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Getting people moving:

Our work and impact in 2021

An overwhelming body of evidence indicates that even a moderate amount of physical activity performed every day enhances health, prevents costly inactivity-related diseases and contributes to a more joyful life. For more than 35 years, ACE has been committed to translating that evidence into tangible action.

Certification

A foundational component of our approach to getting people moving is the certification of well-qualified exercise professionals and health coaches. With every professional we certify, the impact of science-based physical-activity and behavior-change content that ACE provides becomes more widespread. Since 2003, our four primary certification programs have been accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), and the ACE Personal Trainer and ACE Group Fitness Certification Programs are also recognized by the International Confederation of Registers for Exercise Professionals (ICREP) and the Europe Active/European Registry of Exercise Professionals (EREPS). The respect and recognition of ACE certification programs is truly global.

ACE is an enthusiastic supporter and leader of more than 90,000 currently certified exercise professionals and health coaches who hold over 100,000 ACE Certifications and inspire communities around the world in getting and staying physically active.

Number of ACE Certified Professionals

67,798

Personal Trainers

49.4 MILLION

estimated number of client sessions conducted by ACE Certified Personal Trainers in 2021*

22,744

Group Fitness Instructors

5.6 MILLION

estimated number of client sessions conducted by ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructors in 2021*

8,071

Health Coaches

2.4 MILLION

estimated number of client sessions conducted by ACE Certified Health Coaches in 2021*

944

Certified Medical Exercise Specialists

378,000

estimated number of client sessions conducted by ACE Certified Medical Exercise Specialists in 2021*

*Figures based on the number of personal trainers, group fitness instructors, health coaches, and certified medical exercise specialists and the average number of client sessions and classes per week. Averages are based on independent survey data collected from ACE Certified Professionals.

The more than 90,000 ACE Certified Professionals play an indispensable role in helping us achieve our mission of getting people moving. We are honored to support all our ACE Certified exercise professionals and health coaches with innovative educational resources, original research and advocacy efforts. Together, we can lead the way to a more active and healthier world.

Scott Goudeseune

Chief Executive Officer, American Council on Exercise

Education

ACE offers a wide array of evidence-based educational resources to equip ACE Certified Professionals and others with the knowledge and skills to reach more clients and grow their careers. In 2021, ACE developed and updated nearly 40 education programs and courses including:

ACE Health Coach Advanced Training Program

The ACE Health Coach Advanced Training Program is our most comprehensive education program to date. This ten- to twelve-month program is the first of its kind, combining online asynchronous course work with online live, high-engagement classes. This blend of learning progresses a student through their studies to understand the foundation and theory of health coaching and advances them through application and skill building by pairing them with peers and experienced professionals in the industry for real-time practice and feedback. Through this program, individuals can earn the ACE Health Coach Certification, the only NCCA-accredited certification in the field of health coaching, and complete 65+ hours of in-depth hands-on learning to enhance their practical application skills.

ACE Senior Fitness Specialist Program

The ACE Senior Fitness Specialist Program, one of the most popular ACE specialist programs, received a major update this year highlighting the science and skills important to making exercise central to restoring or maintaining functional independence and health, including the neurophysiological and cognitive effects of various exercise, physical activity and lifestyle interventions. The enhanced program includes how to apply the ACE Mover Method when coaching older clients and brings to life the newly evolved ACE Integrated Fitness Training (ACE IFT) Model for program design.

Taking Action with ACE: Practicing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as an Exercise Professional

Taking Action with ACE: Practicing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as an Exercise Professional is a robust, 3-hour course, that provides actionable steps exercise professionals can apply every day to support and engage clients of various backgrounds and experiences. Created in collaboration with multiple subject matter experts in equity, diversity and inclusion, this course features multimodal learning opportunities—including video, podcast, and interactive activities—to assist exercise professionals in understanding their own biases and improving their communication skills and empathy, so they will be better equipped to work with a wide range of clients. Taking Action with ACE: Practicing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as an Exercise Professional is free to all current ACE Certified Professionals.

ACE Live Webinars

Presented on a monthly to bi-monthly basis, the ACE Live Webinars connect ACE Certified Professionals with experts in the fitness industry who present on a wide range of topics. These free, live events allow ACE Professionals and others within and outside of the industry to join in for education in the areas of health coaching, personal training, fitness business, nutrition, group fitness, special population and more. Each webinar is recorded live in ACE studios and sold as a single course and is included in a CEC Club purchase.

  • ACE Health Coach Advanced Training Program

    ACE Health Coach Advanced Training Program

    The ACE Health Coach Advanced Training Program is our most comprehensive education program to date. This ten- to twelve-month program is the first of its kind, combining online asynchronous course work with online live, high-engagement classes. This blend of learning progresses a student through their studies to understand the foundation and theory of health coaching and advances them through application and skill building by pairing them with peers and experienced professionals in the industry for real-time practice and feedback. Through this program, individuals can earn the ACE Health Coach Certification, the only NCCA-accredited certification in the field of health coaching, and complete 65+ hours of in-depth hands-on learning to enhance their practical application skills.

  • ACE Senior Fitness Specialist Program

    ACE Senior Fitness Specialist Program

    The ACE Senior Fitness Specialist Program, one of the most popular ACE specialist programs, received a major update this year highlighting the science and skills important to making exercise central to restoring or maintaining functional independence and health, including the neurophysiological and cognitive effects of various exercise, physical activity and lifestyle interventions. The enhanced program includes how to apply the ACE Mover Method when coaching older clients and brings to life the newly evolved ACE Integrated Fitness Training (ACE IFT) Model for program design.

  • Taking Action with ACE: Practicing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as an Exercise Professional

    Taking Action with ACE: Practicing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as an Exercise Professional

    Taking Action with ACE: Practicing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as an Exercise Professional is a robust, 3-hour course, that provides actionable steps exercise professionals can apply every day to support and engage clients of various backgrounds and experiences. Created in collaboration with multiple subject matter experts in equity, diversity and inclusion, this course features multimodal learning opportunities—including video, podcast, and interactive activities—to assist exercise professionals in understanding their own biases and improving their communication skills and empathy, so they will be better equipped to work with a wide range of clients. Taking Action with ACE: Practicing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as an Exercise Professional is free to all current ACE Certified Professionals.

  • ACE Live Webinars

    ACE Live Webinars

    Presented on a monthly to bi-monthly basis, the ACE Live Webinars connect ACE Certified Professionals with experts in the fitness industry who present on a wide range of topics. These free, live events allow ACE Professionals and others within and outside of the industry to join in for education in the areas of health coaching, personal training, fitness business, nutrition, group fitness, special population and more. Each webinar is recorded live in ACE studios and sold as a single course and is included in a CEC Club purchase.

Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

In July of 2020, ACE made a commitment to do our part to help end structural racism and address diversity and inclusion in the fitness and physical activity industry. This commitment looks different for every organization, and at ACE we have been striving to keep equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) top of mind. In 2021, ACE developed educational resources, hosted public dialogues, and secured media placements to elevate the EDI discussion. We also partnered with like-minded organizations to help create a more equitable, diverse and inclusive industry which is of paramount importance to the future.

EDI courses developed. In July 2021, ACE launched the first-of-its-kind course on how exercise professionals can build a more inclusive fitness industry. The course, Taking Action with ACE: Practicing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as an Exercise Professional, is the first step on a journey to ensure all physical activity participants have equal access and feel welcome in every environment. As of December 31, 2021, more than 3,400 exercise professionals and health coaches have taken this course and is part of ACE’s required training for all employees.

In October 2021, ACE expanded its Taking Action with ACE series focused on equity, diversity and inclusion by introducing two additional courses. Taking Action with ACE: Practicing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as a Fitness Business Owner shares how fitness business owners can foster a welcoming environment where clients and staff feel valued and can also help grow their business, allowing them to reach a more diverse clientele. Taking Action with ACE: Practicing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as a Fitness Manager offers fitness directors and managers approaches to foster open and inclusive working environments by focusing on improving equity, diversity and inclusion in their facilities.

More inclusive language implemented in educational resources. ACE adopted the pronoun "they" in lieu of "his/her" in blogs, textbooks and marketing materials to be more inclusive in our marketing and educational communications.

Throughout the year, ACE hosted live conversations on social media in observation of important awareness months and topics in EDI. These conversations sought to start a dialogue in and around the fitness industry; share personal experiences; and explore ideas to build a more equitable, diverse and inclusive fitness industry. Topics included:

In 2021, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the Women In Fitness Association (WIFA) reached a new milestone in their partnership with the launch of the WIFA Growth Grant, a scholarship that provides current ACE Certified Professionals the opportunity to build and grow their careers with a 1-year WIFA membership. In just six months, more than 1,200 awards were distributed to women around the world to support them in taking advantage of valuable professional development options, connecting with a global community and advancing their careers.

Creating and supporting growth opportunities for women in the fitness industry is more important than ever. According to a 2020 report analyzing U.S. Census data, women make up 58% of the recreation and fitness workforce, but only earn 86 cents to every dollar earned by men in the same occupation. Globally, women only make up 29% of senior leadership positions (e.g., CEO, CFO, COO, CIO, CMO). In a sector in which women outpace men in health club membership consumption, women should be equally represented to acknowledge and celebrate their contributions to the industry. Women have been missing in leadership positions within the fitness industry, and ACE believes that it is vital to the health of our industry that women who are exercise professionals or health coaches receive equal opportunities afforded by peers and allies. ACE’s partnership with WIFA is that value in action.

In addition to elevating EDI topics and dialogues publicly, ACE provided employees, the ACE executive team, and ACE board of directors with educational resources, workshops and other opportunities to practice and celebrate EDI within ACE. With guidance from an external consultant, ACE’s internal EDI initiative leverages key findings from EDI experts, creates opportunities for staff engagement in EDI efforts, offers EDI seminars and dialogues and updates internal policies and guidelines to support EDI efforts. As we move forward, ACE will continue to promote and practice equity, diversity and inclusion within our organization and throughout our work to get people moving.

Population Health Improvement

In 2021, ACE continued to cultivate partnerships across sectors to help support and inspire individuals worldwide to reach recommended physical-activity levels to help prevent and manage chronic disease.

Key Partnerships

ACE leaders served on numerous advisory panels and forged collaborative relationships with leaders in the realm of population-health improvement, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) and others:

Health Advisory Board

The Arthritis Foundation boldly pursues a cure for America's number one cause of disability while championing the fight to conquer arthritis with life-changing science, resources, advocacy and community connections. With physical activity being proven to help people living with arthritis, in 2021 ACE collaborated with the Arthritis Foundation on a series of speaking events to share expert information about different forms of physical activity and their benefits for arthritis.

The Parkinson's Foundation makes life better for people with Parkinson's disease by improving care and advancing research toward a cure. Exercise is increasingly accepted as an adjunct treatment for Parkinson's disease that is associated with slower declines in mobility and improved quality of life. ACE served on the Parkinson's Foundation Exercise Leadership Committee which released the Parkinson's Foundation Exercise Guidelines in May 2021. The guidelines blend existing exercise science with physical-therapy resources and Parkinson's disease-specific research to provide advice on how individuals with Parkinson's can maintain or improve their health through physical activity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the importance of a healthy lifestyle. With recent research linking increased risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms associated with obesity and low levels of fitness, ACE and its partners continued our efforts with renewed purpose to encourage increased physical activity for individuals from all walks of life, to improve their overall health and decrease risks from disease."

Cedric X. Bryant, PhD, FACSM

President & Chief Science Officer, American Council on Exercise

Science and Research

ACE invested more than $100,000 into original studies conducted by universities and research institutions. ACE funds research that investigates the effectiveness of exercise practices and trends, and the efficacy of behavior-change interventions.

#ACEScienceSaturday

In 2021, ACE continued its #ACEScienceSaturday, a series of reoccurring social media posts that provide ACE Instagram and ACE Facebook audiences with information and tips drawn from recently published research articles and evidence-based ACE initiatives.

COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to dramatically alter the fitness industry in the United States and around the world. According to Club Industry, since March 2020 the U.S. gym and health club industry lost $29.2 billion just a year after an all-time high of $35 billion in revenue. In many parts of the world, rolling lockdowns, closures and capacity limits continue to disrupt the work of gyms, health clubs and exercise professionals. One bright spot during this pandemic is a reawakening around the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

As we learn more about the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on health, ACE has been supporting exercise professionals and health coaches by translating the latest scientific research into easy-to-understand blog posts. It is our hope that these blogs allow exercise professionals and health coaches to understand the impact of this disease and equip them to help individuals make lasting lifestyle behavior changes.

International Partnerships

In 2021, there were more than 18,000 ACE Certified Professionals in 115 countries outside of the U.S.

Through strategic partnerships with vocational schools, institutions of higher learning and major health-club chains spanning from Hungary to China, ACE expanded its global footprint of ACE Certified Professionals.

18,000 ACE Certified
Professionals
115 Countries outside
of the U.S.
Canada San Diego Finland Lebanon Zimbabwe India China Taiwan China Malaysia Singapore Hungary United Kingdom

Canada

ACE partnered with two organizations in Canada, including the Elevated Learning Academy, Inc., who have been a partner for 11 years, and INFOFIT Educators, who have been a partner for 9 years.

China

ACE partnered with 3HFIT and Xinchun Fitness in mainland China. In 2021, ACE explored how to support China’s 2025 Fitness policy, a health innovation initiative which seeks to improve the health and wellbeing of its citizens.

United Kingdom

ACE partnered with Advanced Fitness Education in Wales.

Finland

ACE partnered with the Nordic Health Academy in Helsinki, who is working with health insurance companies to introduce behavior change in services offered.

Hungary

In 2021, ACE reinvigorated its partnership with International Wellness Institute, which is currently exploring translating ACE materials into local languages for greater distribution.

India

ACE plans to continue to meet the increasing demands of the fitness industry with partners in India.

Lebanon

ACE partnered with Inspire Fitness Academy in Beirut, a partner for nearly 5 years.

Malaysia

ACE partnered with Fitness Innovations Malaysia (FITM) in Selangor.

San Diego, California

ACE headquarters.

Singapore

In 2021, ACE partner Institute of Technical Education (ITE) expressed more interest in ACE educational resources in different languages.

Taiwan China

In Taiwan, ACE partnered with Fit Taiwan and 3HFIT, a partner for more than 5 years.

Zimbabwe

ACE partnered with Innovate Sport & Health, a partner for more than 10 years.

  • Canada

    Canada

    ACE partnered with two organizations in Canada, including the Elevated Learning Academy, Inc., who have been a partner for 11 years, and INFOFIT Educators, who have been a partner for 9 years.

  • China

    China

    ACE partnered with 3HFIT and Xinchun Fitness in mainland China. In 2021, ACE explored how to support China’s 2025 Fitness policy, a health innovation initiative which seeks to improve the health and wellbeing of its citizens.

  • United Kingdom

    United Kingdom

    ACE partnered with Advanced Fitness Education in Wales.

  • Finland

    Finland

    ACE partnered with the Nordic Health Academy in Helsinki, who is working with health insurance companies to introduce behavior change in services offered.

  • Hungary

    Hungary

    In 2021, ACE reinvigorated its partnership with International Wellness Institute, which is currently exploring translating ACE materials into local languages for greater distribution.

  • India

    India

    ACE plans to continue to meet the increasing demands of the fitness industry with partners in India.

  • Lebanon

    Lebanon

    ACE partnered with Inspire Fitness Academy in Beirut, a partner for nearly 5 years.

  • Malaysia

    Malaysia

    ACE partnered with Fitness Innovations Malaysia (FITM) in Selangor.

  • San Diego, California

    San Diego, California

    ACE headquarters.

  • Singapore

    Singapore

    In 2021, ACE partner Institute of Technical Education (ITE) expressed more interest in ACE educational resources in different languages.

  • Taiwan China

    Taiwan China

    In Taiwan, ACE partnered with Fit Taiwan and 3HFIT, a partner for more than 5 years.

  • Zimbabwe

    Zimbabwe

    ACE partnered with Innovate Sport & Health, a partner for more than 10 years.

Countries and regions with ACE Certified Professionals

Collaboration and Advocacy

Like-minded collaborators

Women in Fitness Association

Since the founding of their partnership in 2018, ACE and the Women In Fitness Association (WIFA) have been working together to grow success opportunities for women and set the stage for women to rise to their fullest potential. As two global organizations dedicated to supporting professionals in the fitness industry and creating lasting, positive impact, the partnership between ACE and WIFA is a natural fit.

Active People, Healthy Nation

ACE is a proud supporter of Active People, Healthy Nation, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Initiative that seeks to help 27 million Americans become more physically active by 2027 by promoting effective, multi-sector strategies. Through a series of blog posts directed to exercise professionals and health coaches, ACE equips this audience to recognize the importance of Active People, Healthy Nation and how their work is critical in reaching this goal. Learn more about our support here.

Papren

ACE is proud to participate in the Physical Activity Policy Research and Evaluation Network (PAPREN), a thematic research network of the Prevention Research Centers (PRC) program of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (DNPAO) funds PAPREN to support collaborative research and evaluation to identify and implement local, state and national level policy approaches that influence opportunities for physical activity. PAPREN supports work across multiple sectors with emphasis on factors that affect the built environment such as land use and transportation policy. PAPREN emphasizes cross-sector collaboration and integration of health equity into all policy evaluation efforts.

Advancing standards for the profession

ACE is among the most vocal advocates for consistent standards of professionalism within the fitness industry. In 2021, ACE served on boards and committees that improve the quality of education, credentialing and workplaces for the exercise professional, including:

Standards Subcommittee

Facility Certification Committee

Standards Revision Main Committee

Nominating Committee

Committee on Accreditation for Education Programs for Kinesiotherapy (CoA-KT)

U.S. policy and engagement

In 2021, ACE advocated with allies including the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Coalition and provided timely information to support exercise professionals and health coaches across the nation.

COVID-19-Related Legislation

In 2021, ACE was busy on two advocacy fronts – launching and leading an awareness campaign as well as tracking legislation that impacts exercise professionals and health coaches.

The GYMS Act

ACE advocated for the passage of The GYMS Act which was introduced in response to the severe impact of COVID-19 related closures on health and fitness facilities, studios and the exercise professionals and health coaches they employ. To date, most of Congress's previous economic relief packages have provided limited relief to the fitness sector.

This legislation would create a $30 billion fund to provide grants to affected businesses in the health and fitness industry. Initial grants would be capped at 45% of the facility's 2019 revenue, or $20 million, whichever is less. Severely impacted health and fitness businesses, with revenues of only 33% or less in the most recent quarter as compared to 2019, would be eligible for a supplemental grant, of up to 25% of their initial grant. The aggregate amount of grants to an eligible business and its affiliates is $25 million.

Moving Together Outside Campaign

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced gyms to close in 2020, many in the fitness industry quickly pivoted to delivering their physical activity programs outdoors. This was the catalyst to launching the Moving Together Outside Campaign in 2021, which calls on local and state governments to expand access and reduce restrictions to using green spaces, parks, schools and other community spaces for safe, structured, physical activity experiences led by well-qualified exercise and health professionals.

In less than a year, the Moving Together Outside Campaign has:

  • Signed on nearly 30 organizational partners and over 120 individual supporters
  • Published 15 blog posts
  • More than 310 uses of #MovingTogetherOutside on social media
  • Hosted 1 webinar

Campaign supporters include:

Spreading the Word

ACE spreads the message for increased physical activity by providing evidence-based, publicly available content and engaging the news media. In 2021, ACE generated more than 300 unique stories that reached more than 825 million individuals globally.

Media Placements in 2021 Included:


Encouraging Physical Activity Through Quality Content

ACE continued to provide the public with educational, science-based content to encourage people from all walks of life to achieve sustainable healthy lifestyle changes.

6.1 million

More than 6.1 million unique
ACE website visitors

1.6 million

More than 1.6 million unique
ACE Healthy Living Blog visitors

1.2 million

More than 1.2 million unique
ACE Insights Blog visitors