When I tell people what I got my degree in, I often get a confused look on their face and some kind of response like, “Kinesi-who???”. I don’t blame them, because I hadn’t ever heard of the term until I began my pursuit of education and an academic advisor had mentioned it to me. An easy way of explaining kinesiology is that it is exercise science…. on steroids. Commonly, you will hear that kinesiology is “the study of human movement”. Which, yes, this is true… but it really is much more than just about “human movement” and I think it is a poor way of explaining what kinesiology actually is.
So, let’s dive a little deeper. Kinesiology can be considered a broad/blanket term that suggests the study of human movement. Kinesiologists study human movement from the cellular (micro) level to the whole person (macro) level and even the psychology behind human movement and exercise. There are a few different areas that make up the foundation of the study of Kinesiology which are listed below and include some of the things that are taught within each category.
Motor Learning Development/ Neurology of Human Movement
The neurological principles behind how we move
The stages of movement development from birth until death
How exercise can influence or be influenced by injury or deficiencies of the brain
The location of anatomical structures including muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, etc. and what muscles are used during any type of movement.
How to analyze the physics of internal and external forces acting through the body and understand what they mean
Running biomechanics analysis
Acute and chronic physiologic adaptations to exercise
How the cells, tissues, organs, organ systems respond to exercise and physical exertion (or lack of)
How to design programs to optimize strength, power, muscle hypertrophy, aerobic endurance, anaerobic capacity, etc.
General & Sports Specific Nutrition
How exercise affects the brain chemically, structurally, and behaviorally
How to motivate people to start being physically active
How to create a motivating environment and teach people to become internally motivated to work out
How to structure a workout program to combat specific issues such as: cognitive decline, Parkinson’s disease, anxiety, depression, etc.
These foundational aspects of kinesiology can be further broken down into more specific subcategories and specialties. Other topics we learn about include:
Sports Specific Training
Recovery methods for exercise/injury
Speed & Agility
The study of kinesiology is also usually preceded by general science classes before one can be accepted into a program. Some of these classes include: general anatomy/physiology, physics, chemistry, and calculus. These classes tend to be on the more boring side of things but are critical in developing a solid understanding of kinesiology.
So, kinesiology is not just “the study of human movement”. This study is comprised of a variety of subcategories that enable practitioners to get/keep people healthy, prevent injury and disease, help them come back from injury and disease, optimize athletic ability, and encourage longevity and overall wellness.