Exercise science might seem very much like fitness training, and in some ways, the occupations are similar. The focus of exercise science, however, is not only to maintain or improve fitness. Exercise scientists also design and supervise rehabilitation programs for people who have heart disease or other chronic medical conditions, and provide expert guidance and professional counseling to athletes to prevent injury and maximize performance.
Skills and Characteristics
An exercise specialist should have good communication skills and the ability to build rapport with different personalities and age groups. They spend much time teaching not only exercises, but also injury prevention techniques, the basics of anatomy and physiology, and how those relate to exercise capacity, as well as other topics related to exercise and health. They must be able to work in stressful environments, with patients who are in pain, anxious or fearful, and should display compassion and empathy. An exercise specialist should have a sense of integrity to provide high levels of care and protect patients’ confidentiality.
Exercise specialists have two primary goals. Those who work in the clinical rehabilitation field want to help their patients achieve the highest level of fitness allowed within the constraints of their medical condition. Exercise specialists in fields such as sports medicine concentrate on helping the client achieve peak performance without injury. In both cases, the exercise specialist designs an individualized treatment plan, teaches the patient or client specific exercises, and monitors progress, adjusting the plan as necessary.
Other duties in the exercise field are related to the primary goals. The exercise specialist might apply telemetry monitors prior to the exercise portion of therapy, instruct patients on how to use equipment, and set up, clean or maintain the equipment. She must document her plan, any therapy she performs and the patient’s response. Exercise specialists might also teach family members or caregivers how to help patients perform exercises or other aspects of care. In some cases, exercise specialists are members of a clinical team and attend meetings or patient care conferences. Some exercise specialists also conduct or participate in research.
A bachelor’s degree in exercise science or a related field such as clinical exercise physiology is typically required for an exercise specialist. In some settings, a master’s degree may be required. Although exercise specialists do not need to be licensed, some employers do want certification, and even when it is not required, becoming certified may enhance job opportunities. The American College of Sports Medicine offers a certified clinical exercise specialist option. Some employers also require proficiency with computers or electronic medical record documentation.
- Academy of Applied Personal Training Education: Personal Trainer - Exercise and Fitness Specialist Course
- Ohio State University: Exercise Science Education
- Ochsner: Rehabilitation Services - Exercise Science Job Description
- Tomah Memorial Hospital: Clinical Exercise Specialist - Cardiac Rehabilitation
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise SpecialistSM
- South Dakota State University: Exercise Science Program Student Policy and Procedure Manual
- Photo Credit kzenon/iStock/Getty Images
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