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 programmes and exercise routines to help prevent injuries, but also to manage and rehabilitate people with 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 behaviour. Even more specifically, kinesiologists generally work in one of three main areas: exercise, biomechanics and psychomotor behaviour.
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 programme 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 practising correct posture and improving flexibility.
Biomechanics relates to physical disabilities or diseases that impair proper movement in a person.
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 programmes to help patients maximise the strength of body parts so that they function properly.
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 specialise in worksite analysis or workplace health and safety. For example, they will make changes and recommendations with regard to the incorrect positioning of a chair, or a 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.
Kinesiologists work in a wide variety of environments, both indoors and outdoors, such as offices, laboratories, recreation facilities, hospitals, schools and residential facilities. Those involved in research activities may work long hours studying computer analyses, collecting data and monitoring exercise programmes.