People often use the terms exercise science and kinesiology synonymously because they fall under the same discipline, but they are not completely alike. Many students, especially those interested in obtaining a career that promotes health and wellness to others, can find themselves indecisive about which of these studies pertain to them the most since they are very similar.
However, these are studies that contain minor differences and understanding the disparity between them can be a student’s deciding factor of which field they intend to pursue in preparation for a career. Kinesiology and exercise science are similar fields of study in terms of what they examine, potential careers, and even the equipment and methods that are used to conduct research, but they also differ in their areas of focus and application to the human body, what data they take from research, and their contributions to society.
Personally, as someone who is interested in obtaining a career in the fitness industry, I have come across hundreds of jobs during my search. On top of that, I looked at the majors that directed people to those jobs and came across exercise science and kinesiology. Suddenly, my search for a career and study broadened even more, specially because many colleges offer only kinesiology, others only exercise science, and some even both!
So, after my hours of research, I decided I should write down my conclusions to maybe help someone else who’s in the same position I was, and hopefully help them find what they want to pursue despite the thousands of options available.
Application to the Human Body
Although they fall under the same discipline, there are clear differences in what aspects of the body kinesiology and exercise science emphasize.
How Are They Different?
Kinesiology focuses on the study of movement, function, and performance of the body to make connections as to how it influences overall health, whereas exercise science is a sub-discipline of kinesiology that concentrates on human response and adaptation to physical activity.
For instance, think of someone running; in kinesiology, a student might analyze how each muscle works together to make someone move and correlate how it promotes heart health, while in exercise science one would study how the body responds to running by adapting over time and becoming more efficient.
In addition, a student in kinesiology may create an injury prevention analysis to maximize performance and mitigate fatigue for running, while a student in exercise science may directly develop ways in which someone can efficiently improve their runs by developing a workout program.
How Are They Similar?
They are similar in the fact that they both study the human body and its characteristics, which have principles that interchange in both fields. As mentioned in an article from Study.com about these studies, “[Kinesiology and exercise science] are two closely related fields of study […] concerned with the human body and aspects of its movements” (“Kinesiology and Exercise Science”).
A basic principle of kinesiology is adaptation, which exercise science provides insight for, and can later be evaluated to come up with conclusions of how a certain exercise benefits or detriments overall health, thus resulting in these two fields working closely together.
Similarly, students use various exercise equipment and testing methods to carry out their research in both fields, but they are different in the data they take from them.
How Are They Similar?
In exercise science and kinesiology, students use a wide range of equipment to closely monitor changes in the human body.
These measurements come from “motion tracking systems, electrophysiology of muscle and brain activity, various methods for monitoring physiological function, and other behavioral and cognitive research techniques” (Rosenhan, Klette, Mexatas).
How Are They Different?
Nevertheless, despite using similar equipment and research methods to get results, students from both fields each focus on attaining different data points from them.
While a student in kinesiology might utilize a metabolic cart to measure the differences of total calories burned during intense exercise between well-trained athletes and obese adults, a student in exercise science might focus on why it is that well trained athletes burn less calories than obese adults. The answer to that is pulmonary adaptation by the way.
Moreover, a student in exercise science might use these results to design different training programs for these subjects so that they train within their proper limits to allow progression, whilst a kinesiology student might focus on ways to prevent injuries while also meeting proper caloric expenditure so that acute/chronic diseases don’t arise as a result.
Contributions to Society
Finally, although these fields of study can attract similar careers, they can also direct students to obtain professions which provide separate contributions to society.
How Are They Different?
A degree in kinesiology may direct students to pursue careers in ergonomics, health promotion in individuals or facilities, and health education to name a few. Some areas of practice particular to kinesiology majors include working with patients in aims to “prevent, rehabilitate, and manage illnesses or disorders that may obstruct someone’s health” (BCAK). As mentioned by the British Columbia Association of Kinesiologists, a practice in kinesiology includes identifying and assessing risk factors in the workplace by analyzing or adapting workplace conditions to reduce the risk of injury; which also means informing individuals in the workplace of ways they can prevent acute/chronic injuries while at work.
On the other hand, a degree in exercise science can direct students to pursue careers in medical science or sports physiology to name a few. A sports physiologist analyzes a patients’ medical history or perform fitness assessments to determine the best training regime for them, typically for competitive athletes (Capostagno, Benoit 707-714). A medical scientist designs and conducts studies to “investigate human diseases, and methods to prevent and treat them” (USBLS).
How Are They Similar?
In the end, apart from some, both majors attract very similar jobs, which include personal trainers, therapists, athletic coaches, and many more.
Kinesiology and exercise science are similar fields of study in terms of what they examine, the potential careers they attract, and even the equipment and methods that are used to conduct research, but they also differ in their areas of focus and application to the human body, what data they take from research, and their contributions to society.
Kinesiology focuses more on the body’s movements and finding ways to prevent or cure acute/chronic disease, while exercise science studies how the body responds and adapts to movement to conduct progressive health development regimes.
In addition, although they typically use the same equipment, different data points are documented, and there are also minor career differences that each study attracts apart from most that they similarly appeal.
All in all, whatever study is chosen, they both have a very similar purpose, and any student wishing to better the health of the world will be happy in choosing either.
Exercise Science vs. Kinesiology: How Are They Different? by Concordia st. Paul
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“Areas of Practice for Kinesiologists.” BCAK, British Columbia Association of Kinesiologists, 2020, bcak.bc.ca/for-the-public/areas-practice-kinesiologists/. Accessed 30 Sept. 2020.
“Kinesiology and Exercise Science” Study.com, study.com/directory/category/Medical_and_Health_Professions/Health_and_Fitness/Kinesiology_and_Exercise_Science.html. Accessed 30 Sept. 2020.
Rosenhahn, Bodo, et al. Human Motion: Understanding, Modelling, Capture, and Animation. Vol. 36, Springer, 2007. Accessed 30 Sept. 2020.
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