Purpose: Occupational stress and burnout have been linked to negative health and occupational outcomes. In human service professions burnout is characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization of clients, and feelings of reduced personal accomplishment. Demand for fitness instructors is estimated to increase 10% over the next 5-10 years. This profession is physically and mentally demanding, which may lead to burnout. This study examines relationships between fitness instructors’ feelings of burnout and coping strategies to better understand effective ways to prevent/reduce burnout.
Methods: Fitness instructors were recruited from five national fitness conventions to complete an online survey including demographics, years in the profession, work load, job type, feelings of burnout (Cophenhagen Burnout Inventory), and coping strategies used (Coping Strategies Inventory-Short Form). Bivariate analyses were conducted to examine correlations among burnout subscales, coping strategies, and demographics. Multiple regression was used to examine correlates of total burnout scores.
Results: Instructors (n=250, 94% female, mean age = 45.7 (SD=11.8), 86% non-Hispanic White) reported greater feelings of physical burnout (M=41.3, SD=18.0) than work-related (M=33.8, SD=18.7) and client-related burnout (M=25.3, SD=19.3). Physical, work-related, and client-related burnout subscales were each significantly correlated with utilization of problem-focused engagement (r=-0.37, -0.44, -0.45), problem-focused disengagement (r=0.32, 0.34, 0.35), emotion-focused engagement (r=-0.21, -0.25, -0.23), emotion-focused disengagement (r=0.33, 0.39, 0.36) coping strategies, and age (r=-0.21, -0.19, -0.13). Multiple regression analysis indicated problem-focused engagement and disengagement, emotion-focused disengagement, years in the profession, age, and full-time employment status accounted for 37% of variance (R2=0.37, F(6,243)=25.24, p<.001) in total burnout.
Conclusions: In our sample, usage of engagement coping strategies was correlated with exhibiting lower levels of burnout; usage of disengagement strategies was correlated with greater feelings of burnout. Therefore, fitness instructors should cope with stress by engaging in problem solving, cognitive restructuring, expressing emotions, and elicitation of social support to reduce burnout.