What is kinesiology?

Quick Answer
The applied science of human movement, which combines the general areas of anatomy (the study of structure) and physiology (the study of function).
Expert Answers
enotes eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Science and Profession

In 1989, the American Academy of Physical Education (renamed the National Academy of Kinesiology in 2010) endorsed the term kinesiology to describe the entire field traditionally known as physical education, which includes the following subdisciplines: exercise physiology, biomechanics, motor control and learning, sports nutrition, sports psychology, sports sociology, athletic training programs, pedagogy, adapted physical education, cardiac rehabilitation, and physical therapy.

Exercise physiology describes the body’s muscular, cardiovascular, and respiratory functioning during both short-term and long-term exercise. Research has focused on muscle fiber typing, oxygen uptake assessment, lactic acid metabolism, thermoregulation, body composition, and muscle hypertrophy. Biomechanics applies Isaac Newton’s laws of physics to improve the mechanical efficiency of muscle movement patterns; using high-speed video and computer analysis, flaws in joint and limb dynamics can be assessed and changed to optimize performance. Motor control and learning pinpoint the areas of the brain and spinal cord that are responsible for the acquisition and retention of motor skills. Understanding the neurological basis of reflex and voluntary muscle movements helps to refine teaching strategies and describe the mechanisms of fatigue.

Sports nutrition describes how the body stores, circulates, and converts nutrients for aerobic and anaerobic energy production through carbohydrate loading and other strategies. Sports psychology explores the workings of the mind before, during, and after exercise and competition. Sports sociology examines aspects such as cultural, ethnic, and gender differences; dynamics in small and large groups; and the role of sports in ethical and moral development. Athletic trainers work with sports physicians and surgeons to prevent and rehabilitate injuries caused by overuse, trauma, or disease. Physical therapists use clinical exercise therapy and other modalities in a variety of rehabilitation settings.

Allied health areas under the kinesiology umbrella include pedagogy (teaching progressions for movement skills), adapted physical education (activities for the physically and mentally challenged), and cardiac rehabilitation (recovery stages for those disabled by heart disease). Professional organizations in the field of kinesiology include the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Physical Therapy Association, the National Athletic Trainers' Association, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance.


American Kinesiology Association. "Careers in Kinesiology." American Kinesiology, 2010. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.

American Medical Association. "Kinesiotherapist." Health Care Careers Directory 2012–2013. 40th ed. Chicago: American Medical Association, 2012. 15–16. Print.

Brooks, George A., and Thomas D. Fahey. Fundamentals of Human Performance. Mountain View: Mayfield, 2000. Print.

Hamilton, Nancy, Wendi Weimar, and Kathryn Luttgens. Kinesiology: Scientific Basis of Human Motion. 12th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012. Print.

Hoffman, Shirl J. Introduction to Kinesiology: Studying Physical Activity. 4th ed. Champaign: Human Kinetics, 2013. Print.

Houglum, Peggy, Dolores B. Bertoti, and Signe Brunnstrom. Brunnstrom's Clinical Kinesiology. 6th ed. Philadelphia: Davis, 2012. Print.

Lippert, Lynn. Clinical Kinesiology and Anatomy. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Davis, 2011. Print.

McArdle, William, Frank I. Katch, and Victor L. Katch. Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance. 8th ed. Boston: Lippincott, 2014. Print.

Oatis, Carol A. Kinesiology: The Mechanics and Pathomechanics of Human Movement. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 2009. Print.

Peterson, Donald R., and Joseph D Bronzino. Biomechanics: Principles and Practices. Boca Raton: CRC, 2015. Print.

Plowman, Sharon A., and Denise L. Smith. Exercise Physiology for Health, Fitness, and Performance. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters, 2014. Print.

Powers, Scott K., and Edward T. Howley. Exercise Physiology: Theory and Application to Fitness and Performance. 9th ed. New York: McGraw, 2015. Print.

Sharkey, Brian J., and Steven E. Gaskill. Fitness and Health. 7th ed. Champaign: Human Kinetics, 2013. Print.

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question