Fields of Study - Exercise Science

Definition and Nature of the field

Exercise science deals with the study of immediate and long term effects of physical activity on the human body. The how and why the human body responds to physical activity is also a focus. The field of study of exercise science is very diverse and includes several areas of inquires. Two areas of inquiry for individuals interested in this field include sports performance and health-related components of physical activity. The health-related components of physical activity have been researched and the need for further research is prominent because of the obesity epidemic and the lack of physical activity of children. Sports performance of children, young adults and older adults involves biomechanical analysis, psycho/social analysis of sport as well as nutrition and physiological analysis. Exercise science is a non-teaching major that has emerged in response to concerns about the lack of physical activity, obesity, and increase risks of developing diseases. The exercise science field provides the opportunity to study the scientific basis of sport performance. SHAPE America provides guidelines for basic standard courses for the field. This field of study may also be entitled Movement Science, Fitness, or Kinesiology.

Education Requirements

Students who plan to work in cardiac rehabilitation, corporate fitness, physical therapy, etc. must have a similar knowledge base. In the underlying courses, students should develop the skill and knowledge necessary in their specialized course of study. Each university has different requirements but a suggested curriculum may include: anatomy/physiology; biomechanics/kinesiology; nutrition/weight control; exercise prescription for both normal and special populations; practicum; first aid/CPR/AED; athletic training and computer training.

High school courses in anatomy/physiology, biology, fitness, weight control/nutrition, and computer skills are useful to take to prepare for course work in exercise science. Courses in sports medicine, weight training, psychology and social aspects of sports are also useful especially for physical therapy.

Related Work Experiences

Some individuals volunteer in a physical therapy setting as well as work in gym to obtain experience in this area. It is suggested that student do volunteer work in order to study the field they are to specialize.

Career Opportunities

Undergraduate programs are used for attending professional schools in physical therapy, medicine, chiropractic, occupational therapy, and exercise physiology. This degree is good for careers in corporate fitness, agency fitness (YMCA, YWCA, etc.), health clubs, managers of fitness facilities, personal trainers, and strength and conditioning coaches. Another career option is to attend graduate school. These positions require certification from organizations such as the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) or Aerobic and Fitness Association of America (AFAA). There is a diversity of career options in this field – from medicine to personal trainer.