Exercise Physiologists

What Exercise Physiologists Do

Exercise physiologists develop fitness and exercise programs that help injured or sick patients recover.


Work Environment

About half of exercise physiologists are self-employed. Most others work for hospitals and other healthcare providers. Most exercise physiologists work full time.

How to Become an Exercise Physiologist

Exercise physiologists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree. Degree programs include science and health-related courses, such as biology, anatomy, kinesiology, and nutrition, as well as clinical work.


The median annual wage for exercise physiologists was $49,170 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of exercise physiologists is projected to grow 11 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Demand may rise as healthcare providers emphasize exercise and preventive care to help patients recover from cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases and improve their overall health.

Exercise physiologists develop fitness and exercise programs that help patients recover from chronic diseases and improve cardiovascular function, body composition, and flexibility.


Exercise physiologists typically do the following:

  • Analyze a patient’s medical history to assess their risk during exercise and to determine the best possible exercise and fitness regimen for the patient
  • Perform fitness and stress tests with medical equipment and analyze the resulting patient data
  • Measure blood pressure, oxygen usage, heart rhythm, and other key patient health indicators
  • Develop exercise programs to improve patients’ health

Exercise physiologists work to improve overall patient health. Many of their patients suffer from health problems such as cardiovascular disease or pulmonary (lung) disease. Exercise physiologists provide health education and exercise plans to improve key health indicators.

Some physiologists work closely with primary care physicians, who may prescribe exercise regimens for their patients and refer them to exercise physiologists. The physiologists then work with patients to develop individualized treatment plans that will help the patients meet their health and fitness goals.

Exercise physiologists should not be confused with fitness trainers and instructors (including personal trainers) or athletic trainers.

Exercise physiologists held about 19,800 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of exercise physiologists were as follows:

Self-employed workers 62%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 22
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 4
Offices of physicians 2
Government 2

Work Schedules

Most exercise physiologists work full time.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of exercise physiologists.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019

Athletic Trainers

Athletic trainers specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses.

Bachelor’s degree $48,440

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Nuclear medicine technologists prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients for imaging or therapeutic purposes.

Associate’s degree $77,950

Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists treat patients who have injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities.

Master’s degree $84,950

Physical Therapists

Physical therapists help injured or ill people improve movement and manage pain.

Doctoral or professional degree $89,440

Recreational Therapists

Recreational therapists plan, direct, and coordinate recreation-based treatment programs for people with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses.

Bachelor’s degree $48,220

Respiratory Therapists

Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing—for example, from a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma or emphysema.

Associate’s degree $61,330


Chiropractors treat patients with health problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system, which includes nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

Doctoral or professional degree $70,340

Fitness Trainers and Instructors

Fitness trainers and instructors lead, instruct, and motivate individuals or groups in exercise activities.

High school diploma or equivalent $40,390

For more information about exercise physiologists and certifications, visit

American Society of Exercise Physiologists

American College of Sports Medicine

Committee on Accreditation for the Exercise Sciences

Clinical Exercise Physiology Association

Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs


For a career video on exercise physiologists, visit

Exercise Physiologists


Exercise Physiologists

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Exercise Physiologists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/exercise-physiologists.htm (visited ).