’ overall health.
A current exercise or fitness certification from the ACSM or the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) is necessary to become a certified Cancer Exercise Trainer (CET). Certification in adult CPR and the ability to use of an automated external defibrillator AED (automated external defibrillator) is required. Also required is either a bachelor’s degree in any field with 500 hours of experience training older adults or individuals with chronic conditions, or 10,000 hours of experience training older adults or individuals with chronic conditions.
Before sitting for the Cancer Exercise Trainer (CET) certification examination, it is recommended that the applicant have experience and be comfortable in the following:
- Discuss cancer treatment side-effects with the patient, family members, and healthcare providers.
- Discuss how an exercise program could improve the patient’s quality of life and prognosis.
- Select and modify an exercise program based on the needs of the patient.
- Recognize adverse responses to an exercise program and be able to determine when other healthcare providers should be called in for consultation.
7. The Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer (CIFT) works with disabled individuals who have medical clearance to exercise. A CIFT develops exercise programs that take their clients’ needs into consideration and helps them to become as physically fit as possible. A CIFT is aware of the special precautions required when beginning and undergoing a fitness regimen with people with disabilities. A CIFT also knows the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) policies regarding facility design for access to recreation facilities.
To obtain CIFT certification, an individual must hold a current ACSM or NCCA certification related to health or fitness, and be certified in adult CPR with the practical skills component and the use of an AED. The following topics are covered on the proficiency examination:
- Planning of an exercise program
- Exercise science and physiology
- Health appraisal, fitness and clinical exercise testing
- Safety, injury prevention, and emergency procedures
- Clinical and medical considerations
- Human behavior and counseling
- Disability awareness
- ADA and facility design
- Physiology, diagnosis, and treatment
- Nutrition and weight management
- Program administration, quality assurance, and outcome assessment
8. The Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist (PAPHS) promotes physical activity in public health at the national, state, and/or local level. Those interested in obtaining ACSM Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist (PAPHS) certification can meet the requirements to sit for the examination in one of the following ways:
- A bachelor’s degree in a health-related field. Examples of health-related fields include exercise science, exercise physiology, kinesiology, physical education, sports management, athletic training, recreation, nutrition, health education, health promotion, public health, community health, and healthcare administration,
- A bachelor’s degree in any subject and 1,200 hours of experience in settings that promote physical activity and/or a healthy lifestyle. Examples of such settings include locations that involve community or public health, a YMCA, parks and recreation departments, federal, state, or local government agencies (such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), health clubs, or fitness centers.
Subjects covered on the ACSM PAPHS certification examination include:
Planning and evaluating: 23 percent
Intervention: 20 percent
Data and scientific information: 18 percent
Exercise science in a public health setting: 17 percent
Partnerships: 12 percent
Organizational structure: 10 percent
ACSM Practice Questions
1. Your client is in the maintenance stage of behavior and is exercising regularly. One day she cancels her appointments with you, claiming she has too much to do at work. If she abandons her exercise routine completely, it is called a:
2. All of the following can help the client-trainer relationship EXCEPT:
- Accepting your client for what she is able to do, even if others her age are able to do more
- Asking your client about his week
- Answering a text or phone call during a session
- Keeping information between the two of you confidential
3. An example of active listening is:
- “Why didn’t you do this exercise this week?”
- “Great job with your exercises this week!”
- “How did your big project at work turn out?”
- “So you are saying that you didn’t understand how this exercise was supposed to feel?”
4. The interactive tool that can lead to change by creating an equal partnership between the client and the trainer is called
- Motivational interviewing
- Generative moments
- Appreciative inquiry
- Change talk
5. Goals that a trainer helps a client set should be all of the following EXCEPT:
- Broadly defined
1. C: A relapse is when a person stops their positive behavior and, as a result, loses the positive benefits he or she had gained. Many conditions can lead to relapse; work pressures, boredom, and increased travel are only a few. Although similar, a lapse is a temporary stop in positive behavior. Had this client returned after a week or two, her exercise routine would have lapsed, but she would have likely maintained or quickly regained the positive benefits.
2. C: A number of factors can help facilitate a beneficial working relationship between a client and a trainer. These can include being present in the moment, maintaining confidentiality, being interested in your client’s life, giving helpful feedback, and treating your client in a positive way. Along those lines, it is important to accept clients at the level they are currently at, rather than comparing them to others.
3. D: Active listening is a technique than enhances communication. It involves conveying what the client says back to the client, so that the individual feels they are being heard and understood. The client tells you how he or she feels or what he or she thinks, and you repeat or paraphrase it back to the individual. This technique provides the opportunity for clarification in the event that the client actually meant something else. When actively listening, it is helpful to let the other speak without interruption and to maintain eye contact and focus on the client.
4. A: Motivational interviewing is based on the idea that change occurs when there is an equal partnership between the client and trainer. While you are a training expert, your client is an expert is his or her own life. Motivational interviewing is used in a client-centered relationship. Generative moments are powerful or negative events that have happened to a client that can spur him or her to change. Appreciative inquiry is a technique in which the trainer asks positive and powerful questions to help the client visualize potential possibilities. Change talk involves language spoken by a client about his or her desire and ability to change their behavior.
5. C: Goals that are most helpful are those that are specific, very well defined, able to be measured, realistic, and have a time constraint on them. The actions a client needs to take should be specifically defined. For example, a goal may be that a client will walk on his treadmill at a pace of 3 mph for 30 minutes on Monday through Friday before going to work.