Exercise Science Research Paper Starter

Exercise Science

(Research Starters)

This article defines and describes the academic discipline of exercise science and its subdisciplines in the context of physical education. The subdisciplines of exercise science (sport and exercise psychology, exercise physiology, biomechanics, motor learning and development, and kinesiology) are each defined and discussed in the context of their application to the achievement of the National Standards of Physical Education. Each of these components of exercise science are essential to the professional preparation and knowledge base of physical education teachers, yet within each subdiscipline specific principles, theories, and their application are important for teaching physical education. Physical education teachers face the challenge of understanding, integrating and incorporating a wide variety of information in order to create a challenging, developmentally appropriate, safe, and effective learning environment.

Keywords Achievement Goal Theory; Biomechanics; Body Composition; Body Environmental Engineering; Ego/Performance-Orientation/Oriented/Involved; Exercise Physiology; Fundamental Motor Skills; Kinesiology; Motivation; Motivational Climate; Motor Development; Motor Learning; Muscular Strength; Muscular Endurance; National Standards; Overload; Physical Fitness; Skill Variations; Sport & Exercise Psychology

Physical Education: Exercise Science


Exercise science has been defined by the National Institute of Health (2003) as "the scientific study of human movement performed to maintain or improve physical fitness" and by the American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP, 2006) as "a diverse field of study that may include sport psychologists, exercise physiologists, bio-mechanists, physical educators, and kinesiologists." Each of these areas of exercise science, with the addition of motor learning and development, inform the fundamental components of physical education teacher preparation, pedagogy, and curricula. One of these components, kinesiology, is generally defined as the study of human movement and is sometimes used interchangeably with the term 'exercise science' as it encompasses all aspects of exercise science including anatomy, physiology, psychology, motor learning and development, but also includes sociology, and the history and philosophy of sport and exercise. Each of the components of exercise science can also be specifically applied to physical education and the achievement of the National Standards of Physical Education (NASPE, 2007). The National Standards of Physical Education as set forth by NASPE provide a set of guidelines for what physical education should focus on in order to achieve a learning environment in which students are developing skills to keep them physically active over a lifetime. These six standards state that a physically educated person:

• Demonstrates competency in motor skills and movement patterns needed to perform a variety of physical activities.

• Demonstrates understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies, and tactics as they apply to the learning and performance of physical activities.

• Participates regularly in physical activity.

• Achieves and maintains a health-enhancing level of physical fitness.

• Exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others in physical activity settings.

• Values physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression, and/or social interaction" (NASPE, 2007).

In order for physical education teachers to help their students achieve these standards, it is vital for professional preparation programs to include all aspects of exercise science. The first component of exercise science is sport and exercise psychology, which is defined as "the study of the psychological aspects of human movement" (Feltz & Kontos, 2002, p. 5). Sport psychology, within the context of physical education, involves the application of psychological principles to the learning and teaching methods that are employed in the classroom in order to help motivate students to participate in the physical activities and to utilize these skills to engage in healthy behaviors outside of the classroom setting. Four of these six National Standards can be directly encouraged by the application of sport psychology theories and techniques to teaching. These four standards address students' 1) Regular engagement in physical activity, 2) Achievement and maintenance of physical fitness that enhances health, 3) Responsible social and personal behavior, and 4) An understanding of the value of physical activity (NASPE, 2007). Motivational theory and application and character and moral development are areas of sport psychology that are applied to the physical education setting in an effort to improve and foster student development both physically and psychologically. Through the implementation of sport psychology theory and methods, teachers can foster students' motivation to maintain the activity over a lifespan.

The second component of exercise science is exercise physiology, which is defined as "the identification of physiological mechanisms underlying physical activity, the comprehensive delivery of treatment services concerned with the analysis, improvement, and maintenance of health and fitness, rehabilitation of heart disease and other chronic diseases and/or disabilities, and the professional guidance and counsel of athletes and others interested in athletics, sports training, and human adaptability to acute and chronic exercise" (ASEP, 2006). The subdiscipline of exercise physiology, within the context of physical education, involves the application of physiological principles and an understanding of how the human body responds to physical activity in order to provide activities that enhance students' fitness levels in a safe manner. Standard Four of the NASPE National Standards addresses student development and maintenance of a level of fitness that enhances health. In order for physical education teachers to achieve this standard with their students it is necessary for physical education teachers to have a solid understanding of the physiological mechanisms that underlie physical activity and how to design activities in order to challenge the students in a manner by which their bodies adapt physiologically, leading to improved cardio-vascular and muscular fitness.

The third component of exercise science is biomechanics, which is defined as the study of the anatomical principles of human movement (Merriam-Webster, 2007). Biomechanics in the field of exercise science also examines inanimate structures that influence performance, such as sports equipment, athletic footwear and playing surfaces. Within the context of physical education, biomechanics focuses on the instruction of proper technique when engaging in physical activity in an effort to avoid or reduce the chances of injury. Biomechanics is more typically applied to sport in assisting athletes to develop efficient technique or products and equipment to improve performance.

Motor learning is the study and practice of acquiring and perfecting motor skills. Motor development is the study of changes in motor behavior which reflect the interaction of maturation and the environment over a lifespan. Components of exercise science are central to physical education as they are the foundation for the learning and development of skill. Motor learning and development concepts provide the foundation of knowledge for physical education teachers in order to provide classroom experiences for the students to meet the first two NASPE National Standards for Physical Education. In order to develop students who are competent in motor skills and movement patterns, as well as developing an understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies, and tactics as they apply to learning, physical educators need to provide developmentally appropriate learning activities for their students.



Sport and exercise psychology, within physical education, focuses on the motivation of the students as it is a key component necessary for a student to be an active and engaged participant in physical education classes and invested in committing to a physically active lifestyle. Within the physical education context, motivation can be defined as why an individual participates in and persists at engaging in a particular activity or set of behaviors (Weiss & Ferrer-Caja, 2002). One theory of motivation that is applied and frequently explored in the physical education context is Achievement Goal Theory. Achievement Goal Theory addresses the relationship between effort and ability in an achievement setting. This relationship is specific to each individual and determines if the student adopts a task/mastery-orientation or ego/performance-orientation.

A student who is...

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