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Identifying Special Populations: Carve Out Your Niche to Grow Your Business!

As more Personal Trainers are certified every day and gym owners conspire to keep wages low, you may find yourself wondering whether you can survive with a fitness career. But like any other business, when the competition gets tough and the market gets crowded, it is time to think like a Marine:

Improvise, adapt and overcome!

One way to rise above the crowd and carve out your niche is to look to special populations. As a working definition, we will identify special pops as any group who shares characteristics that demand specialized knowledge, care and programming. Under that definition, a special population could encompass just about anyone with peculiar needs that set them apart from mainstream personal training clients.

Categories of Special Populations

One great thing about special pops is that there are so many of them, giving you a large pool of potential clients. Moreover, many special populations thrive on the emotional and social support found in a small group training setting, meaning you can optimize your time and increase your profits.

Special populations can be categorized in many ways, so think outside the box to carve out your niche! A few subcategories might include:

  • Morbidly Obese: Most of your clients want to lose a few pounds, but those who need to lose dozens or even hundreds of pounds need special treatment. This population is great for small group or home training.
  • Older Adults: There is no question that fitness dramatically improves quality of life in this population. They have the time and resources for personal training, and they will steal your heart and enrich your mind in the process.
  • Alzheimer’s and Dementia: While typically disorders of old age, these cognitive syndromes are being seen in ever-younger populations. Exercise and lifestyle modification are strategies that help.
  • Families with Young Children: The main reason our industry has not made a dent in child obesity is that they are unable to make independent lifestyle choices. Get the whole family on board, and make your mark in this challenging niche!
  • Teens: This is another niche that does well with group training. Unlike younger children, teens have more autonomy when it comes to making choices about what they eat and how they exercise.
  • Pregnant and Post-Partum: Moms-to-be and new moms need extra TLC, and training improves their chances for a safe delivery and healthy baby.
  • Post menopausal: Menopause brings physical changes that require special attention. Strategies for weight management and fitness that once worked often no longer do the trick. This group need special help!
  • Post-Rehab Athletes: For athletes and exercise enthusiasts, injury can be devastating, and physical therapy only takes them so far. You can help them get back in the game!
  • Post-Cardiac Rehabs: There is nothing like a heart attack to scare people into exercising. They need your help and guidance to exercise safely.
  • Cancer Patients: Regular exercise goes a long way in helping cancer patients cope. They need encouragement and guidance from someone who understands their special needs.
  • Metabolic Disorders: Diabetes, heart disease and chronic inflammation are precursors to more serious health problems, and exercise and lifestyle modification are key to turning things around.
  • Movement Disorders: Parkinson’s disease, MS and other neurological syndromes require patience and understanding. This population is growing, and so is the demand for specialized fitness training.
  • Wounded Warriors: Once released from physical therapy, these great Americans need encouragement and motivation to stay fit and healthy.

Whew! Let me stop there for now, because the more I think about it, there are dozens of categories of humans with special requirements for fitness training. So what are you waiting for? Carve out your niche and establish yourself as a special pops specialist. Help your clients reach their goals and enrich their lives, and word of mouth will bring more clients than you can handle to your door.

Semper Fi!


The important thing when thinking about taking on special population clients is to broaden your base of knowledge about their particular needs. WITS has you covered with dozens of certifications and courses to address the needs of special populations. Lay the foundation with a certification, like Lifestyle Fitness Coaching, Older Adult Fitness Specialist, Youth Fitness, or Certified Fitness Trainer. Follow up with continuing education courses like Exercise Programming for Special Populations, Pregnancy Fitness, Youth Fitness Foundations, and many more!

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