WHAT THE HECK IS A KINESIOLOGIST?
This past year, I fulfilled a goal that was nearly a decade in the making. I became a Registered Kinesiologist. And as thrilled as I was to have finally climbed that mountain when I arrived at the summit, I was often greeted with “Congratulations … what’s a kinesiologist?”
Since kinesiology is a relatively new profession here in Canada you might be unclear about what a kinesiologist is/does. No worries, I’m here to explain.
What is Kinesiology?
Put simply; it's the scientific study of human movement. The term comes from the Greek word kinesis, which means ‘to move.’
I actually had no idea what kinesiology was either - until after I became a yoga teacher. A foundational yoga teacher training gives you the skills to teach classes for people that are generally healthy, but the students that were actually showing up for my yoga classes had all kinds of health conditions I didn’t understand: heart conditions, cystic fibrosis, spinal stenosis, arthritis, osteoporosis, and cancer. The first rule of yoga is ‘DO NO HARM,’ and I knew that I didn’t know enough about the health conditions I was seeing to know whether I was helping or harming. My lack of knowledge about how to work skillfully with these clients scared me. I found myself looking for continuing education that would help me understand the human body better, and that’s when I stumbled into a conscious movement practice called Yoga Tune Up®.
Yoga Tune Up® is a movement style grounded in anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics. This is where I first learned that kinesiology was ‘a thing.’ I was instantly bit by the learning bug. In 2015, I returned to high school to get the math and science pre-requisites I needed that I didn’t get the first time I did high school. My younger self was sure I wouldn't ever need that. Oh, youth!
What’s a Kinesiologist?
A kinesiologist is an expert in human movement and all its many components. Studying to become a kinesiologist involves intensive university training to learn about human movement from different perspectives:
In my schooling, I focused on exercise for older adults. I got loads of hands-on experience training clients at Brock University’s Wellness & Research Centre’s Senior Fit Program - a gym dedicated to folks over the age of 55. In addition, I did a couple of independent studies with older adults. In one, I designed an exercise prescription for a gentleman with Parkinson’s disease. In another, I developed a group exercise program for folks with Osteoporosis.
Studying to become a Kinesiologist is a body nerd’s delight. I loved it - except for physics. Physics was excruciating (but totally necessary).
In Ontario, a ‘Kinesiologist’ or ‘Registered Kinesiologist’ is a protected title, meaning you have to have the credentials and be registered with the College of Kinesiologists of Ontario before you can hang the shingle outside your door.
What does a Kinesiologist do?
A kinesiologist prescribes movement to prevent, manage and rehabilitate injuries, to improve athletic performance or to support the treatment of illness and chronic disease. We can do this for anyone of any age or ability level that wants a hands-on, personalized approach to enhance their health and well-being through movement. Simply put:
A KINESIOLOGIST IS A HUMAN MOVEMENT SPECIALIST THAT USES SCIENCE AND RESEARCH TO PRESCRIBE MOVEMENT AS MEDICINE.
What kinds of health conditions can you prescribe exercise for?
Exercise can be very helpful in the prevention of injury and chronic disease. Movement gives you energy, decreases stress (the leading cause of disease), makes you stronger, and prolongs your independence as you age.
2 out of 3 Ontario residents have at least one chronic condition, including physical and mental health issues. Canada's Public Health Agency has found that physical activity reduces the risk of over 25 common chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, colon cancer, breast cancer, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and some mental health conditions.
The improvements that can be made with an exercise intervention are, in some cases, astonishing.
Different kinds of exercise alter biochemistry in different ways. For example, resistance training shifts biochemistry to signal bone and muscle growth. In adults with non-severe depression, exercise has been shown to be just as effective as pharmaceutical drugs in reducing depressive symptoms.
As experts in human movement and exercise science, Kinesiologists help people develop, improve and sustain healthy exercise and physical activity habits to prevent chronic disease. They apply movement and exercise science principles to help clients manage chronic conditions through education, physical activity, and exercise-based strategies.
It’s not uncommon for people to have overlapping health conditions. And it’s easy to become confused about which exercise advice to follow. For example, the exercise guidelines you might read online for osteoarthritis may contradict the advice given for osteoporosis. Figuring out which exercises are helpful/harmful can become quite confusing if you have both conditions. A kinesiologist provides special guidance, customization, and coaching that helps you clarify conflicting/confusing information regarding your health and wellness. They tailor exercise programming specifically for your needs.
Exercise is fundamental to your physical and mental health. Kinesiologists are the recognized experts in exercise as a form of healthcare.
Where do kinesiologists work?
Kinesiologists complement other healthcare professionals. They can set up a private practice doing high-performance coaching or personal training, but they also work in hospitals, rehab clinics, gyms, and yoga and pilates studios. You can also find them working in ergonomics, public health promotion or in case management for insurance companies.
Kinesiology is a relatively new profession, and with an aging population, it’s rapidly evolving. It’s incredibly exciting to be on the crest of this new wave in healthcare: movement medicine.
The practice of kinesiology varies from one province to another in Canada. In Ontario, kinesiologists are government-regulated health professionals. If you wish to work with a kinesiologist to improve your health, it may be covered by your extended benefits. In recognition of the important role that movement plays in your overall health and as an incentive to keep moving, you can write-off your kinesiology expenses on your income taxes. Bonus!!
Want to start moving?
Guess what? You ARE already a mover. Whether you think you are or not.
We’re all engaged in some form of movement all of the time. It’s a huge part of what it means to be human. (See my August/22 blog)
As my favourite biomechanist/writer Katy Bowman says, ‘Every moment is movement.’ Think about it; you’re always making some kind of shape with your body. There is never a moment of the day when you’re shapeless. But, you can overdose on certain movements (like sitting) and underdose on others (like resistance or cardiovascular training). You can also overdose on movement and underdose on rest. Rest is as vital to our mental and physical health as movement is. It’s all a balancing act.
How a Kinesiologist can help you
I love this aspect of kinesiology because it empowers YOU to take your health and well-being into your own hands - and that’s its own powerful medicine!
For more information:
Visit: Canada’s 24-hour movement guidelines
Take the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire. Determine if you’re ready to begin an exercise program now or if you should seek advice from your doctor before becoming more physically active.
Find a Registered Kinesiologist in Ontario or drop me a line.
Amanda Tripp, Yoga/body nerd and woman of a 1000 opinions