The Difference Between a Kinesiologist and a Personal Trainer in Vancouver

There can be a world of difference between recovering from injuries, staying healthy, optimizing your body's movements and working towards your Chris Hemsworth abs. With any of these goals, you can benefit from the support and guidance of a trained professional, but the kind of trained professionals you need will differ.

Here in Vancouver kinesiologists and personal trainers are two occupations that may seem similar as that both are trained to work with you on your fitness goals--some even view the titles as synonymous--but there are key differences to keep in mind. These include:

  • Education
  • Type of continuing education
  • Work setting
  • Scope of practice

Exploring the differences between a kinesiologist and a personal trainer will help you decide what kind of support you require as you reach for your health goals. Whether you want to strength train in a way that puts a focus on healing and proper body movement, or accountability for working towards your Chris Hemsworth look.

Educational requirements for kinesiologists and Personal Trainers

Kinesiology is its own recognized field of scientific study--the study of human or non-human body movement. Like in all scientific fields, you have to obtain a degree to become a practitioner. To become a kinesiologist in British Columbia, you must go through a 4 to 5-year post-secondary degree program.

Big BC universities like the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and Simon Fraser University in Burnaby offer Kinesiology majors with courses in biology, chemistry and biomechanics.

With a degree under their belt new kinesiologists must join the British Columbia Association of Kinesiologists (BCAK). Some benefits of membership in the BCAK kinesiologists are access to job postings and liability insurance coverage. With a degree and good standing with the BCAK, professional kinesiologists are ready to train clients solo or join health teams working alongside doctors, physiotherapists or counsellors.

Becoming a personal trainer in Vancouver is different but analogous. Personal training isn't a scientific study or a regulated health profession, there is no degree. Instead personal trainers may get certified by various training workshops or programs.

“Kinesiologists are distinguished by their focus on form, their role in health teams with physiotherapists and doctors, and their comfort working with clients with acute or chronic injury.”

The leading personal trainer certification is the British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA). Registration costs hover around $450 and participation can be fast-tracked, with an option to complete the entire program in a little over 36 hours. A number of other certifications are available here in Vancouver, make sure to ask your personal trainer which certification they hold.

With the BCRPA personal trainers are required to do continuing education credits. Workshops and courses in personal training specific topics are available to maintain good standing. Topics range from Fitness Theory, Weight Training and specific rehab specializations. In contrast, kinesiologists are required to get credits by doing regular training and certification through the BCAK. Credits are available by taking workshops or in-service sessions, for example training on specific musculoskeletal systems or new practical methodology like Functional Movement Screen (FMS) and Soft Tissue Release (STR). Kinesiologists are also expected to maintain current first aid and CPR certification.

The comparison in education aside, the two occupations approach client work differently. A personal trainer helps clients exercise by providing feedback and assistance using exercise instruction skills. Goal setting, motivation and accountability are critical skills for a personal trainer.

A kinesiologist, on the other hand, focuses on form and function. Kinesiologists address imbalances by leading clients through exercise and movement. They do this by drawing on their understanding of the science of movement.

Kinesiologists work in a range of settings to help you recover from injury, being healthier, and improving your quality of life.

Where do kinesiologists and personal trainers work?

When you think of a personal trainer, your first thought may be of someone in a gym or studio working with a client. That automatic image is so specific because personal trainers work almost entirely in those spaces. Their certification equips them to handle fitness-related exercises best suited to fitness facilities.

The expertise of a kinesiologist is broad and applies to many fitness, health and academic settings. In a gym, kinesiologists work similar to a personal trainer when providing exercise advice and support. The support of a kinesiologist comes with the backing of years of education. Sports teams, health clinics and community centres commonly hire kinesiologists for this very reason.

Co-owner Dasha MacWilliam working with a client at our Yaletown studio.
Co-owner Dasha MacWilliam working with a client at our Yaletown studio.

Kinesiologists also work in hospitals and multidisciplinary clinics alongside other health professionals. They are comfortable working with clients who are experiencing pain, injury or specific health conditions. Within large clinics, kins share cases with physiotherapists, doctors and counsellors. In offices kinesiologists can deliver advice on sit-to-stand desks and provide detailed ergonomics assessments. At insurance companies kinesiologists manage treatment and care of those in need of health coverage.

One setting where kinesiologists shine is working with aging people. We are all slowly losing our balance, agility, strength, a fact of life that gets more pronounced as we age. The older we get the more we need more a specific approach to staying strong and mobile. Exercise helps us age gracefully, prevent falls, keep strong into our later years. Kinesiologists help ageing people live better.

When they aren’t improving their client’s health, kinesiologists participate in universities labs the globe. Research in the field of Kinesiology is helping to contribute to our understanding of the human body.

Kinesiologists are indeed a busy group. This is even clearer when you look at their scope of practice.

Where do you need support?

What most people want to know is, "when do I need a kinesiologists, and when would I need a personal trainer?" The two might work in a gym and provide similar services like fitness training. Both offer support for fitness-related goals as well as accountability and motivation.

Kinesiologists are distinguished by their focus on form, their role in health teams with physiotherapists and doctors, and their comfort working with clients with acute or chronic injury.

As a good rule of thumb, choose a personal trainer in Vancouver for exercise if you are in need of accountability and you don’t have injuries or medical conditions. If you’re looking for motivation to reach your goal, even if it’s to look like Chris Hemsworth, a personal trainer might be best. If your health goal requires getting professional advice on human movement in your gym or office, a kinesiologist is the best option for you.

Talk to a trained kinesiologist to learn how can improve your health, both inside and out. At Symmetrix, we've been a part of the fitness journey of our clients in Vancouver for over 25 years.

Contact us today and find out how you can benefit from working with a kinesiologist.

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