Undergraduate academic preparation in physical education has changed over the past four decades to reflect the explosion in the knowledge base related to the physiology of exercise, biomechanics, and exercise prescription. This occurred at a time of a reduced need for school-based physical education teachers and an increased need for exercise professionals in the preventive and clinical settings. These factors, as well as others, led some college and university departments to change their names from Physical Education to Exercise Science. This trend it likely to continue as programs move further away from traditional roots in education and become integrated within colleges of Arts and Sciences or Allied Health Professions .
There has been an increase in the number of programs requiring undergraduates to take one year of calculus, chemistry, and physics, and courses in organic chemistry, biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, and nutrition. In many colleges and universities, there is now little difference between the first two years of requirements in a pre-physical therapy or pre-medical track and the track associated with fitness professions. The differences among these tracks lie in the “application” courses that follow. Biomechanics, physiology of exercise, fitness assessment, exercise prescription, exercise leadership, and so on belong to the physical forerunners of today’s programs.
They included the detailed scientific work and application courses with clear prerequisites cited. Finally, consic-erable time was allotted for laboratory work. No doubt, Lagrange’s 1890 text, Physiology of Bodily Exercise, served as an important reference source for these students. The expectations and goals of those programs were almost identical to those specified for current exercise physiology undergraduate tracks. In fact, one of the aims of the Harvard program was to allow a student to pursue the study of medicine after completing two years of study.