A program that focuses on the scientific study of the physiological processes involved in physical or motor activity, including sensorimotor interactions, response mechanisms, and the effects of injury, disease, and disability. Includes instruction in muscular and skeletal anatomy; molecular and cellular basis of muscle contraction; fuel utilization; neurophysiology of motor mechanics; systemic physiological responses (respiration, blood flow, endocrine secretions, and others); fatigue and exhaustion; muscle and body training; physiology of specific exercises and activities; physiology of injury; and the effects of disabilities and disease.

Careers in exercise physiology focus on understanding the mechanics of the body's movement.

Humans are capable of a range of complex motion, and there are many advantages to taking advantage of this ability. The right exercise program can help to improve system functions, particularly for patients recovering from severe illnesses. Exercise physiologists develop programs that help restore balance to the body through strength and conditioning, improving muscle tone, or heightening fine motor skills. They often work with patients who have heart or lung conditions and may require special fitness regimes, or with clients looking to improve their physical health through fitness.

Exercise physiologists need to have a firm grasp of the science of motion, but also a calm demeanor and compassionate bearing. They must possess knowledge of the human body with its musculoskeletal structure, organs, and systems, as well as an understanding of various fitness techniques and their benefits for subjects with different issues.

Work in exercise physiology may include...

  • Designing exercise programs for patients or clients
  • Performing stress and fitness tests
  • Assessing the state of a subject's physical fitness
  • Monitoring vital signs and adjusting movement accordingly
  • Collecting and analyzing physical data

There are a number of contexts exercise physiologists can work in, and their duties tend to vary slightly by placement. Clinical exercise physiologists work with patients in hospitals or rehabilitation centers, while their counterparts may be employed by recreation centers, sports teams, gyms, and other fitness facilities. Many are self-employed, working as consultants and specialists. Some collaborate closely with physicians who prescribe their services or work alongside physical therapists or nutritionists to create safe, healthy health plans.

Many students with an interest in exercise physiology complete undergraduate degrees in biology, with coursework in anatomy, physics, or chemistry. Some schools offer specialized tracks in physiology, kinesiology, or sports medicine; these can be a great option for degree seekers in the discipline. A Bachelor's degree is typically sufficient education, but working exercise physiologists often seek post-graduate certification programs that test their essential skills and offer opportunities for specialization and further mastery. Some choose to pursue Master's degrees in physiology, sports medicine, or kinesiology, which can open the door to further opportunity.

If you enjoy helping others achieve wellness through movement, or want to understand fitness through a scientific lens, consider a career in exercise physiology.

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