Pregnant client sitting in an exercise studio
Pregnant client sitting in an exercise studio

Exercise for Every Body

Discover fresh approaches for adapting and delivering fully-inclusive exercise programmes

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Special Populations Courses and Qualifications

Today's exercise professionals must be equipped with the skills to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population, including older adults, pregnant women, and clients with disabilities.

Gold Standard Content

Our special population courses are expertly developed by a team of medical and exercise specialists, including doctors, dieticians, physios and midwives.

Equal, But Not The Same

Customise your training services to make it more inclusive, accessible and suitable for clients with a range of different needs. Train them equally, but not the same.

Outstanding Support

Our team of friendly support tutors are always on hand help whenever you need them. Did you know that support is unlimited at HFE?

Flexible Study Options

We have a wide-range of regulated qualifications and CPD courses available with different study options to suit every learning style.

Our Reputation Precedes Us

See what our students have to say about our Special Populations courses.

Glad I chose HFE

Overall I'm glad I chose HFE and I'm going on to do exercise referral and a specialism in low back pain.

Laura McNally

First class!

I cannot recommend HFE highly enough. From the moment I registered I've received comprehensive and thorough support from my Learning Support Tutor, Dani...

Mrs J Smith

Older Adults CYQ Level 3

Good feedback from the course tutor for the two written tasks enabled me to make a couple of adjustments and resend. Would definitely recommend to others in the industry looking...
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to work with older adults.


Very supportive tutor Danielle Sharrock

Very supportive tutor Danielle Sharrock and great materials. The mock exams were so useful in my preparation


L3 Pre and Post Natal Exercise

I will definitely use HFE again for furthering my knowledge. Absolutely fantastic course provider.

Kerry Luke

Level 3 Exercise Referral

I've taken two courses with HFE - level 2 Exercise to Music and level 3 Exercise Referral. Both courses were well run with good support staff in the office and...
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good instructors at the workshops.


Today marks the day when I became more!!!

I started my level3 teaching mat pilates course almost a year ago. Had some delays cause of lockdown, being stuck overseas, etc., and today officially completed my course. For me...
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2020 will be a year to remember for hard work and success, not a waste year cause of covid. I couldn't recommend enough starting something new for yourself! I loved the course and the people at HFE. Janine was so helpful as my online tutor, Amber answered all my questions willingly, my workshop tutor Tracey was FANTASTIC!!! Learned a lot from Anne in my final weekend too. My classmates were amazing. I am going to do pre post natal course too. I loved everything about the course. Couldn't recommend enough.

Merve Güldoğan Clamp

Highly Recommended

Just completed my 5th course with HFE (Pre & Postnatal Trainer - Level 3), really good study materials through the post, fantastic support from my tutor Lindsey, a great new...
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online learning system and great service from the office. Already signed up for my next one. Highly recommended.

Amanda Crofts

Great course

Great course, Good support system!


Level 3 Older Adults – Great Course

I've used a couple of training providers for various courses over the past few years but HFE is by far the best and most professional

Wendy Caygill

Love the way you can just teach yourself

Love the way you can just teach yourself in your own time and enjoyed the weekend sessions.

Karen Kennedy

Exercise Referral Course

This course is amazing, the information and support I got from my tutor was fantastic, if I ever was struggling with anything I just ring my tutor up and he...
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would help figure out the issue I was having, also the student manual I received was filled with everything I needed to know and more.

Jane 828

Rated 4.9/5 based on 778 reviews. Showing our 4 & 5 star reviews.

Special Population Career Packages

Your direct route to success with a range of special population groups. Expertly-delivered courses, cutting-edge content, interest-free payment plans and hands-on training at a nationwide venue. Please note that the Level 3 Nutrition for Physical Activity and Level 3 Anatomy and Physiology are not included with the Special Populations Diploma.

special populations diploma


£750.00 level-2

Discover how to help clients manage chronic illnesses and conditions

Courses Included:

  • Level 3 Exercise Referral Diploma
  • Level 3 Applied Anatomy and Physiology
  • Level 3 Award in Nutrition to Support Physical Activity

Extras and Exclusives:

  • CV Connect
  • 12 month's career support
  • Discounted CIMSPA membership

Key Benefits:

  • Includes nutrition and anatomy and physiology
  • 8-10 weeks to qualify
  • Become an exercise referral instructor

Interest-free payment plan - £83 per month
5% discount for prompt payment - save £37.50

Pregnant client


£955.00 level-2

Train more clients, tackle more conditions, become a more inclusive professional.

Courses Included:

  • Level 3 Diploma in Exercise Referral
  • Level 3 Pre and Postnatal Instructor
  • Level 3 Older Adult Instructor

Extras and Exclusives:

  • CV Connect
  • 12 month's career guidance
  • Discounted CIMSPA membership

Key Benefits:

  • 14-day money back guarantee
  • Qualify in 12-14 weeks
  • Support a range of special populations

Interest-free payment plan - £117 per month
5% discount for prompt payment - save £47.75

special pops master


£1280.00 level-2

Lead the way and be at the forefront of making a difference in the community

Courses Included:

  • Level 3 Diploma in Exercise Referral
  • Level 3 Pre and Postnatal Instructor
  • Level 3 Older Adult Instructor
  • Level 3 Applied Anatomy and Physiology
  • Level 3 Nutrition to Support Physical Activity

Extras and Exclusives

  • CV Connect
  • 12 month's career support
  • Discounted CIMSPA membership

Key Benefits:

  • Includes nutrition and anatomy and physiology
  • Qualify in 12-14 weeks
  • The ultimate exercise referral package

Interest-free payment plan - £171 per month
5% discount for prompt payment - save £64

Additional Specialism Courses

Becoming an inclusive fitness professional requires a holistic and well-rounded understanding of a range of populations, medical conditions, and how individuals are affected by these. Listed below are some other special populations to may be interested to further differentiate your training services to clients.

  • Level 3 Older Adults Fitness Instructor
  • Level 3 Exercise for Disabled Clients
  • COVID Confident - COVID-19 Recovery
  • Level 3 Understanding Eating Disorders
  • Level 3 Nutrition for Pre and Postnatal Clients
  • View ALL Hide ALL Courses


From course content, entry requirements and progression routes, we've answered some of the most frequently asked questions about our special populations courses below. If you didn't find what you were looking for, our careers team will be more than happy to assist you on: 0800 612 4067.

  • Do I need any previous qualifications?

    These qualifications are largely designed for qualified fitness professionals and so you will need to hold as a minimum a Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instruction. Additionally, once you have completed your qualification, you can only teach exercise in the context of your specific qualifications (gym, exercise to music, circuit training etc). For example, if you have a gym instructor and pre and postnatal (PPN) qualification, you can only work with the PPN clients in a gym environment.

    If you are considering the Level 3 Diploma in Exercise Referral, we also recommend that you hold a Level 3 Certificate in Personal Training – while this isn’t mandatory, it will help you greatly with the programme and will enable you to focus exclusively on the medical conditions element of the course. The exercise referral course cost does not include the anatomy and nutrition modules which must also be completed to achieve this qualification.

  • Can I combine different special population courses?

    Absolutely – this is quite common. With diseases relating to inactivity being at almost epidemic levels, more and more people are now in need of specialist exercise advice. Many of these people may, in fact, present more than one medical condition, so it’s wise to develop a broad and deep understanding in this area.

    Our all-inclusive Special Populations Diploma is a programme which offers the greatest value. This combines Level 3 Exercise Referral, Level 3 Pre and Postnatal and Level 3 Exercise for Older Adults into a single competitively priced package.

  • What will I learn on your specialism courses?

    This ultimately depends on the pathway and courses that you select. Generally speaking:

    Exercise Referral is concerned with planning and structuring exercise for clients that have been referred to an exercise professional from their GP, and requires a deep understanding of a wide-range of medical conditions, including: obesity, diabetes, low back pain, arthritis, high cholesterol, stress, anxiety and high blood pressure.

    Exercise for Older Adults is concerned with adapting exercise programmes to the specific needs of the elderly and less able clients – this also involves developing a broad understanding of common medical conditions affecting this group of people.

    Exercise for Pre and Postnatal Clients explores how exercise can benefit pregnant women and new mothers, and what is and isn’t appropriate.

    Exercise for Disabled Clients promotes inclusion and enables an instructor to effectively work with clients with disabilities.

  • Will I be able to find work once I've qualified?

    The demand for those who have the knowledge to work with special populations has never been higher. To give some context: between 1985 and 2015, the number of UK citizens aged 65 or over increased by 20% to 10.3 million; there are approximately 600,000 registered births every year; and the World Health Organisation (WHO) continues to report that obesity is a worldwide epidemic.

    Recent reports have revealed that in 1 in 5 people in the UK has a disability yet only 18% of adults with a disability undertake more than 30 minutes exercise a week.

  • Are these recognised qualifications?

    All of our special populations courses are certificated by YMCA Awards, the industry’s most widely sought-after awarding body.

    Some of our more speciality programmes, like eating disorders and nutrition for pre and postnatal clients are endorsed CPD courses rather than regulated qualifications. This is because Ofqual don’t have a regulated qualification framework for these subjects because they are so specialist. These courses are however still endorsed by YMCA Awards and undergo rigorous quality assurance, both here at HFE and at YMCA Awards.

    All of our special populations qualifications are also endorsed and supported by CIMSPA.

  • What progression routes are available?

    A popular progression route is to combine special populations qualifications with something like yoga and Pilates because many exercises for both of these disciplines can be adapted to a person’s individual physical needs.

    Level 3 Exercise Referral is a prerequisite for Level 4 exercise specialist qualifications, such as Low Back Pain and the Obesity and Diabetes Certificate – these are also common progression routes.

Course Dates & Locations

Our special populations courses are delivered throughout the UK and we have venues in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Nottingham, Leeds and York.

With many of these programmes, location is less important because most of the content is knowledge-based and as such, these courses can be completed in a supported home-study style. You can either come to our nearest venue to take your theory exam (if applicable), or we can arrange for you to sit the exam online with our exam proctoring service. There may be a small surcharge for online exams.

To view all our special population locations, select the button below.

View All Locations

Our Reputation Precedes Us..

Since we opened our doors in 2007, we've trained over 30,000 exercise professionals across a variety of different qualifications, subjects and disciplines. Featured below are a small selection that you might just recognise and here's what they had to say about their HFE training experience.

James Crossley, also known as Hunter from Gladiators, endorses HFE's fitness courses

"HFE is the ultimate fitness training provider, without a doubt their personal training courses are the best in the industry."

- James Crossley

(Hunter from Gladiators)

Laura Massaro is a World 1 squash player who studied yoga with HFE

"The course has really helped me to better understand yoga so that I can improve my performance and remain World No. 1."

- Laura Massaro

(World No. 1 Squash Player - 2016)

Team GB Olympic pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw is an HFE personal training student

"HFE have produced some of the best materials I have seen in education."

- Holly Bradshaw

(Team GB Olympic Bronze Medalist Pole Vaulter, 2020 Olympic Games)

"HFE were understanding and the course is really flexible. I knew this would be the perfect thing for me."

- Louise Fiddes

(Team GB World Champion Paralympic Swimmer)

Ongoing Career Support

Once your studies are complete and you've completed your training and qualifications, our service to you won't simply stop. Here at HFE, we're all about adding value and there are a number of ways in which we will help you to advance and progress your active leisure career. Some of these are featured below.

PT teaching ropes

Get Your CV Connected With Active Leisure Industry Employers

When you completed your course, we’ll grant you access to our trademark recruitment service, CV Connect, which will give you access to thousands of health and fitness opportunities throughout the UK.

CV Connect is a simple and intuitive 3-step employment matching service in which you:

  1. Upload your CV
  2. Select employers in your area you want to work with
  3. Submit your CV to connect with employers

We’ll send your CV overnight to the employers you’ve selected and we’ll provide a brief summary of the qualifications you’ve completed with us. We’re told employers love and trust CV Connect because they only get applicants that have completed quality and industry-recognised training.

  • UK-wide opportunities
  • All major health club chains
  • Included with training - no extra cost
  • Simple and easy to use
  • Trusted by employers
Tutor with student seated

Unlimited Advice and Guidance with our Career Concierge

When you’ve achieved your qualification, our 5-star support team will be on hand as and when you need them to get your career off the ground. Whether its advice about finding your dream job, using CV Connect, or where best to purchase equipment, insurance, or software, our friendly and supportive staff will be on hand to offer their expert advice.

  • Unlimited access
  • Friendly and supportive
  • Experienced tutors
  • Career support
  • Business planning
Man giving nutrition advice

Exclusive Offers and Discounts from HFE Partners

We’ve teamed up with a wide-range of fitness industry organisations, including equipment suppliers, software publishers, providers of marketing resources, supplement wholesalers, insurance providers and many more, to bring to you a range of exclusive offers and discounts that will help you launch or advance your career in the fitness profession.

Whatever your future ambitions are, we’re sure that you’ll be pleased with what our team have negotiated for you. We don’t take any commissions of referral fees on any purchases that you make and we’ll never share your data with these partners – your privacy is far too important for us. We simply give you visibility of what’s on offer.

  • Equipment
  • Insurance
  • Software
  • Supplements
  • Training and CPD

Special Populations Courses With HFE

Exercise is one of those activities that has true universal appeal. So much so that millions wouldn’t consider it merely an activity, for them it’s a passion and a way of life. In today’s modern world we have an incredibly diverse population looking to exercise, to keep fit, and live happier and healthy lives. This includes older adults, pre and postnatal women and clients with disabilities, as well as those suffering from chronic conditions and diseases. In the past, these groups have sadly been greatly underrepresented but with recent and great advances in fitness training and education, this can change. Exercise can and should be for everyone and every body.

Our range of special populations courses and qualifications are designed to empower fitness professionals who are looking to not only increase their client base but truly make a difference to those who have in the past been under-served. To achieve this, we have several expertly-delivered courses which fall under the special populations umbrella and they are Level 3 Exercise Referral Diploma, Level 3 Pre and Postnatal Exercise Instructor, Level 3 Exercise for Older Adults, and Level 3 Exercise for Disabled Clients.

Each course is CIMSPA approved, accredited by YMCA Awards and internationally-recognised. Every step of the way you’ll receive all the training, support and learning materials you need to become a fully qualified special populations instructor. To start things off you’ll receive bespoke hard copy and digital manuals and 24/7 access to LES, the Learner Engagement System, our online student portal. We also provide unlimited phone and email support from a dedicated tutor.

While each of our special populations courses can be done separately, we’ve created three bespoke career packages. Essentials, Specialist and Master take the Level 3 Exercise Referral Diploma and build upon it with other courses. You’ll also benefit from exclusive extras like discount CIMSPA membership, 12 months of career guidance and access to CV Connect, our innovative system which means you’re only a few clicks away from getting your CV in front of 1000s of employers.

If you’re ready to truly make a difference and elevate your fitness career then choose a special populations course. Within a handful of weeks, you could be making a life-changing impact to pre and postnatal women, older adults, those with disabilities and those with chronic conditions and diseases.

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Special Populations Courses and Qualifications

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