What is the Difference between a Personal Trainer and a Kinesiologist?

Female Patient with Kinesiologist

During the last ten years I have always been proud of being a Kinesiologist, even though I was working under the title of “Personal Trainer.” We have clients who have worked with Personal Trainers and now will only train with Kinesiologists. When you hear the term “Personal Trainer,” you have an immediate image, correct? What about “Kinesiologist”? The image is probably not as clear.

As an outside observer you might not see a difference, however there are several.

Definition of a Kinesiologist

“The practice of Kinesiology is the assessment of movement, performance and function and the rehabilitation, prevention and management of disorders to maintain, rehabilitate or enhance movement, performance and function, in the areas of sport, recreation, work, exercise, and activities of daily living.”  British Columbia Association of Kinesiologists (BCAK)

In BC, we are not a regulated health profession which have colleges to protect the public and where the associations look after the practitioners. In Ontario,we have recently gained that designation and a college, and hopefully, that recognition of a regulated health profession will transition eventually throughout Canada.

Differences in Education

Many beginner levels of Personal Training certifications including the British Columbia Recreation Parks Association's (BCRPA) scope of practice which is limited to training those “who are apparently healthy”, that is, they have  no known medical conditions or injuries. The biggest difference in BC between a Kinesiologist and a BCRPA Registered Personal Trainer is our base level of education.

A Practicing Kinesiologist has a minimum of a 4 year degree in Exercise Science, Kinesiology or Human Kinetics and often multiple other related health, fitness and certifications where as the BCRPA courses include a very basic introduction to anatomy and kinesiology throughout a couple of weekends and limited practical evaluations. To gain membership with the BC Association of Kinesiologists we are required to have core courses that include anatomy and biomechanics and electives from related upper-level courses.

Kinesiologists’ extended education and experience benefits the client because they will be able to provide you with safe, effective and current exercise/physical activity guidelines that take into account your current fitness level and health conditions.

When to Choose a Personal Trainer

  • If you have no known medical conditions, injuries or disabilities that are placing limitations on your ability to exercise, e.g. you are “apparently healthy.”
  • Main goal is weight loss, toning or general health conditioning.

When to Choose a Kinesiologist

  • If you have an injury, disability or medical condition(s) and want to improve your health and fitness in a safe progressive manner.
  • If you are undergoing medical treatment (Physiotherapy, Chiropractic, etc) and want to increase your level of fitness.
  • Have a referral from a doctor to begin active rehabilitation or work conditioning.
  • Goals are better health (inside and out), better quality of life, improved movement ability.
  • If you want to learn how to manage your condition(s) with physical activity and lifestyle changes.

Related Post: 8 Steps to Choosing the Right Fitness Professional for You.

Alfred Ball

CEO | Practicing Kinesiologist | Certified Fascial Stretch Therapist. He founded Lifemoves in 2007. He has been a Practicing Kinesiologist and Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach with the NSCA for over 15 years. When he isn't helping people regain their strength and confidence to move with ease he is hanging out with his wife and young son, writing, or training for his next endurance running race. His big audacious goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

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Anthoney - January 4, 2013 Reply

Hi Alfred,
Great post on difference between a personal trainer and a kinesiologist and your will be of great help for making people realise the difference between a personal trainer and a kinesiologist.
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Micheal - August 21, 2013 Reply

A personal trainer is a great way to get a custom workout you’ll enjoy, but you need to find someone you actually like working with. Health blog Greatest suggests that you ask yourself a few important questions to ensure you’ll develop a healthy relationship with them.
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Kinesiology Gains More Recognition in British Columbia | Lifemoves Health and Rehabilitation - October 10, 2015 Reply

[…] Read more about this in The Difference between a Personal Trainer and a Kinesiologist. […]

A Collins - March 3, 2017 Reply

Thank you so much for this. I am a personal trainer who sees other trainers calling themselves ‘Medical Trainers’ and it irks me to no end. They’ve taken the American based weekend/online course. I’ve researched this and these trainers are simply working outside of their scope of practice and that rehab type work is uninsurable. I just wrote a post on my facebook page with this information, also advising folks to check credentials.

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