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About Sport and Exercise Science

Sport and exercise science is the application of scientific principles to sport and exercise, achieved through one of the following three branches of science, or through interdisciplinary approaches:

Biomechanics - an examination of the causes and consequences of human movement and the interaction of the body with apparatus or equipment through the application of mechanical principles.

Physiology - the branch of the biological sciences that is concerned with the way that the body responds to exercise and training.

Psychology - the branch of sport and exercise science that seeks to provide answers to questions about human behaviour in sport and exercise settings.

Interdisciplinary - involves seeking to contribute to the body of knowledge or solve a real-world problem using two or more disciplines in an integrated fashion from the outset.

The science of sport and exercise attempts to answer questions such as:

  • What happens to the body during physical activity?
  • How and why do injuries occur?
  • How does the body and mind react in extreme environments?
  • What can physical activity support the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases?
  • How can athletes improve their performance?

With the issue of participation in physical activity high on the political agenda and high performance sport embracing science more than ever before, the scope and demand for applying sport and exercise science in a variety of contexts is growing.

The application of sport and exercise science

Sport and exercise science can be applied within a broad range of contexts. The most basic distinction that can be drawn is between its use in a 'sport science' context versus its use in an 'exercise science' context.

Sport science tends to refer to the application of sport and exercise science principles within high performance sport, where the application of science is concerned with maximising the performance of an athlete or team.

Exercise science refers to the application of sport and exercise science principles within health and fitness, where the application of science is primarily concerned with the improvement of physical and mental health through exercise. This covers both the role that exercise can play in preventing poor health and chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease and diabetes, and the role of exercise in treating a variety of physiological and psychological disorders.

What is interdisciplinary sport and exercise science?

Interdisciplinary sport and exercise scientists attempt to align theoretical principles with practical delivery, utilising more than one area of sport and exercise science in an integrated and co-ordinated manner, in an attempt to solve real problems for individuals and groups within the sport and exercise environments.

This problem-based approach is based upon a realisation that:

  • Performance is based upon a set of functionally inter-linking variables
  • Knowledge of how different variables inter-link is imperative and under researched (and often in practice relies upon the role of experiential knowledge).

The skills required for this approach include:

  • Bridge building - the coming together of specialist knowledge from different disciplines
  • Restructuring - methodologies, theories and practices from one discipline are borrowed and transposed into another discipline to restructure the approach to a problem
  • Integration - the application and combination of different disciplines.

Careers in sport and exercise science

The career opportunities available in sport and exercise science are expanding all the time and this expansion appears likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Sport and exercise scientists are employed by hospitals, universities, professional sports clubs, sport institutes and private healthcare providers, as well as a variety of other organisations.

To find out more about the range of careers available in sport and exercise science, download the BASES Guide to Careers in Sport and Exercise Science (full version available to BASES members only).

About BASES

BASES stands for the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences. BASES is the professional body for sport and exercise sciences in the UK.

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