exercise scientist

What exactly is an Exercise Scientist?

You might’ve heard the term “exercise scientist” thrown around. Maybe you’ve seen one in your gym or heard about one in the news… But do you actually know what they do?

There’s so many different qualifications and titles in the health of fitness industry. If you’re feeling confused, we’re not surprised (and we’re here to help!).

What’s an exercise scientist?

Exercise scientists are university-qualified professionals with high level training in exercise and sports science. They are equipped with the knowledge and skills to improve health, fitness, well-being, performance, and assist in the prevention of chronic conditions.

You’ll find an exercise scientist working in a range of environments, including:

  • Fitness centres and gyms
  • Private practices
  • Education, policy and program planning in schools and government
  • Coaching and training in sport
  • Community health and hospitals
  • Health promotion
  • Corporate health, workplace well-being and employment screening
  • Ageing and aged care


Exercise scientists are also eligible to apply for accreditation as an Accredited Exercise Scientist (AES) with Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA), the leading professional body in the exercise and sports science industry within Australia.

So, are they just a personal trainer?

They can be. But it’s a little more complicated than that… You see, an exercise scientist can work as a personal trainer (PT), but not all PTs are exercise scientists. While both are qualified to prescribe exercise to “apparently healthy” populations (those without chronic health concerns), there are some key differences between the professionals. So, what’s the difference? There’s a few:

Time spent studying

The main difference is that ALL exercise scientists are university qualified. Most personal trainers you see in the gym have only done a Certificate IV in Fitness, which can take anywhere from 2 months to 12 months to complete. An exercise scientist on the other hand, has spent at least three years at university learning about exercise and the human body.

A broader knowledge base

As they spend more time studying, an exercise scientist typically has more in depth knowledge of the human body and exercise prescription than someone who only holds a Certificate IV in Fitness.

Practical experience

Whilst studying an exercise science degree, students are required to complete many hours of practical experience to gain the necessary skills to prescribe exercise to different population groups. Whilst this is also a requirement of most Certificate IV in Fitness courses, the hours these students spend doing practicum are significantly less.

exercise science personal training

When should you see an exercise scientist?

Here are some reasons to see an exercise scientist:

1. You need motivation to exercise more

You know exercise is good for you, but can’t seem to find the motivation? You’re not alone! Exercise scientists are trained to help with motivation and goal setting.

2. You want to prevent chronic disease

Physical inactivity is one of the biggest contributors to chronic conditions in Australia. An exercise scientist can help you get moving safely, ensuring you’re not increasing your risk of conditions like heart disease.

3. You don’t know where to start

If you’ve never exercised before, getting started can be intimidating. The internet is FULL of fitness advice – some of it good, a lot of it bad. An exercise scientist will provide you with information that is evidence-based… No fads. No quick fixes. Just REAL advice backed by science.

4. You have a specific training goal

Training for an event? Signed up for your first triathlon? An exercise scientist can help you to train effectively to get the results you want. With knowledge of exercise prescription principles like periodisation and progressive overload, they can help you to perform at your best in your chosen discipline.

How to find an exercise scientist

Our recommendation? Chat to an exercise scientist that’s accredited with ESSA as an AES. That way, you can be sure that they:

  • Hold and maintain a valid first aid and CPR
  • Hold and maintain appropriate professional indemnity insurance
  • Complete annual continuing professional development, which insures their knowledge of the latest research and best practice is up to date
  • Abide by a strict Code of Professional Conduct and Ethical Practice

ESSA offers a search function so you can find an Accredited Exercise Scientist (AES) near you. Click here to find your local expert!

exercise right blog