Top 5 Adaptive Exercise Fitness Certification Programs

Adaptive exercise is a growing field of health and wellness that needs qualified individuals in various adaptive physical education jobs. It can potentially improve the quality of life for people with disabilities, hence why it requires specialized training and knowledge. The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) has created standards that outline what it takes to become an adaptive fitness specialist. 

These standards were developed after a survey found that only 20% of people with disabilities had access to certified trainers. Therefore, these trainers could help them achieve their exercise goals through adaptive training techniques like resistance band work or other forms of body weight training.

What is Adaptive Exercise?

Adaptive exercise is a fitness training program designed to meet the needs of individuals with physical, cognitive, or mental disabilities. Adaptive exercise can be customized to each individual’s needs. 

The adaptive exercise aims to increase strength, flexibility, and endurance while improving balance and posture through apparatus that provides resistance per specific goals (i.e., work capacity).

Adaptive exercise programs often include:

  • Weight-bearing activities such as walking or jogging on treadmills
  • Non-weight-bearing activities such as cycling; functional tasks such as pushing or pulling devices
  • Balance equipment
  • Functional movements like jumping jacks
  • Upper extremity strengthening exercises like bicep curls, etc.
  • Lower extremity strengthening exercises like leg lifts, etc.
  • Stretching routines, including static stretching techniques before and after exercising sessions

Adaptive Physical Education Jobs: How To Become A Certified Adaptive Exercise Specialist

The first step is to find an accredited course of study that covers the topics you wish to learn about to become an ASM-CES.

Once you have identified the class(es) and certificate(s) that best suit your needs, contact individual organizations offering these programs. You can then determine if they accept transfer credits or are willing to waive their application fee for those who have already earned their degree elsewhere.

Having identified your options, contact the schools directly to find out their requirements for transferring credits. You can earn credit for some or all of the courses without paying for them again. Once you have determined what type of certification program best suits your needs, investigate how much it will cost before enrolling in any class(es).

Adaptive Physical Education Jobs: Certified Adaptive Exercise Specialist Certification Options 

The following are the most recognized adaptive exercise certification programs:

1. Manitoba’s Adaptive Fitness Specialist Certification

On average, testing for Manitoba’s adaptive fitness specialist certification lasts up to three days, with one course covered daily.

The testing process can be broken down into the following: 

You must pass the written exam and practical tests to complete this certification. The written exam consists of 30 multiple-choice questions. In contrast, the practical test consists of 5 exercises that require you to demonstrate proper technique during practice sessions with a certified fitness instructor. 

This can be done at an accredited gym or facility within Manitoba (or approved by your instructor). Additionally, you’ll need access to adaptive equipment, such as a treadmill or elliptical machine, if you’re looking for something more challenging.

2. Autism Fitness

Autism Fitness, based in Boston, Massachusetts, is a four-week program that gives individuals with autism the skills they need to improve their health through exercise. The program includes group meetings, one-on-one sessions with an instructor, and homework assignments.

The students are of all ages, from young kids to adults; however, most classes are geared toward children under six. For those who want something more challenging than what typically comes with an exercise class—and for whom self-care has become an integral part of their lives—this may be just what you need.

The autism certification for occupational therapists is designed for people with autism and uses an exercise-based approach to improve physical fitness, motor skills, and social skills. Additionally, it helps individuals build self-esteem, which is often a goal for those diagnosed with autism. The classes are held in a gym with equipment such as balance beams and trampolines that can be used during the workouts.

3. ACSM Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer Certification 

ACSM is the largest fitness certification organization in the world, and they offer a variety of certifications for all levels of fitness enthusiasts. Their Inclusive Fitness Specialist (IFS) certification is designed for individuals who want to become inclusive fitness specialists. 

This specialty focuses on incorporating accessible equipment into your daily exercise routine or workout classes. This includes physical therapy professionals and other healthcare experts who may be interested in learning more about working with children with disabilities.

The IFS certification is a great way for fitness professionals to learn about inclusive fitness, including working with people with disabilities. The certification requires that you complete a minimum of 18 hours of online coursework and pass an exam designed to assess your knowledge.

4. Strong Education – Adaptive Special Needs Certification

This online inclusive, adaptive fitness training is available for people with special needs and other disabilities like autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and more.

This certification allows you to develop your career while earning money doing personally fulfilling work you love. Learn effective science-based approaches for interacting with people with special needs and other disabilities in groups and one-on-one situations. Besides that, you can become more employable and offer customers and employers a larger selection of services.

The following courses are offered:

  • Fitness Trainer Bundle
  • Speciality Trainer Bundle
  • Master Trainer Bundle

5. Adaptive Training Academy (ATA)

The American Therapeutic Association (ATA) is a non-profit organization that offers various certifications in the fitness industry. In fact, they have been around since 1978 and are one of the most recognized certification agencies in the world. 

Their Adaptive Fitness Specialist certification program focuses on developing an understanding of creating safe, effective, and fun physical activity programs for individuals with special needs.

The program focuses on a wide variety of special populations, including but not limited to people with the following:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Spina bifida
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Down syndrome
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Autism spectrum disorder.

Two of the main certification programs offered include: 

  • Certified Fitness Specialist (CFS) and 
  • Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)

Both certifications require a minimum of 150 hours of study, with the CPT certification requiring more training time to achieve.

You can take ATA’s courses online or in person at one of their different locations, including in Los Angeles, New York City, and Florida. The coursework is designed to help prepare you for your certification exam, so you’ll be ready when it comes time for your exam date.

Some of the things covered include:

  • How to adapt workouts based on client needs.
  • Cover anatomy and physiology.
  • Metabolic rate theory will help them understand how many calories someone burns during any given activity level.

Tips For Choosing The Right Adaptive Exercise Fitness Certification Program

Here are a few handy tips for selecting the best program for yourself:

1. Ask Yourself What Your Goal is

The first step to choosing the right adaptive exercise fitness certification program is to decide your goals. Hence, if you want to be an instructor, look at programs that offer certification in that area and see how long it takes to complete their program.

2. Consider The Cost Of The Certification Program

Many types of adaptive exercise fitness certifications are available, but they all come with varying costs and associated fees. When considering which would best fit your needs, consider its price tag and how much time it will take. Similarly, consider whether any discounts are available for students who enroll early or late in the semester (or year).

3. Curriculum Offered

Look at curriculum offerings regarding flexibility since people often feel overwhelmed when implementing new ideas into their lives. This can cause stressors later down the road.

FAQs for Adaptive Physical Education Jobs

Here are a few facts you might need to know going into adaptive fitness:

1. What is a Certified Adaptive Exercise Specialist?

A Certified Adaptive Exercise Specialist is a professional that teaches people with disabilities how to exercise safely and effectively. They provide exercise programming for people with disabilities. To become a trainer, one must be certified by an accredited organization that provides certification specifically for adaptive fitness.

Such programs include a specific number of hours of training and testing that you need to accomplish. In addition, it includes hands-on experience using equipment and facilities modified to accommodate people with disabilities.

2. What Does it Take to Become Certified?

On average, you must complete a minimum of 120 hours of instruction at an accredited institution, including basic anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and kinesiology. Afterward, pass an examination administered by the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

3. Can You Practice Without an Adaptive Exercise Fitness Certification

You can practice without an adaptive physical education certification, but your responsibilities will be limited. Usually, you won’t be able to engage clients in any way that requires interaction with them or their needs. 

In addition, you won’t have any power over the environment or equipment (such as a treadmill), so it’s difficult for clients to understand how they could benefit from your services. Finally, you’ll mostly be carrying out administrative work, and you won’t be able to do much else.

4. What job settings can adaptive physical education professionals work in?


Adaptive physical education professionals can work in various settings, including public and private schools, rehabilitation centers, community centers, recreation departments, specialized schools for individuals with disabilities, and therapeutic facilities.

5. What are the responsibilities of a professional in adaptive physical education?


The responsibilities of an adaptive physical education professional may include assessing students’ physical abilities and needs, designing and implementing individualized physical education programs, adapting activities to meet each student’s needs, providing instruction and support during physical education sessions, monitoring progress and making adjustments as needed, collaborating with other educators and therapists to support students’ overall development, and advocating for inclusive practices and accessibility in physical education settings.


To sum up, certified adaptive exercise specialists (CASE) are trained to help people with special needs get the most out of their physical therapy by providing the right exercises for specific needs. They completely understand the science behind adaptive exercise and can help you maximize your recovery time while also reducing pain and stress on your body. 

If you’re looking for adaptive physical education jobs, check out and get certified today to save up to 10%!

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