The Department of Exercise Sciences is one of the largest departments at BYU. With more than 2,100 undergraduate students enrolled in its programs, the department rivals the Marriott School of Management and the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences—which enroll about the same number—for most popular choice among students. The department currently has 22 full-time faculty, nearly all of whom are involved in performing and publishing academic research. Students can choose from three bachelor’s degrees: exercise science, exercise & wellness and athletic training, which are popular choices for many because of the career opportunities they present. Additionally, a master’s degree with four specializations and a doctorate degree with three program emphases are available to those seeking graduate education. The department focuses on viewing the human being as sacred, and seeks to strengthen both body and spirit through the dissemination and sharing of knowledge.
More than 1,200 students are enrolled in the exercise science program, which is the largest of the three department undergraduate majors. According to statistics provided by the university, exercise science is the largest major. Students obtaining this degree explore how the body functions during physical activity and exercise, learning concepts in human anatomy, exercise physiology, biomechanics, chemistry, physics and nutrition.
A large number of students who major in exercise science take their knowledge to the next level, enrolling in graduate school in disciplines related to exercise science or other areas, including dentistry, medicine, nursing, physician assisting, physical therapy, optometry and more. Those who do not pursue graduate education are prepared for employment as exercise specialists in community, corporate or clinical settings, which includes a broad range of career paths, such as radiologist technician and personal trainer.
Exercise & Wellness
The exercise & wellness program emphasizes helping individuals reach optimal health and fitness, rather than focusing on how to prevent and treat disease. Students obtaining this degree complete an academic internship as part of their studies, which is designed to give hands-on experience, teach practical skills and give exposure to their anticipated field. Students also have opportunities to participate in undergraduate research, presentations and publications.
Many students who complete the exercise & wellness program go on to obtain a master’s degree in exercise sciences, public health, business administration, recreational therapy, nutritional science and physician assistant studies. The majority of those in this field find employment in commercial or community fitness centers. Their typical responsibilities focus on teaching clients effective exercise, positive nutritional habits and stress management strategies.
The athletic training program is designed for those who desire to work in a field that combines medical care with athletics. Students in this program develop skills that prepare them for the prevention, diagnosis, care and rehabilitation of athletic injuries. They are also prepared to pass the Board of Certification (BOC) examination, which is required to certify as an athletic trainer.
Those who complete the athletic training program are encouraged to obtain an advanced degree to open the door to additional opportunities. Careers in this field include working with athletic teams at all levels of competition, and can also extend to clinical, corporate and industrial settings.
One of the largest contributions of the Department of Exercise Sciences is the research performed by its faculty and students. Many of these studies have produced significant findings and been highlighted in major publications or by well-known news outlets.
For example, more than 100 news organizations, including Time, MSN and The New York Times, recently covered a 2017 study performed by Dr. Robert Hyldahl and others from the department, which concluded that running is actually good for your knees.
In another compelling discovery, Dr. Sarah Ridge found that figure skaters can experience force up to eight times their bodyweight when they land a jump. These findings were highlighted by Yahoo, KSL and Popular Science, among others in 2014.
Dr. Bruce Bailey even conducted an experiment in 2011 on fitness video games (such as “Dance Dance Revolution” and “Kinect Sports”) that was covered by several prominent news organizations, including Time, Deseret News, NPR and The Los Angeles Times. He concluded that these types of games actually do provide enough physical activity to meet exercise recommendations.
One advantage for exercise sciences students is that there are plenty of opportunities to be involved in research like this. Some undergraduates spend time as research assistants, allowing them to participate in conducting studies and analyzing the results. Often, students are able to travel with faculty to various annual conferences to present their findings, including conferences for the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the Rocky Mountain Athletic Trainers Association (RMATA). These are not only great opportunities for students to highlight the research they have been involved with, but also to enable them to interact with other undergraduates who have similar accomplishments. Such experiences are great résumé-builders that help students stand out, and provide memories that will be cherished forever.
One department student was even able to do athletic training work for a professional football team. During the 2016 summer training camp and preseason, Jordan Read worked as an intern for the Baltimore Ravens, one of six interns chosen from across the country. Read spent about 80 hours each week working one-on-one with the team’s medical staff, coaching staff and players. He also had the opportunity to work on the sideline for the four preseason games, traveling to Indianapolis and New Orleans as part of the experience.
The Department of Exercise Sciences at BYU has much to offer thanks to its influential faculty, hard-working students and well-designed programs. Those involved will have many valuable opportunities, including internships, research, publications and presentations. These experiences help prepare students to move forward in their academic and professional careers, and lead to further unique opportunities during their undergraduate studies, as well as after graduation.