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The American Sports & Fitness Association, or ASFA, is an organization offering bargain-priced online fitness certifications, including personal trainer certifications and various fitness class teaching certificates. However, unlike fitness certifications with more stringent requirements, such as those offered by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise, ASFA certification is not nationally recognized by any independent agency. Furthermore, the Better Business Bureau has spoken against the ASFA.
Types and Claims
According to the ASFA's website, the association offers over a dozen types of online fitness "certifications." Some examples of these include: Personal Training Certification; Sports Nutritionist Certification; Self Defense Instructor Certification; and Childhood Obesity Specialist Certification. The ASFA claims that getting ASFA-certified can help advance your career as a fitness professional by increasing your marketability and profit margins and by expanding your job opportunities. According to the ASFA, its certifications have allowed fitness professionals to get jobs at gyms and fitness studios, and also to open their own personal training businesses.
To obtain an ASFA certification, you must pass an online certification test with 70 percent accuracy and pay the certification fees. Passing the test is not difficult, since, if you fail, the ASFA website tells you which questions you answered wrong and lets you keep retaking the test until you pass it, according to the Better Business Bureau. ASFA certification fees vary depending on the certification type, desired documentation and length of validity. For example, ASFA's "Kettlebell Instructor Certification" costs $99 for a certificate valid for one year, and an additional $26 is tacked on if you also want a "pocket certification card." A certificate and card with "lifetime renewal" will set you back $229. For the same documentation and validity options with a "Master Personal Training Certification" you'll pay $229, $255 or $699.
According to an article published by the Better Business Bureau, online fitness certification programs that require no training or subject expertise are considered an embarrassment to many in the fitness industry. University of Missouri exercise physiology professor Steve Ball explains in the article that official-sounding certifications like those offered by the ASFA are designed to mislead individuals into buying essentially worthless "certifications" instead of going through rigorous and more costly certification programs offered by legitimate, nationally accredited institutions. Michelle Corey, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau, notes that a ASFA certification is misleading and that "an ASFA certificate should have about as much credibility as a three-dollar bill.”
While ASFA certification is not considered a valid measure of expertise by many in the fitness industry, there exist reputable organizations that offer nationally accredited certifications for individuals who want to become certified personal trainers or fitness class instructors. Examples of these organizations include the American College of Sports Medicine, or ACSM; the American Council on Exercise, ACE; and the National Strength and Conditioning Association, NSCA. While fitness certifications from the ASCM, ACE and NSCA involve more stringent testing policies than those of ASFA and may also require additional credentials -- for example, as of July 2011, ASCM fitness specialist certification requires a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, Exercise Science or other exercise-based specialties -- they have the prestige of being accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.
Shannon George, former editor-in-chief of the trade magazine "Prime," holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from San Diego State University. Her health interests include vegetarian nutrition, weight training, yoga and training for foot races.