What is Exercise Science?

Exercise Science is a discipline that studies movement and the associated functional responses and adaptations. The goal of exercise science is to facilitate an understanding of the links between fitness, exercise, diet and health. Ultimately, the discipline provides a scientific approach to study how exercise and the human body interact in order to understand the physiology of exercise as well as its benefits and results.

Exercise Science encompasses a wide variety of disciplines and the study of these disciplines is integrated into the academic preparation of exercise science professionals. Disciplines include areas such as: biomechanics, sports nutrition, sport & exercise psychology, motor control/development, and exercise physiology. In addition, the coursework includes evaluating health behaviors and risk factors, conducting fitness assessments, writing appropriate exercise prescriptions, and promotion of positive health habits and lifestyle behaviors.

Exercise Science professionals are a part of a multidisciplinary team whose work ranges from helping people recover from the unhealthy effects of a sedentary lifestyle to assisting athletes to perform at their maximum capability.

You will find exercise science professionals in a variety of disciplines such as;

  • College Sport Teams
  • Human and Athletic Performance Centers
  • Fitness and Wellness Centers
  • Hospital Fitness and Rehabilitation Centers
  • University / Industry Research laboratories
  • Weight Control Programs

Potential Careers in Exercise Science

Fitness Facilities

Graduates from the Exercise Science program have the academic preparation to work in a variety of fitness settings. Commercial fitness facilities are those that are operated on a for-profit basis. Examples of commercial fitness facilities include Gold’s Gym, Anytime Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, or Crossfit boxes. Corporate fitness facilities are owned by a business, but typically operated by an outside agency. For instance, many federal government offices have a corporate fitness facility. An example of a corporate fitness company is Corporate Fitness Works. Hospital-based fitness facilities may either be on a hospital campus or at a satellite location. They are also known as medical fitness facilities, and often have members who have medically controlled conditions. Locally, an example is the Sentara RMH Wellness Center. Community fitness facilities are operated on a not-for-profit basis. Examples of this type of facility include YMCAs or Parks and Recreation departments.

Each facility tends to have a slightly different clientele.

Position titles may be Personal Trainer, Group Exercise Instructor, Personal Training Director, Group Exercise Director, Wellness Director, or Membership/Sales Associate or Director to name a few.

  • Commercial
  • Corporate
  • Hospital-based
  • Community

Medical Opportunities

There are many possibilities for students who are interested in employment in health care. Oftentimes this type of employment will require at least two more years of education after completion of a bachelor’s degree -- depending on your interests. The following opportunities are examples, but not an inclusive list:

  • Physical Therapy
  • Physical Therapy Assistant
  • Rehabilitation Technician
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Recreational Therapy
  • Physician Assistant
  • Surgical Technician

Additional Opportunities

Because exercise science is a broad curriculum, there are many ways a person might use their degree after graduation. The Kinesiology faculty, Kinesiology academic advisor, and Career and Academic Planning Office are available to talk about your interests and potential career paths. The following opportunities are examples, but not an inclusive list:

  • Personal Trainer
  • Exercise Physiologist
  • Sports Physiologist
  • Cardiac Rehabilitation
  • Nutrition and Exercise Specialist
  • Health Care Specialist
  • Basic and Applied Sciences
  • Graduate program study

Suggested Certifying Bodies

Many students pursue a certification during their undergraduate study or soon after graduation. A certification may be necessary in addition to a degree for some positions, especially those in the fitness industry. Certifications are meant to encompass the entire industry, and require a commitment to advance preparation. Suggested certifying bodies include:

  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  • American Council on Exercise (ACE)
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
  • Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA)
  • Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA)

JMU Career and Academic Planning

Please visit the Career and Academic Planning website to review the Kinesiology Career Guide.

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