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How to Become an Exercise Referral Specialist

How To Become An Exercise Referral Specialist

If you want to know how to become an exercise referral specialist, our step by step guide will give you all the essential information so you can get started on this exciting career!

In this article we’ll cover:

We’ll cover the qualifications you’ll need in more detail in step 1, but you can get started by checking out our Level 3 Diploma in Exercise Referral. Find out more about all the courses we offer by downloading our course prospectus for free!

 

Step 1: Secure the Right Qualifications to Become an Exercise Referral Specialist

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The first thing you’ll need to do if you want to know how to become an exercise referral specialist is to source and complete the right qualifications.

In order to complete a specific exercise referral course you’ll first need to gain a Level 2 Fitness Instructor qualification

This will provide you with the basic principles of exercise and fitness in order to probably support sessions with exercise referral clients and is a pre-requisite for the referral specific course.

This will involve processes such as warm-ups and cool downs and balancing bodyweight exercises with cardiovascular workouts for different results.  

A course like ours will provide the perfect scaffolding for a level 3 to build on so you can structure and pace exercise with clients in a way that sees the maximum benefit and improves your success rate! 

The most important qualification you’ll need is a Level 3 Exercise Referral. Without at least this qualification you’ll be severely limited in the positions you can apply for as most won’t consider applicants without it.  

This will provide you with the foundational skills and knowledge to use exercise in tandem with other medical care for rehabilitation and support of recovery.  

You’ll gain in-depth knowledge of the different and most common medical conditions you’re most likely to encounter when you become an exercise referral specialist including, but not limited to: 

  • COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
  • Asthma
  • Osteoporosis
  • Arthritis
  • Depression
  • GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder)

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You’ll also learn all of the practical skills needed to work with other medical professionals to help clients with the symptoms and management of these conditions, illnesses, or injuries.

Specifically, you’ll learn how to plan and deliver plans and exercise referral programmes unique to a client’s needs and the advice from their GP and other healthcare professionals. 

You’ll review a range of case studies and examples of successful exercise referral programmes used with clients so that you can set achievable and realistic goals related to clients' physical and emotional wellbeing. 

From there you can become a personal trainer to further develop your career and inform how you work one-on-one with clients, designing exercise programmes. 

We’ll go into more detail about this course and career in ‘Section 4: How to Become a GP Referral Personal Trainer’ but you’ll need to complete a Level 3 Personal Trainer course to advance your fitness career in this way. 

If you want to know how to become an exercise referral specialist and make as much money as possible by helping a wider range of clients, this is a great way to improve your track record achieving a variety of health and fitness goals. 

 

Become an Exercise Referral Specalist With OriGym

Enquire today about our Level 3 Exercise Referral course and kickstart your career today!

Step 2: How to Become an Exercise Referral Specialist with the Right Insurance

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The next step for becoming an exercise referral specialist is getting the right insurance so that you’re protected from any legal claims made against you.

Usually you won’t necessarily need to source your own insurance as, depending on where you work, you’ll be covered by the policy of the facility. Especially if you work for the NHS or other medical environments.

As you can see from the NHS exercise referral scheme below, all qualified members of staff are covered by a policy specifically for the exercise referral programme:

insurance how to become an exercise referral specialist image

This is why it’s worth checking, especially when you’re starting out, as you’ll likely only need your own policy if you’ve established your own business. 

If you’re self employed though, or you start your own business, you will need to source your own insurance.  

In that case there’s two main kinds of insurance you’ll need to ensure you can practise legally and safely which are both available from main providers such as Insure 4 Sport. We’ll run through each of these now! 

Public Liability Insurance

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This is one of the main kinds of insurance you’ll need if you want to know how to become an exercise referral specialist protected from claims of injury or damage to equipment.

This is designed to protect you from having to pay any compensation or legal fees should a claim be made against you when people are injured during a session.

This covers the majority of injuries whilst under your supervision wherever it is that you’re performing your sessions. 

This means you’ll also be covered by this style of policy when your client is using equipment if they injure themselves or damage the equipment by doing so. 

This is important because it will protect you from having to fork out huge amounts of money should somebody decide you’re liable for their injury.

This is why it’s a vital legal requirement for any fitness professional, wherever they’re working, to be covered by the right public liability policy. 

Professional Indemnity Insurance 

warning how to become a gp referral personal trainer graphic 

This one is slightly different but just as important if you want to become an exercise referral specialist. Professional indemnity insurance protects you if anybody claims they’ve suffered illness or injury as a result of your advice. 

This is especially important because part of your role will be to provide clients with exercises they can do at home and things they can do independently, and between sessions, to support their recovery and condition.

This also covers you should somebody make a claim against you if they don’t achieve their goals in the way they expected. This policy covers you for claims of inadequate advice as well as any that leads to illness or injury.

You can find out more details about the different kinds of insurance available as a fitness professional in our dedicated article: What Personal Trainer Insurance Do I Need?

Step 3: Choose the Best Place to Work Once You’ve Become an Exercise Referral Specialist

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As we mentioned, once you’ve got the right qualifications, your insurance and your next steps will depend on where and how you want to work.

There’s a few different options with the exercise referral specialist salary varying depending on setting as well as just experience! 

Essentially you can either work within the NHS or work for a private charity or organisation that has a contract with the NHS or private medical practices. 

From there you can work for the private sector if you want to secure more lucrative positions and develop your career with specialisms. 

We’ll run through these main options now for becoming an exercise referral specialist so you can choose the best way for you!

How to Become an Exercise Referral Specialist in a Sports or Leisure Centre

The first option for you is to work in a leisure centre or sports centre where a range of clients are provided for you through GP referral. 

These positions will technically be within the public sector because you’ll be working in facilities that will have contracts with the NHS. 

This essentially means anywhere that is partially or entirely funded by the government through public money. 

You will be expected to work one-to-one like in most other roles but you will often also be teaching fitness classes with groups that share similar needs. 

Though these often tend to be entry level positions they’re a great place to start if you want to know how to become an exercise referral specialist because these roles are incredibly varied.

You’ll teach a variety of different classes, working in a wide range of ways to help a broad spectrum of people and conditions.

Not only can you work with different people but you can potentially work at different centres as some of these positions are part time:

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As you can see, despite being a part time role the hourly wage is high and so you could easily build up a comfortable salary working across several positions. 

There’s plenty of full time salaried positions though, like this one below:

leisure centre how to become an exercise referral specialist image

As you can see, this is a great place to start as you’ll have a decent starting salary whilst gaining valuable industry experience and putting your skills from your level 3 to use!

You Can Work Within the NHS When You Become an Exercise Referral Specialist

Once you’ve gained some experience working at one of the aforementioned venues, or across several, you can choose to specialise within the NHS itself.

These roles tend to be in explicitly medical environments, whether that’s treatment centres or in-patient sites in a more clinical environment. 

Much of the role is similar, working with individuals to develop exercise and rehabilitation programmes, but usually related to one particular condition. 

The benefit of positions within a particular department of the NHS is you’ll get specified experience and be able to specialise in one particular area. 

For example, if you’ve been working at a sports or leisure centre and found that working with those with mental health issues is the most fulfilling, you can specialise in this within the NHS.

As you can see below, these positions will often have a slightly higher salary too because they’re specialised:

NHS how to become an exercise referral specialist image

As we mentioned earlier, these positions will tend to ask you to have some experience within the field to be eligible:

NHS experience how to become an exercise referral specialist image 

This is why if you want to know how to become an exercise referral specialist and progress your career this can be a great option.

Now we’ll look at how you can advance your career when you become an exercise referral specialist to earn more money and develop new skills!

- - - - 

If this is something you’re interested in, check out some of our other articles on training people with certain conditions:

 

Become an Exercise Referral Specalist With OriGym

Enquire today about our Level 3 Exercise Referral course and kickstart your career today!

Step 4: How to Become a GP Referral Personal Trainer 

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Once you’ve gained experience working with a variety of different clients with different conditions, you can specialise further to boost your income.

If you want to know how to become an exercise referral specialist, earning as much money as possible, the best way to do that is to combine it with personal training.

Some of the highest paid positions are with private clinics or organisations. You’ll do similar work in positions like these working with individuals to support a particular condition or rehabilitation. 

However, there’s also a chance to work with people who just want to improve their overall fitness and wellbeing and have personal goals they want to work on.

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This is why you can massively increase your income when you become a personal trainer as well as an exercise referral specialist. 

You can fulfil both of these roles and still work with a focus on exercise as support for health and wellbeing, whether that be a particular condition or just in a holistic capacity. 

For example, this position with Longevity Health and Fitness is very similar to the positions we’ve mentioned above:

longevity how to become an exercise referral specialist image 

As you can see, you can often work in a variety of locations depending on the client’s needs which makes this a really flexible position.  

Compared to the part time position we showed earlier too, this has a far higher rate because of the additional qualifications required to fulfil the role. 

To be eligible for positions such as these you’ll need to complete a Level 3 Personal Training qualification

As you can see you’d be able to fulfil all sides of the role we’ve already mentioned, but also work one-to-one with people who are just keen to improve their health and fitness:

longevity how to become an exercise referral specialist image

Another reason you should become a personal trainer alongside exercise referral is that you can have as many independent clients as you like alongside any salaried work, meaning you’ll have potentially uncapped earnings!

You could also supplement any of the other part time positions with your own personal training clients and still work in a way that supports certain injuries or long term health conditions.  

In the above position with Longevity where you’ll earn at least £40 per hour, you’d only have to work 20 hours per week to have a salary of £42,400!

That’s why you can massively boost your earnings if you learn how to become a GP referral personal trainer! 

From there you can specialise with further level 4 personal trainer courses that focus on particular conditions.

For example, you could focus on client’s with spinal issues with a level 4 lower back pain course. 

 

Become an Exercise Referral Specalist With OriGym

Enquire today about our Level 3 Exercise Referral course and kickstart your career today!

Step 5: Marketing Yourself as an Exercise Referral Specialist

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Depending on where you choose to work, you may have to devise your own marketing strategies to promote your services.

This is especially important if you want to know how to become an exercise referral specialist alongside personal training because you’ll have to use marketing to gain more of your own clients.

As you can see from this position below, even in some of the positions for leisure centres and sports centres you may be expected to perform promotional activities for the programme:

There’s several different things you can make sure are part of your marketing method so that you reach as many people as possible to promote your services including: 

  • Organic social media content
  • Social media ads
  • Google ads

We’ll cover each of these briefly now so you’ll know how to become an exercise referral specialist with solid marketing strategies.

Becoming an Exercise Referral Specialist with the Best Organic Social Media Content

Producing the best organic content can be one of the most powerful marketing strategies for fitness professionals.

Organic content simply means content created for free, rather than paid or sponsored content, featured on a page’s feed or stories.

This is the content you’ll use to build and reinforce a brand identity as well as an opportunity to engage with your audience.

One of the reasons this is one of the best ways to get clients is because of the huge amount of traffic to social media.

Where you focus your efforts will depend on who your target demographic is but just as an example of the amount of people you can reach, Instagram alone has 500 million active users every day! 

This gives you an idea of how many people you can reach with your content and why it’s important to focus on social media in your marketing campaigns.

Isle Health is a great example of this kind of content telling people about the services they offer:

instagram how to become an exercise referral specialist image 

All of the key information about the service is there as well as a call to action (CTA). This is something that encourages your audience to take a particular desired action such as clicking through to a site or booking a session.

Here, Isle Fitness have encouraged people to ‘visit our website to book your free consultation’ and included a link below to make it easier for people to sign up!

For more information and tips on platforms like these check out our articles about how to start a fitness Instagram and personal trainer TikTok.

Using Social Media Ads as an Exercise Referral Specialist

Once you’ve got a solid audience using your experimentation with organic content you’ll have your ideal target audience and know how to cater to them more specifically. 

This is why as well as organic organic content you can also use paid advertisements on social media as part of your marketing strategy.  

The benefit of this kind of content is that once you know more about your ideal customer you can better direct towards them using the features of paid advertisements. 

For example, on the meta business platform, for Facebook and Instagram, you can control who your ads reach based on their: 

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location

You can control the metrics of each meaning that you can reach exactly your target audience in a more specific way and be better guaranteed to generate leads and get more clients!

You can do Instagram and Facebook ads on the Meta platform, controlling similar features, they’ll just look slightly different.

Much like some of the organic content there should be a clear call to action with consistent branding and, where appropriate, the copy should persuade people to take the action. 

Here’s an example of our own Instagram ads that appear on reels, stories, and on people’s feeds:

origym ads how to become an exercise referral specialist image 

There’s a clear call to action as well as our recognisable branding. 

Facebook ads will look slightly different but should still contain a call to action as well as convincing copy, like this one from NL Active below:

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To find out more about designing effective ads on social media check out our article on fitness facebook ads here! 

How to Use Google Ads When You Become an Exercise Referral Specialist

Google ads are advertisements, or paid results, on the Google search results page. You design them based on search terms you want to target in order to be found by your ideal client.

Depending on how well you design them they will show up at the top of the search results page and be the most likely results to be clicked on.

Similar to social media ads, the benefit of using advertisements on Google is the sheer volume of people that turn to the platform to find what they’re looking for. 

There’s more than 8.5 billion Google searches per day with only 0.63% of people going past the first page of results, so this gives you an idea of how important it is to rank highly on the first page!

So, if you want to know how to become an exercise referral specialist and come up with successful marketing strategies, Google ads are vital to people finding your business or the business you work for.

 

Become an Exercise Referral Specalist With OriGym

Enquire today about our Level 3 Exercise Referral course and kickstart your career today!

You choose the keyword, or search term, that you want to target with your ad. You can research what the most popular search terms are for your target demographic using software such as Semrush and Ahrefs. 

You can also use Google Ads’ built in keyword planner to have a look at keyword ideas and how much it would cost you to target relevant ones. 

The ads look like normal entries except there’ll be a small bit of text saying “sponsored”. Here’s an example of what one will look like:

sponsored ad how to become an exercise referral specialist image

There currently isn’t a paid ad in the top results for phrases related to exercise referral schemes, programmes, or finding a specialist. 

This means that the top results of the Google results page are all sites who’ve paid a lot to invest in the search engine optimisation of their website:

organic search how to become an exercise referral specialist image

This is a huge gap in the market in terms of marketing strategies. If you want to know how to become an exercise referral specialist and capitalise on this gap you can design ads around these keywords. 

Because there isn’t currently any competition for those particular keywords for ads, they wouldn’t cost much to target yourself.

You can see the projections for some of the top options using keyword planner:

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Looking at the variety of options, the amount of monthly searches, and the low cost of each, this is a huge opportunity to become an exercise referral specialist with the top results for some of these search terms!

Before You Go!

We hope that you’ve found our step by step guide helpful and you feel like you know exactly how to become an exercise referral specialist and excel in your career!

Don’t forget to get the ball rolling with our Level 3 Exercise Referral course to learn all of the essential skills needed to get started. Alternatively, download our course prospectus for free for more information on all of the courses we offer.  


Written by Jessie Florence Jones

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

Jessie has a 1st class honours degree in English Literature from University of Leeds and an MA in English Literature from Durham University. Naturally Jessie has a real passion for writing especially about film, culture and wellbeing. Outside of writing she loves hiking, country walks and yoga, which she has been doing religiously over lockdown.

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