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Differences Between Exercise Physiology & Kinesiology

author image Janet Renee, MS, RD
Janet Renee is a clinical dietitian with a special interest in weight management, sports dietetics, medical nutrition therapy and diet trends. She earned her Master of Science in nutrition from the University of Chicago and has contributed to health and wellness magazines, including Prevention, Self, Shape and Cooking Light.
Differences Between Exercise Physiology & Kinesiology
Kinesiology is commony called the science of motion. Photo Credit: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images

Exercise physiology and kinesiology are two similar but distinct fields of study. Both fields are associated with exercise and performance. Kinesiology, however, focuses on movement in particular. The two are often confused because they both deal with physical activity. There are a wide range of health applications for both fields. If you are considering studying in either field, knowing the difference between the two will help point you in the right direction.

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The Basics

Kinesiology is the study of human movement, function and performance and its effect on human health. It deals specifically with the mechanics of movement. Kinesiology can include the study of animal movement as well. On the other hand, exercise physiology focuses on the human response and adaptation to exercise. It deals with the underlying mechanisms responsible for the effects of exercise on human health.

Kinesiology Applications

Kinesiology is applied to sports, fitness, therapeutic intervention and other areas. People with training in kinesiology go on to work in professions such as orthopedics, rehabilitation and physical or occupational therapy. Other career options include wellness consultant, fitness specialist, sports instructor and physical education instructor. Common duties in these areas include evaluating injuries, developing a rehabilitation program, conducting fitness assessments and implementing injury-prevention programs.

Exercise Physiology Applications

Exercise physiologists work in health promotion and fitness development. They develop specific exercise programs for their clients so they can improve their athleticism or recover from injury. They are concerned with the body's physiological response to exercise in the promotion of health. Exercise is associated with a reduced risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Exercise physiologists work closely with their clients to develop fitness programs that will exert a positive physiological response to promote or maintain their health.


To work in the field of kinesiology you need a bachelor's, master's or doctorate degree in kinesiology. Some areas such as clinical research require an advanced degree, while areas such as physical therapy require a bachelor's. To work as an exercise physiologist, you will need at least a bachelor's degree in exercise physiology, and in some cases you will need to pass the the American Society of Exercise Physiologists exam. To go into some areas, such as teaching at a higher learning institution, you will need an advanced degree.

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  • Exercise Physiology: Theory and Application to Fitness and Performance; Edward T. Howley
  • Manual of Structural Kinesiology; R. T. Floyd
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