What’s the Difference Between Exercise Science and Kinesiology?

difference between exercise science and kinesiology

Many people use the terms exercise science and kinesiology interchangeably, however, professionals in the field know that there are distinct differences between the two fields. Understanding the difference between kinesiology and exercise science is especially important for students trying to determine which field they want to study in preparation for a career.

Kinesiology is a broad field dealing with the study of human movement, function, and performance and how that movement affects overall health. Exercise science is a sub-field of kinesiology that focuses on human response and adaptation to exercise and focuses on the underlying mechanisms that affect exercise.

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Specializations in Kinesiology

Chron.com notes that kinesiology is an interdisciplinary field that has multiple sub-specialties. The theoretical bases of the field include biomechanics and sociocultural foundations of sports. In addition to exercise science, other sub-fields include:

  • Athletic training
  • Sports management
  • Physical education teacher training
  • Sports medicine

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Applying Kinesiology in Work Settings

Livestrong.com indicates that kinesiologists work in many different fields including sports, fitness, and therapies. Other career paths include:

  • wellness consultant
  • personal trainer
  • instructor for various sports
  • physical education teacher
  • fitness specialist

Typical duties include evaluating different types of injuries and developing rehabilitation programs, carrying out injury-prevention programs and conducting fitness assessments.

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Specializations in Exercise Science

The most common type of job for individuals with an exercise science degree is some type of a health care worker who has passed the Exercise Physiologist Certified exam administered by the American Society of Exercise Physiologists. Many also have a university degree in this discipline. These individuals can test a person’s physical fitness and design customized exercise regimens and work in settings such as hospitals, business wellness programs, fitness clubs, athletic programs, the military, and colleges. Job growth is estimated at nine percent through 2031.

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Exercise Science Applications

If you are interested in physical activity and helping people with strength and conditioning, the kinesiology exercise field may be right for you. Most exercise science majors work to promote health and fitness development. These individuals may also develop custom exercise programs for clients to improve athleticism, help train them for specific events such as marathons or aid in recovery from an injury. Exercise science specialists are concerned with the body’s response in relation to overall health. Exercise science majors work closely with clients to develop fitness programs that will result in a positive physical response to promote or maintain health.

What Type of Education is Needed?

Kinesiologists need a bachelor’s, master’s or a doctorate degree to work in the field. Clinical research, and other specialized areas require a doctorate. Most positions involving exercise science require a bachelor’s degree in exercise science or exercise physiology along with a passing grade in the American Society of Exercise Physiologists exam. Students who want to work in rehabilitating patients will need to study core courses in kinesiology as part of a physical therapy or occupational therapy doctorate program.


Both types of programs attract students who are active and interested in promoting health and wellness and want to help others learn healthier habits. A wide array of career options is available to students who want to pursue health and wellness work. Deciding on which career path to pursue can make a difference in deciding between kinesiology and exercise science.

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