With large sporting events such as the Olympic games, the World Cup and, of course, Wimbledon, viewed by millions of people worldwide, there is increasing awareness of the importance of science in sport. Similarly, open up any newspaper and you’ll see stories of the increasing worldwide obesity epidemic and the call for more people to exercise regularly. “The contemporary subject which is sport and exercise science has the potential to impact on the lives of everybody; the young, the elderly, the healthy and the diseased”. Does this sound like you? If you think you’d like to turn the field of sport, health and exercise science into a career, this article is for you.
What is sport and exercise science?
Sport and exercise science is the scientific analysis of how the human body moves, exercises and performs sport and exercise. It includes the sub-disciplines of physiology, psychology and biomechanics which provide the theoretical knowledge to enable its application to practical situations. Physiology is the study of the way in which the body responds to exercise and training.
Psychology is involved with seeking to provide answers to questions about human behaviour within sport and exercise environments. Biomechanics uses mechanical laws to examine the causes and effects of human movements and their interaction with external apparatus and equipment.
Within sport and exercise science we can also distinguish between sport science and exercise science:
- Sports science is concerned with applying science to maximise the performance of an individual athlete or team
- Exercise science is concerned with applying science to improve health and well-being through exercise
A sports scientist might design a training programme to increase a distance runner’s race speed or improve a basketball team’s ability to increase the tempo of a game or help an athlete cope with pre-match nerves. An exercise scientist, on the other hand, might design a training programme to aid weight loss or improve muscle strength so that an individual can continue to perform daily tasks without becoming tired or to prevent falls in old age.
Therefore, the contemporary subject which is sport and exercise science has the potential to impact on the lives of the young, elderly, healthy and diseased.
Careers in sport and exercise science
A sport and exercise science degree may provide the first step towards an interesting and rewarding career. These may provide the first step towards an interesting and rewarding career. Similarly, postgraduate courses may provide advanced skills and knowledge within a specific area of sport and exercise science.
Some courses offer the opportunity to gain work experience and employability skills integral to the course, making students very attractive to employers following graduation, either at the undergraduate or postgraduate level. Study in these areas opens up career possibilities which are diverse and varied and sport, exercise and health science graduates can follow a career in the leisure industry, the National Health Service or private health care, as researchers, as teachers or educators, providing sport science support to athletes, or within local authority sports development. If you want a flexible career with lots of freelance opportunities, then you could work as a personal trainer, own a gym franchise or set up your own business within the very lucrative fields of health food, exercise and wellbeing.
This article was written by Les Tumilty, Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science, Aberystwyth University (UK).