What is Exercise Science?

Exercise Science is the study of movement and the associated functional responses and adaptations. In this context, an exercise scientist must understand the scientific basis underlying exercise-induced physiological responses. The field of exercise science involves a range of disciplines similar to those in sports medicine; consequently, it is common for exercise science professionals to work in sports medicine facilities. The field of exercise science, however, is typically much broader than sports medicine, ranging from the study of how organ systems work at the cellular level when confronted with disease, to improving the biomechanical efficiency of an employee working on an assembly line.

What is Sports Medicine?

Exercise Science includes such subjects as biomechanics, exercise physiology, exercise psychology, cardiac rehabilitation, athletic training, and fitness for special population groups.

- U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health

Strict categorizing of a specific discipline (for example, exercise physiologist, dietitian, biomechanist) to either sports medicine or exercise science is difficult. It simply depends on the emphasis and application of the setting in which one works. What is important to understand is that many different disciplines comprise what is called sports medicine and exercise science. And they work together as a team in order to understand and ultimately improve the health and performance of the whole individual. Without this multidisciplinary approach to the whole person, the end result tends to be less than optimal. A rigorous training program, for example, may have little impact on the health or performance of an individual if nutritional considerations are neglected.

The American College of Sports Medicine

What Exercise Science is NOT

Exercise Science is often confused with other professions.

Exercise Science is different from:

  • Athletic Training, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy. These Allied Health Professionals are involved with the diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of injuries, whereas Exercise Scientists focus more on the health, wellness, performance and fitness in training. 
  • Local fitness instructors, who are often not required to have the level of education, or even certifications, that an Exercise Scientist possesses. We DO teach fitness classes, but we possess knowledge, skills, and abilities beyond that of a typical “fitness instructor”.


Potential Careers

  • Aerobics/Group Exercise Instructor
  • Athletic Trainer
  • Biomechanist
  • Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Specialist
  • Dietitian/Sports Nutritionist
  • Employee Fitness Director
  • Exercise Psychologist
  • Exercise Physiologist
  • Medical Physician
  • Occupational Physiologist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Personal Trainer
  • Physical Therapist
  • Physician Assistant
  • Researcher
  • Sport Psychologist
  • Strength (Sport) and Conditioning Coach