What is the Difference Between Kinesiology and Exercise Science?

For people who love exercise and movement, the possibility of turning your passion into a career is an exciting one. However, it can be confusing to understand which academic path to take. Kinesiology and exercise science are two related but different areas of study, each with their own focus areas and professional possibilities. 

What is Kinesiology?

Kinesiology is the study of physical activity and human movement. This may include a multitude of individual career paths and specialties. Kinesiology may include training individuals to improve their fitness, managing a sports team, helping patients recover from injury or running a gym. Some individuals with this background spend their time in laboratories learning how joints move differently in microgravity or how repetitive injuries happen and can be prevented. Subfields of kinesiology can include:

  • Biomechanics: The study of how mechanical principles are applied to human movement.
  • Sports medicine: A field that specializes in helping individuals who have movement-related injuries.
  • Massage therapy: The practice of physically manipulating soft tissue in the human body for the purpose of relaxation, pain relief and recovery.
  • Occupational therapy: The practice of helping patients improve their quality of life through the enhancement of bodily movement in daily life. 
  • Physical therapy: The practice of helping individuals optimize the use of their bodies.
  • Sports management: A field that focuses on the business aspects of sports and recreation.
  • Sports psychology: The study of understanding and improving the mental performance of athletes and others who participate in sports settings.
  • Coaching: The practice of helping sports teams train and play successfully.
  • Aquatics: The practice of helping others use and improve their performance in water sports.
  • Adapted physical activity: The practice of helping with the motor and physical fitness needs of people with disabilities. 

People who choose to make a career in kinesiology can do so in nearly every sector of the economy. Kinesiology professionals may work in government agencies, private companies or nonprofit organizations. They can make their careers within the world of professional athletics or in hospitals and outpatient centers. One of the major benefits of this field is its flexibility and potential to have a positive impact on a range of individuals.

What is Exercise Science?

While kinesiology is the general study of how we move, exercise science is a subfield that focuses on how to improve health and wellness through that movement. Also called “exercise physiology,” exercise science might include topics such as strength training, sports nutrition and physical education. Professionals in this field might help individuals improve their physical fitness levels, study the biology of motor skills or help elite athletes improve their performance. They might help hospital patients better their health through physical activity or work with corporations to develop wellness programs for their employees.

Professionals in exercise science might work in any of the following areas:

  • Motor behavior: How people learn, develop and control motor skills
  • Sport pedagogy: The study of the intersection between education and sports
  • Nutrition: The study of food, nutrients and how humans should eat for optimal physical performance
  • Athletics: The study and practice of sports and physically-oriented games
  • Geriatric wellness and exercise: The study of how to optimize physical wellness for senior adults
  • Commercial fitness: A field concerned with the mass marketing and delivery of fitness programs, equipment and spaces
  • Conditioning: The practice of improving fitness through exercise, including strength, agility, coordination, endurance and speed
  • Fitness within hospital settings: The practice of helping people who are hospitalized with sickness or injury ease discomfort, improve their motor functions and better their health
  • Corporate wellness: A sector that focuses on providing incentives and wellness programs for corporations and their employees
  • Cardiac rehabilitation: A specialization that helps patients improve their heart health after a cardiac event, such as a heart attack, heart surgery or angioplasty
  • Pediatric wellness and exercise: The study of how to optimize physical wellness for children and teenagers

Those who study exercise science have a more specialized understanding of the human body. This means they can build careers in spaces that truly value their expertise. They often work in gyms, rehabilitation centers and hospitals. Exercise science allows practitioners to truly make a one-on impact on their clients and patients, allowing them to build a career out of providing individualized support. 

Start moving on your career

At East Central University Online, the online Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology helps you move ahead in your career so you can help others improve their health. With a comprehensive curriculum and 80 hours of required hands-on training, you’ll get the opportunity to build real-world experience and gain a broad understanding of the field, giving you a leg up in the job market. With classes offered 100% online, you’ll have the ability to attend class when and where you want, without sacrificing work and life commitments.