Fitness Instruction for the Older Adult BCRPA Guidelines

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This article was edited and updated on November 7, 2015.

British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association

The British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA) is the organization in British Columbia, Canada, that

The BCRPA announced a change in April 2015: those who had in the past earned a Third Age designation were given a new Older Adult Fitness Leader designation. Nothing really changed except for the name — from Third Age to Older Adult — which is probably much easier for anyone not in the fitness industry to understand.

What follows is a discussion of the scope of practice for leaders of older adults. Hopefully, this will help you — the consumer — to know precisely what your fitness instructor is allowed to do and what they should know.

Scope of Practice for Group Fitness Leaders

The NFLA (National Fitness Leadership Alliance Performance Standards) and the BCRPA (British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association) state that a certified Group Fitness Leader is qualified to:

All group fitness leaders in British Columbia should have this BCRPA certificate. If they do not, the possibilities for injury and/or inappropriate activities is unfortunately high.

Scope of Practice for BCRPA Older Adult Leaders

Group Fitness Leaders who want to work with older adults go on to take further training, so they are more familiar with the issues that older adults face. Once the course work is completed, the Group Fitness Leader can now teach fitness classes which are specifically designed for older adults.

Based on the BCRPA Standards and NFLA Guidelines the BCRPA Older Adult Fitness Leader is qualified to:

A Deeper Look at the Scope of Practice for BCRPA Older Adult Leaders

It takes time, energy, and commitment to learn how best to work with older adults on their fitness.

In addition to the eight items listed above, the Older Adult Fitness Leader must also:

Other Certificates the BCRPA provides

I am a Group Fitness Leader and an Older Adult Leader, so I am qualified specifically in the areas mentioned above. I am required to also maintain my CPR and First Aid certificates yearly, as well as continuously upgrade my certification through courses and workshops.

The BCRPA provides certification for the following types of leaders, and for each of these, the BCRPA has a "scope of practice" guideline:

If you take any fitness course, your instructor may or may not be certified by the BCRPA. If they are not, you will want to make inquiries as to just what the leader knows and what training they have received.

Even if they are certified, you may want to also check out their scope of practice on this PDF.

For your own safety and peace of mind, find out the qualifications of your class leader before attending the class.

See also:

I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.

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  1. These three dots behave exactly like a footnote. Click on them and you will get more information about the topic. 

  2. Specifically: Group Fitness Leader, Older Adult Fitness Leader, Personal Trainer, Weight Training, Aquatic Fitness, Yoga Fitness, Pilates Fitness, and Osteofit. 

  3. These participants will have already provided a healthy self-report through the use of the current PAR-Q or will have received medical clearance. 

  4. Some of the common health challenges related to the aging process include: cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, respiratory disorders, obesity, arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, diabetes, balance and motor control deficits, visual and hearing disorders, dementia, urinary incontinence, joint replacement. 

  5. This could include balance training, understanding centre of gravity and base of support, power training, eccentric loading, agility training, reaction time training, multi-tasking training, coordination, and memory.