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What is an Exercise Physiologist?

Exercise physiologists play an important role in the healthcare industry because their work is aimed at helping others recover from various diseases and also improve their overall health and well-being. Exercise physiology is a small occupation in terms of employment numbers, so these professionals are in demand. With the emphasis today on improving overall health, living longer and reducing healthcare costs, exercise physiologists have very important roles in the lives of many people. Here is an overview of exercise physiologists and what their career entails.

What is an Exercise Physiologist?

An exercise physiologist is a trained professional who helps others improve their overall health. They develop exercise programs and regimens for patients suffering from chronic diseases and also exercises to help improve flexibility, body composition and cardiovascular functions. Many patients who utilize the services of exercise physiologists suffer from lung problems or heart diseases. They also work alongside primary care physicians and offer assistance in developing the exercise programs. Their duties include:

  • Taking and monitoring patient vital signs
  • Measuring heart rhythm and oxygen usage
  • Performing stress and fitness tests
  • Developing exercise programs to maintain good health

How to Become One

Although some exercise physiologists have master’s degrees, a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school is all that’s required to obtain this position. Candidates may choose degrees in exercise physiology, kinesiology, exercise science or a related field. Students in the program will complete courses in kinesiology, biology, nutrition, anatomy, statistics, science and similar health-based subjects. The program also requires students to complete clinical work for hands-on training.

There are about 60 exercise physiology programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education as of 2017. Other than in Louisiana, exercise physiologists are not required to be licensed. However, most employers want their exercise physiologists to be certified in Basic Life Support and Advanced Life Support.

Candidates who wish to voluntarily become certified can obtain certification from the American Society of Exercise Physiologists and the American College of Sports Medicine. There are certain eligibility requirements that must be met before an individual can take the certification exam.

Career Outlook

Exercise physiologists are predicted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to have job growth of 13% during the 2016-2026 decade. Because there are so few in this occupation, they are very much in demand. There should be about 2,000 new jobs created in this field by 2026. The BLS reported that exercise physiologists earned an average annual wage of $54,730 with wages ranging from $34,250 to $78,410.

Related Resource: Top 30 Bachelor’s in Sport Management Degree Programs

As of 2016, about 50% of exercise physiologists are self-employed according to the Bureau. Certain factors like experience, certifications, degrees and geographic location. Geographic location probably plays the biggest role in wages. Here are the five top-paying states for exercise physiologists and their wages. As one can see, there is a substantial difference in wages between California and Arizona.

  • California – $103,280
  • New York – $67,050
  • Connecticut – $59,800
  • Minnesota – $58,990
  • Arizona – $57,240

Seeing someone struggling to recover and improve their physical health can be difficult and is often why someone might choose to become an exercise physiologist. Exercise physiologists are not required to attend as many years of college as doctors, yet they have a very important role and often find work to be both challenging and rewarding.