While much has changed in the world of health and fitness over the past few decades, one component remains the same: the American Council on Exercise exists to get people moving. In its 35th anniversary celebration, ACE is telling the stories of the exercise and health professionals who have been with the organization since the beginning and who experienced the evolution of the fitness industry from its early focus on dance aerobics group fitness to its more comprehensive approach which includes Health Coaching.


Exercise has taken on many different forms from the 1980s until now, and one organization stays at the helm of all this change—from the introduction of aerobics guidelines to Michelle Obama's Joining Forces Initiative. The American Council on Exercise continues to make exercise and health accessible, no matter what form, by pairing science and research with its philosophy of behavior change and a client-centered approach.

About the Exercise Professionals

Fred Hoffman is an ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor for nearly 35 years and the founder and owner of Fitness Resources. His enthusiasm and expertise have led him to speak in nearly 50 countries, author numerous articles in over 160 international publications and collaborate with many organizations on projects worldwide. One of his notable projects was supporting ACE in developing its first international exam in the 1990s.

Marilynn Bodnar is an ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor and Functional Trainer Specialist who is also licensed by Silver Sneakers. For 47 years, she was an elementary school teacher by day and during 35 of those years, she was also a group fitness instructor by mornings, evenings and weekends. Marilynn has been a dedicated instructor at the YMCA for more than 30 years and at her local community park for more than 15 years, earning her the teacher award for continuing to exceed YMCA Member expectations.

Charli Sue Douglas has been an ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer for more than 30 years. Once she started, she never had a doubt this was her purpose. She flew to California to take her certification exams and went to IDEA conventions, becoming one of the first instructors to be certified in Hawaii as well as an IDEA state representative. Today, she is a Senior Fitness Specialist, working with Baby Boomers and their families at fitness centers. She loves helping seniors enjoy life more fully into their 90s by educating them about their bodies, and her youngest daughter followed in her footsteps to become a fitness professional as well.

Nancy McCarthy is an ACE Certified Health Coach, ACE Certified Group Fitness and Personal Trainer, and RRCA Certified Running Coach. With more than 35 years of experience in the fitness and health industry, Nancy inspires clients to celebrate their gift of life by adapting lifestyle habits that contribute to better health. Her passion led her to found Get Real Fitness and own multiple boutique gyms, where she’s had the opportunity to train hundreds of clients of all ages and fitness levels as well as lead group Boot Camps, Running Camps, Stretching Classes, Classes for Seniors, Spinning Classes and Fitness Vacations. Nancy practices what she preaches, having completed 30 marathons—including 13 qualified Boston Marathons—and even holding the New England 30K title for Masters Women for nearly 10 years.

What’s Coming Next

Shared use space: As people stay away from gyms during the COVID-19 pandemic, ACE works with fitness professionals and business owners on creative solutions to lead exercise sessions outdoors while following public health guidelines.

DEI work: During this moment of reckoning on matters of equity, ACE has taken a hard look at its work as an organization and laid a framework to solidify its commitment to using its influence for much-needed systemic change.

ACE Integrated Fitness Training Model: This work helps all ACE-certified exercise professionals develop custom programs for their clients’ needs and goals, built on a foundation of meaningful rapport. The organization will further its work here by releasing studies on its proprietary approach in the coming months.

"ACE has an incredible mission of getting people moving,” said Fred Hoffman, ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor. “We can convey the message that people don’t necessarily need to do a one-hour workout or some of the more difficult exercises they see on television for weight loss or to get in shape—it’s so important to say that just to move is good. If people could understand that they can feel better by simply moving, we’d have a healthier planet. ACE conveys that message because it talks to everybody.”

“The leaders we’re highlighting through our 35th anniversary series have truly seen the evolution of our organization over time,” said Cedric Bryant, president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise. “The fact that they’ve been here since the beginning and continue to touch lives daily is a testament to the passion they feel for the industry, and we are incredibly thankful for their contributions.”

Additional Details & Contact

Organization: American Council on Exercise
Interviews available: To coordinate interviews with ACE experts and scientists, contact: Shannon@gomixte.com
Further action: Participate in contest on social media
Link to use in your story: acefitness.org

About ACE

The American Council on Exercise is a nonprofit organization with global reach that works to improve physical-activity levels by certifying exercise professionals and health coaches, publishing original research, convening experts on physical activity health, working directly with community groups, and advocating for policies to get people from all walks of life moving. The 90,000 exercise professionals and health coaches certified by ACE are among the most respected in the world of fitness, helping people embrace physical activity and adopt healthier lifestyles. For more information, call 800-825-3636 or visit the ACE Fitness website. AMERICAN COUNCIL ON EXERCISE, ACE and ACE logos are Registered Trademarks of the American Council on Exercise.