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How does the body move? Can it be trained to function more efficiently? These are just two of the many questions that kinesiologists continually ask themselves. Kinesiologists study the science of human movement and look for ways to improve the efficiency and performance of the human body at work, in sports and in daily life. They design programs and exercise routines to help prevent injuries but also to manage and rehabilitate injuries.

Kinesiologists often work closely with other health and sports medicine professionals. The field is multidisciplinary in that it encompasses four primary areas of study: anatomy, biomechanics, physiology and psychomotor behavior. Even more specifically, kinesiologists generally work in one of three main areas: exercise, biomechanics and psychomotor behavior.

Exercise kinesiologists study how people's bodies function during activity, or more literally during exercise. For instance, a kinesiologist will put a patient on a treadmill to monitor the body's responses such as how much the person's heart rate increases. Based on data and analysis, the exercise kinesiologist will create an exercise program individually designed for the patient to help improve whatever part of their body may need to be strengthened, such as the lungs. Those who have recently suffered from a disease will need to strengthen specific body parts and organs to avoid future illness related to inactivity. Other types of treatment plans designed by kinesiologists include practicing correct posture and improving flexibility.

Biomechanics relates to physical disabilities or diseases that impair a person from proper movement. Biomechanics kinesiologists can use computer programs to show a patient how to improve a physical function such as walking or bending. They teach patients about proper movement patterns in order to alleviate stress on injured areas and to improve incorrect or damaging movement habits. They design therapy programs to help patients maximize the strength of body parts to function completely.

Psychomotor kinesiologists work with patients with autism, cerebral palsy, or other types of perception, neurological and motor difficulties. They help their patients develop strategies to deal with and hopefully improve a lack of motor learning skills that make it hard for them to function.

Another area that kinesiologists are beginning to work in is the workplace environment. Sometimes referred to as ergonomic kinesiologists, they specialize in worksite analysis or workplace health and safety. For example, they will make changes and suggestions to the incorrect positioning of a chair and computer in an office setting or suggest wrist pads to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Kinesiologists play an educational role with their clients suggesting improvements on body mechanics and proper body positioning.
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  Interests and Skills  
Kinesiologists must have excellent communication skills and a great deal of patience and flexibility in their relationships with others. They must have a strong scientific background to help diagnose and assess injury and various ergonomical problems. They are good problem solvers and they enjoy developing innovative solutions to such problems. Kinesiologists should also be in good health for they must practice what they preach.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Design athletic equipment and manage sport facilities
  • Provide assistance in sport management and promotion and leadership in community wellness programs
  • Conduct fitness and mobility programs to reduce accidents among the elderly
  • Conduct workplace assessments to reduce losses due to injury and to increase worker productivity
  • Monitor patients while they go through an exercise program to test the efficiency of their heart and lung systems using electromyography, biofeedback machines, slow-motion film and videotapes
  • Assess client fitness levels and assist in developing appropriate physical activity programs
  • Assess cardiac patients and recommend appropriate levels of exercise
  • Study the mechanisms of fatigue during movement, the biomechanics and motor control of human movement, and factors that affect commitment to fitness and rehabilitation programs
  • Develop rehabilitation programs for people who have movement disorders
  • Work with athletes to improve their fitness and performance levels
  • Coach or train amateur or professional athletes
  • Kinesiologists work in a wide variety of environments, both indoors and outdoors, such as offices, laboratories, recreation facilities, hospitals, schools and residential facilities. Their work can be physically demanding, for example, kinesiologists may do exercises with patients and have to move or lift patients who cannot exercise alone. Those involved in research activities may work long hours studying computer analyses, collecting data and monitoring exercise programs.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Kinesiologists work for government facilities for special needs populations, athletic equipment companies, elementary and secondary schools, rehabilitation and occupational health departments, sport and fitness centers, professional and amateur sport organizations, hospitals and other health service agencies, and universities. Some self-employed kinesiologists work on a contract basis for several employers at the same time.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for kinesiologists? They can easily move into other areas of therapy such as massage therapy, athletic therapy or chiropractic work with additional education and training. They might also move into sports and leisure equipment design or personal training. Kinesiologists with the proper education may also teach at the high school, college and university level.

  Educational Paths  
The educational path for becoming a kinesiologist requires a bachelor's degree in kinesiology, human kinetics or kinanthropology. Kinesiologists usually have an interdisciplinary background in physiology, anatomy, biomechanics, biomedical engineering, psychology and statistics. Many people currently working in the field have a master's degree in physical education as well, and those who teach at the university level have a PhD.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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