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?

Sports Medicine is the field of medicine concerned with injuries sustained in athletic endeavors, including their prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. The purpose of injury prevention and treatment is to maintain optimal health and maximize peak performance. Traditionally, sports medicine was the sole domain of the team doctor, who worked mostly with college, professional, and Olympic athletes. Today, however, the sports medicine team is comprised of many disciplines including, for example, athletic training, biomechanics, exercise physiology, and nutrition. Sports medicine specialists also work with non-professional athletes and those participating in various recreational activities, for example children involved in youth sports or older adults training for foot races.

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.


- Reference:  The American College of Sports Medicine

Potential Careers

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