As the American waistline continues its spread, fitness is shaping up as one of the hottest careers of this tepid economic recovery. Employment of fitness trainers and instructors is expected to grow by a brisk 24 percent in the decade to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as businesses, health professionals and insurance companies take sharper aim at the sedentary lifestyle.
"The obesity epidemic has produced a lot of noise and talk and chatter," said Cedric Bryant, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise (ACE), which has certified more than 50,000 fitness professionals. "Helping individuals be more active is important and fitness professionals can be at the center of that," he said.
Obesity rates have sky-rocketed in the last 20 years. More than one third of adults in the United States are obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Bryant said the health crisis is strongly linked to the lifestyle choices that fitness professionals, such as personal trainers and group fitness instructors, address.
Despite the shaky economy, health club membership is up more than 10 percent over the past three years, according to IHRSA, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.
Exercise physiologist and ACE spokesperson Jessica Matthews said workplace wellness campaigns also increase demand for fitness professionals.
Bryant said the average salary for a certified personal trainer is about $53,000 and rising. A high school diploma is sufficient to begin a career in fitness, he added, although more than two-thirds of professionals have college degrees.