Exercise Safety

ESA History

Today's enthusiasm for exercising to music began in the 1970s with an innovative and popular national dance fitness franchise based on newly published research about the benefits of aerobic exercise. In those early years, many dance instructors and a number of celebrities developed their own unique workouts. As the industry evolved, a variety of props including dumbbells, steps, and exercise bands were introduced into these classes. Most of the new fitness programs reflected the individual creator's philosophy and emerged from a sensationalized approach rather than a scientific one. Without the accessibility of scholarly resources, many of the prevailing exercises were inefficient or risky, and common injuries began to appear.

Therefore, in 1978, to mitigate the educational deficiency in this newly emerging and rapidly growing industry, the Exercise Safety Association was founded by a team of concerned fitness instructors, academic advisors, university professors, and medical professionals. Led by its first Director, Sharon Foy, ESA provided theoretical and practical training for fitness instructors based on scientific information. As one of the first educational training organizations for fitness professionals in the United States, the first association created exclusively to promote safe exercise techniques, and the first nationally accredited training organization, ESA continues to pioneer fitness education, training, and certification.

The curriculum for ESA's first training program, Seminar on Aerobics, Fitness and Exercise (SAFE Group Exercise Leader) and the Primary Certification Exam Objectives, were developed with the support of ESA's founding advisory team and approved, after review, by the board's academic professionals. Their expertise also influenced ESA's growth by addressing safety issues that accompanied each new fitness trend that evolved through the years. As a result, ESA created the SAFE Step Instructor, and Personal Trainer programs, followed by Kickboxing Fitness Leader, Nutrition Specialist, Yoga Fitness Leader, Aquatic Fitness Leader, a variety of other different specialty training programs in preparation for certification examinations.

Additionally, the Advisory Board provides inventive resources for fitness instructors and personal trainers. For example, to expand the limitations imposed by exercise do & don't lists, ESA's board developed TWO GENERAL FORMULAS to help fitness instructors determine for themselves the efficacy of specific exercises for their particular clientele: the SAFE EXERCISE EVALUATION FORMULA and the A, B, C, CLASSIFICATION METHOD. They are still taught today in the ESA primary SAFE training program and are considered valuable tools to help instructors evaluate exercises and determine safety without a specific list of contraindicated exercises. ESA employs a team spirit working with certified instructors and advisory board members as partners and continues to develop tools to help instructors. For example, ESA developed a chart to determine the safe height of an exercise step to avoid knee injury based on an individual's leg measurements. The SAFE HEIGHT OF STEP CHART was suggested by an ESA certified instructor, Jo Marie Waspi. It was developed with the expert contributions of an engineer, Henry Offerman, and ESA advisors, exercise physiologist, Dr. James Klinzing and physical therapist, Tom Ockler.

From the 1970s through the 1990s, ESA conducted fitness training and continuing education tours across the United States and in several foreign countries. Programs originated from two offices strategically located near the academic resources of two major universities. The first office was located in Cleveland, Ohio across from the campus of Cleveland State University, and later, the second office was opened in Orlando, Florida, near the University of Central Florida. Today, ESA provides training programs at hosting sites, fitness facilities, recreation centers, colleges, and universities, by request. To service a wider range of instructors, at the turn of the millennium, ESA began to offer home study courses that are available from one of the local ESA STAR America Representatives or directly from this website.

Today, ESA's training programs continue to evolve with the changing times to grow with an ever changing fitness industry.

Learn more About ESA.