Upskill for a career in exercise physiology. Here’s how

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Pauline Schaefer of Germany competes on the balance beam during the individual apparatus finals of the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships on October 8, 2017 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada.

By U2B Staff 

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Have you always been passionate about health and fitness? Are you fascinated with being a better version of yourself — physically — with each run, HIIT workout, or spinning class? Whether you’re all about pushing your physical boundaries or want to help others get in the best shape of their life (or simply a healthier version of themselves), exercise physiology could be a useful area of study for you.

Exercise physiology is a specialisation within kinesiology, the study of human movement.


The College of St. Scholastica notes that exercise physiologists study the body’s responses to physical activity as well as how the body adapts to physical activity over time. “Exercise physiologists are responsible for conditioning clients to higher levels of physical fitness and improved health while staying tuned into safety issues that can be associated with single-session exercise,” it said.

The role of exercise physiologists is varied, and can entail helping athletes reach peak fitness; guiding people in their journeys to lose weight; or rehabilitating patients suffering from chronic illness.

A promising career pathway?

Sports is a booming industry; exercise physiologists can expect to play a prominent role in helping the average Jane or Joe to athletes manage their diseases or reach their optimal sporting performance.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics notes: “Employment of exercise physiologists is projected to grow 11% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.” 

They add that demand may rise as healthcare providers emphasise exercise and preventive care to help patients recover from cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases and improve their overall health.

Many graduates of exercise physiology go on to work in a variety of settings, including, but not limited to, fitness industries, public health, and education.

Interestingly, Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria graduated with a BSc in Kinesiology at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

Studying exercise physiology

Many universities offer postgraduates courses in exercise physiology as a master of science or clinical programme.

Charles Sturt University (CSU), for instance, offers the Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology, which is fully accredited by Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA).

In the programme, the university notes that students will learn to determine clients’ medical and physical activity histories, perform pre-exercise screenings, use motivational interviewing to determine readiness for exercise, and perform health and exercise capacity assessments. 

“You’ll also be prepared to design and deliver evidence-based exercise prescriptions, apply psychological strategies to promote lifestyle modification and behaviour change, and provide client education to prevent or manage cardiopulmonary, metabolic, musculoskeletal, and neurological conditions, as well as cancer and depression.”


Students typically need an undergraduate degree in a related field before pursuing a master’s in exercise physiology, or in some cases, undertake a diploma in the field to address knowledge and skill deficits.

Newcastle University’s MSc Exercise Physiology will help students develop core knowledge in human physiology, exercise immunology, anatomy, the pathophysiology of a variety of diseases, and exercise in extreme environments. 

Students can also expect to undertake study in some of the following areas: taking medical histories and performing physical examinations on high-level athletes as well as patients with poor physical function, interpreting exercise data from patients and athletes, and practical skills associated with collecting and interpreting physiological data from patients and athletes.

It’s important to note that clinical and non-clinical programmes have different objectives for students. Clinical programmes typically aim to help graduates work with clients with medical concerns, while non-clinical programmes typically prepare students to work with clients without medical concerns and improve their overall health.

Graduates of each programme will also work in different settings. Non-clinical graduates may find work in community organisations or private fitness facilities while clinical graduates may work in hospitals, rehabilitation clinics, or athletic centres, to name a few.

At the end of the day, exercise physiology can lead to a variety of career pathways, and be a fruitful career for those passionate about health and fitness.