Health and Exercise Science
What is Health and Exercise Science?
The perception of health and exercise science has been that students are trained solely to become strength coaches, personal trainers, and physical education teachers. However, in actuality many students with undergraduate degrees in HES are also qualified to excel in many clinical and allied health professions ranging from physical therapists and health promotion specialists to surgeons, or pursue graduate degrees in exercise physiology and health promotion. Health and exercise science students learn the skills needed to enter into these and many other exciting fields or to continue their education and receive master's or doctoral degrees in exercise physiology or health promotion or in the allied health professions.
The Department of Health and Exercise Science at OU is one of the few interdisciplinary programs and one of the largest in the College of Arts and Sciences. The program integrates the biological, physiological, medical, social, and behavioral sciences as they relate to physiological responses to exercise and other aspects of human health and lifestyle behavior. All the faculty in the department specialize in the areas of exercise physiology or health promotion. This unique curriculum and instruction in both the classroom and the laboratory helps students develop the skills needed to work in sports- or health/medicine-related fields. Many of OU's Health and Exercise Sciences students choose to continue their education after receiving their bachelor's degrees and enter fields such as medicine, health education, physical therapy, dietetics, public health, or nursing.
Housed in the department are several state-of-the-art laboratories used by faculty and students to work on a wide range of research projects that are subdivided into health promotion and exercise physiology. Health promotion is the study of the process of enabling people to increase control over and to improve their health. It moves beyond a focus on individual behavior towards a wide range of social and environmental interventions. Our health promotion faculty and students engage in projects that include: designing and evaluating theory-based health programs, physical activity and sedentary behavior measurement, tobacco use prevention, social marketing, health disparities, adolescent health behaviors, teen pregnancy prevention, worksite wellness, and social determinants of health. Exercise physiology is the study of the physiological mechanisms that regulate and contribute to physical activity and movement. Our exercise physiology faculty and students engage in projects that include: muscle, nerve, bone, endocrine, and cardiovascular physiology and body composition. We study how these components integrate and function in human health and disease conditions (e.g., multiple sclerosis, hypertension, obesity, cognitive decline, osteoporosis, etc.), including healthy aging. The laboratories give students the opportunity to work on their own research ideas during their undergraduate and graduate studies as well as a chance to work with new technology that will better prepare them for their careers.
So, what's my major?
A health and exercise science student graduates with a Bachelor of Science in health and exercise science degree. A minor in health and exercise science also exists for students pursuing degrees in other areas. If majors wish to continue their education, they can pursue Master of Science or Doctor of Philosophy degrees in exercise physiology or health promotion.
Do my interests fit?
Health and exercise science students typically have interests in:
- Biological science
- Health behavior
- Other health fields
How can OU Health and Exercise Science help me?
Health and exercise science is a truly versatile degree that can provide a strong academic background and provide students with an abundance of opportunities to gain critical knowledge and experiences to prepare them for future careers or continued education in graduate programs like exercise physiology, health promotion, and public health and/or professional healthcare programs. The majority of students earning a Bachelor of Science in health and exercise science are poised to be successful in gaining admission to professional and allied health programs such as medicine, physician assistant, physical and occupational therapy, dietetics, dentistry, and nursing. Additionally, students are competitive for admission to graduation programs in the areas of exercise physiology, health promotion, and public health, as well as securing employment in strength and conditioning, health and wellness education, fitness and recreation, and medical/pharmaceutical sales.
How can I get involved?
- Health and Exercise Science Internship Program
- Undergraduate research experiences
- Undergraduate students are encouraged to get involved in research, and many undergraduate students carry out independent research projects under the guidance of HES faculty members. Students can use these research experiences to obtain academic credit through Independent Study (HES 3990 and HES 4990) and also to fulfill the requirements for graduation with the Honors College (HES 3980).
- Summer research opportunities at the OU Health Sciences Center
- Health and Exercise Science Student Association
What courses will I take?
Health and exercise science courses can include:
- Intro to HES
- Introductory Nutrition
- Personal Health
- Health Promotion Program Plan
- Lifestyle Intervention
- Principles of Health & Fitness
- Physiology of Exercise
- Exercise Testing & Prescription
- Exercise Physiology Lab
- Principles of Community Health
- Chronic Disease Intervention
Wait, I can have a minor?
Yes, a minor in HES is available for students pursuing other majors. The HES minor consists of 18 hours of HES course work, 12 of which must be at the upper-division level. Many students find they are able to comfortably pursue this minor along with their major requirements.
How can I study abroad?
There is no shortage of opportunities for students at the University of Oklahoma to have an educational experience abroad. Within the Department of Health and Exercise Science, students have several options for satisfying degree requirements. Mediterranean Diet and Culture, taught in Arezzo, Italy, during the spring semester is an extremely popular course that will satisfy a HES upper-division elective. Additionally, HES students can complete Journey Programs that typically satisfy upper-division humanity requirements. HES faculty are developing plans for future education abroad opportunities to allow students to complete courses from the HES curriculum, like Adolescent Health that will be taught in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, during spring break in 2019 and Community Health that will be taught in Puebla, Mexico, during the summer of 2019.
What kind of career could I pursue?
Strength and conditioning coaching
Dietitians in various settings
How much will I make?
Median pay for Exercise Physiologists: $49,090
Median pay for Fitness Trainers and Instructors:
Median pay for Physical Therapists: $86,850
Median pay for Athletic Trainers: $46,630
Median pay for Dietitians and Nutritionists: $59,410
Median pay for Health Educators and Community
Health Workers: $45,360
*Pay from Bureau of Labor Statistics