The Role of Health and Exercise Science in Human Science

By Rebecca A. Hess

At first glance, you might think that the title of this blog insinuates that I am questioning the inclusion of our profession into the most gracious host area, human sciences.  This is not the case, but rather a snapshot view of our related fields and a self-validation of our profession.  As an educator in the area of human movement for over more than thirty years, I have come to wonder, do we know where we have come from, what are hoping to do, and where we want to go from here?  A few years ago, I presented a general panel session titled The Role of Health Science in Honors at the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference (NCHC) in Washington, D.C. with two past honors and Kappa Omicron Nu student athletic training seniors.  My proposed question was to raise the similar issue on academic and personal responsibility.  This information and query is as an extension of that panel topic that will further explore the role of health and exercise science in the human sciences, as well as honors programs which have traditionally focused on development of the humanities.    

Historically, health and exercise sciences were housed in the academic curriculum of Physical Education which also broadly included health education.  The programs of athletic training as well as exercise physiology and other related human movement sciences such as kinesiology were considered to be a vital part of developing not only physical education teacher knowledge base, but the general education of university students.  Over the past decade, as public and university education has minimized the role of required physical education and activity, these programs have continued to migrate into other academic departments and colleagues such as health and exercise sciences as well as schools of medicine and health-related professions.  Applied branches of exercise physiology and physical fitness are increasingly being viewed as sports management careers while fitness and conditioning in general is viewed as business.

Human science is the study of behavior associated with human beings.  More specifically, and historically, the study of human sciences should serve to expand our knowledge of existence and the interrelationship with other systems and phenomena.  Not only are we to study, but interpret our experiences as they relate to our general reality.  More recently, human sciences have been further viewed as a qualitative reflection of the human condition through the eyes of art, music, poetry, drama, and language.  A strong connection then between the arts, sciences, and philosophy is thought to strengthen and broaden the view of ourselves.  The humanities, in which university honors programs have historically based their origins, focus on knowledge developed through analytical and historical perspectives emphasizing such academic programs as English and philosophy.  Recent argument regarding the overall role of university education has stirred the notion that re-focus on the humanities will aid in the depth and knowledge of our human selves and how we connect to our current environment.  Indeed, knowing more about one’s self might provide us with a better base from which to discover and develop knowledge, and has served as a pivotal notion for including self- motivation in many educators’ philosophy of teaching and learning including my own.  As a point of connection here, I am wondering, have we removed ourselves from knowing more about our own physical body, as well as how to care for and create a happy, healthy body?  Seemingly, the decay of physical and health education may have removed us from our personal responsibility for our own health and well-being which has been placed into the hands of health care and fitness professionals.

In considering this information, from qualitative and personal research, I hope to open two questions for thought.  First, what is the role of academic programs in health and exercise science in encouraging professional preparation for careers and/or furthering knowledge about human health and wellness?   Secondly, can health and exercise sciences be viewed as true extensions of the human sciences / humanities?  I propose that inquiry should focus on gaining more knowledge about the developmental and physical sciences to aid the health care and fitness professional in gaining and distributing valid information about the human body’s function and or dysfunction.  In this way, prevention and education could serve as a single cornerstone of health and exercise science foundations.