Perceived burnout and coping strategies among fitness instructors: a mixed methods approach


Purpose: Burnout is associated with poor health. Researchers have investigated various coping strategies, including the beneficial effects of exercise, on burnout. However, exercise as part of occupational demands may lead to burnout in fitness instructors. There is a lack of understanding regarding burnout and associated coping strategies among fitness instructors.

Design: Fitness instructors (n=297) were recruited from national fitness conferences to complete an online survey including job characteristics, burnout, and coping strategies. Regression analysis examined associations between burnout, coping strategies, and job characteristics. Three group interviews (n=12) were conducted to further examine these associations.

Findings: Personal burnout and problem-focused engagement coping strategies were most prevalent. Engagement coping was associated with lower burnout; disengagement was associated with higher burnout according to regression models. Three themes emerged from group interviews: a misunderstanding of what the profession entails, importance of co-worker support, and a feeling of giving more than receiving in their job.

Practical Implications: Fitness managers and certification providers would do well to add these coping strategies to their education plans to help equip future instructors with the tools to reduce burnout.

Research Contribution: To our knowledge, this is the first study to report on burnout and coping strategies within fitness instructors.

Managing Sport and Leisure