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By studying this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

  1. Describe the scope of exercise physiology as a branch of physiology.

  2. Describe the influence of European scientists on the development of exercise physiology.

  3. Name the three Nobel Prize winners whose research work involved muscle or muscular exercise.

  4. Describe the role of the Harvard Fatigue Laboratory in the history of exercise physiology in the United States.

  5. Describe factors influencing physical fitness in the United States over the past century.

  6. List career options for students majoring in exercise science or kinesiology.


  • Brief History of Exercise Physiology 3

    • European Heritage 3

    • Harvard Fatigue Laboratory 4

  • Physiology, Physical Fitness, and Health 6

  • Physical Education to Exercise Science and Kinesiology 8

  • Graduate Study and Research in the Physiology of Exercise 9

  • Professional and Scientific Societies and Research Journals 11

    • Training in Research 11

  • Careers in Exercise Science and Kinesiology 12


Does one need to have a “genetic gift” of speed to be a world-class runner, or is it all due to training? What happens to your heart rate when you take an exercise test that increases in intensity each minute? What changes occur in your muscles as a result of an endurance-training program that allows you to run at faster speeds over longer distances? What fuel—carbohydrate or fat—is most important when running a marathon? Research in exercise physiology provides answers to these and similar questions.

Physiology is the study of the function of tissues (e.g., muscle, nerve), organs (e.g., heart, lungs), and systems (e.g., cardiovascular). Exercise physiology extends this to evaluate the effect of a single bout of exercise (acute exercise) and repeated bouts of exercise (i.e., training programs) on these tissues, organs, and systems. In addition, the responses to acute exercise and training may be studied at high altitude or in extremes of heat and humidity to determine the impact of these environmental factors on our ability to respond and adapt to exercise. Finally, studies are conducted on young and old individuals, both healthy and those with disease, to understand the role of exercise in the prevention of or rehabilitation from various chronic diseases.

Consistent with this perspective, we go beyond simple statements of fact to show how information about the physiology of exercise is applied to the prevention of and rehabilitation from coronary heart disease, the performances of elite athletes, and the ability of a person to work in adverse environments such as high altitudes. The acceptance of terms such as sports physiology, sports nutrition, and sports medicine is evidence of the growth of interest in the application of physiology of exercise to real-world problems. Careers in athletic training, personal-fitness training, cardiac rehabilitation, and strength and conditioning, as well as the traditional fields of physical therapy and medicine, are of interest to students studying exercise ...

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