'Nutrition, Exercise, and Health Promotion' course prepares future personal trainers for success

Feb. 7, 2023

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Two young women talk while standing near a bank of treadmills. One faces the camera and the other faces away.
'Nutrition, Exercise, and Health Promotion' offers students the chance to practice hands-on skills like proper cueing, rapport building, modifications to exercise, and conducting fitness assessments, according to course co-instructor Jake Minnis.

It’s the time of year when fitness advice is everywhere. Any number of influencers and advertisers will happily instruct you on what to eat (or not), and what sort of exercise to do (or avoid). It can be confusing and frustrating to sort through all the noise. Going sugar-free may have worked wonders for your favorite Instagram personality, but is it a good choice for you? Should you be doing high intensity interval training or low intensity steady state cardio to meet your goals? What actually is intermittent fasting?

This is where a personal trainer might come in handy.

Personal trainers aim to help their clients answer those questions and more, and to help them reach their personal health and fitness goals, whatever those might be. But how do personal trainers get the skills they need to separate fact from fiction, to help their clients set reasonable goals, and to motivate them to achieve those goals?

The Nutrition, Exercise, and Health Promotion course from the School of Nutritional Sciences and Wellness is designed to do just that. The course combines lectures with real-world practice opportunities to cover topics like nutrition and digestion, physical fitness assessments and anthropometrics, behavioral change strategies, and professional considerations for personal trainers. It also prepares students for the American Council on Exercise (ACE) Personal Training Certification Exam.

For much of the semester, students spend one day per week in the classroom and one day at the NorthREC Center, where they get hands-on training and practice. Classroom time is spent reviewing anatomy and physiology, concepts of behavior change and coaching, as well as program planning, while the ‘lab’ portion of the course puts everything taught in the lecture into action. Students learn how to perform physical fitness assessments using the proper equipment, various exercises for different populations, and get the opportunity to put their program planning into action.

“The opportunity to practice their skills really prepares our students to succeed as personal trainers,” explains Jake Minnis, Assistant Director of the Fitness and Wellness Department of Campus Recreation, who frequently co-teaches the course. “We often see individuals purchase preparation materials for a personal training certification, but they don’t learn any of the ‘hands-on’ skills like proper cueing, rapport building, modifications to exercise, and conducting assessments. They get to practice those skills when they take this course.”

Minnis also stresses that Nutrition, Exercise, and Health Promotion students receive instruction on many facets of health and fitness from professionals working in the field. “The course is not only led by active dietitans and personal trainers but also provides guest speakers like athletic trainers and strength and conditioning coaches,” he says. “These experts offer anecdotal education in different areas that help develop a more well-rounded approach to personal training.”

Former student Zeff Prina believes taking Nutrition, Exercise, and Health Promotion prepared him for success as a personal trainer. “During my four years as a personal trainer, I often found myself referring back to course material and lessons learned from the class,” he says. “It gave me the knowledge and confidence to professionally and effectively create lasting lifestyle change in my clients.”

Nutrition, Exercise, and Health Promotion, listed in the course catalog as NSC 320, is offered in an in-person, 16-week format on the UArizona Main Campus each semester, and in an online, 7-week format on the UA Online, Yuma, and Main Campuses in the fall semester. The course is open to majors and non-majors, so long as they’ve taken NSC 170C1 or NSC 101; it’s also recommended that students have previously taken PSIO 201.

For more information on registering for the course, please speak to your advisor.