What Is Kinesiology? Who Are Kinesiologists?

updated: 2019-04-02

Disclosure: The practice of kinesiology varies from one province to another. The information in this document may differ and not correspond with the provincial legislation. The main purpose of this document is to present the current portrait of kinesiology (definitions, fields of practice, acts, etc.) across Canada, with information regarding resources in the various fields of kinesiology, practical tools, the extent of its scope of practice, and other potentially useful information. This document is in perpetual revision as per the evolution of the practice of kinesiology in Canada. The CKA / ACK will not be held responsible for any consequences or damages that may occur as a result of the use, misuse, misinterpretation, or abuse of the information found on its website. We emphasize that the aim of this document is to help guide you. Should anyone require guidance in interpreting any of the provided information, they should seek the advice of their provincial kinesiology association.


Kinesiology is the study of the dynamics[1] of human movement and its components (anatomical, physiological, neurological, biochemical, biomechanical, neuromotor, psychological) in interaction with the environment.

In simpler terms, we can say that kinesiology is also defined as human kinetics, or the scientific study of human movement. The term comes from the Greek word kinesis, which means "to move."

Kinesiology consists of several fields of study that, in their own right, could each form an independent profession (e.g., physiologist, biomechanist, neurologist). In Canada, we have chosen to group together all the professions that focus on aspects of human locomotion.



As university-educated health professionals, Kinesiologists apply exercise and movement science to promote health and well-being; prevent, manage, and rehabilitate injuries; treat illness and chronic disease; restore function; and optimize human performance in the workplace, clinical settings, sport, and fitness. Kinesiologists are the only human movement specialists who use science and research to offer movement as medicine, to any person with a health or fitness goal who wants a hands-on, personalized approach.

Physical activity is a movement performed by skeletal muscles that requires energy. In other words, any movement we do is, in fact, physical activity. Exercise, however, is planned, structured, repetitive, and intentional movement designed to improve or maintain physical fitness. Exercise is a subcategory of physical activity. Research provides significant evidence that all physical activity contributes positively to health and well-being. 

Kinesiologists work with people of all ages and physical abilities, in many settings, to help them achieve their health and wellness goals. Kinesiologists improve quality of life, often using interventions that include physical activity. See below for a summary diagram.


Kinesiology interventions are varied and target all Canadians, regardless of age or whether or not they are affected by health problems. Target populations include the following:


Asymptomatic populations (without symptoms or pathology):

  • Adults in general, including pregnant women
  • Specific clienteles (e.g., paramilitary and military services, workers, astronauts)
  • Athletes and adventurers
  • Children and adolescents
  • Students (teaching, scholarship athletes [e.g., Sports-études programs])
  • Seniors and aging populations


Symptomatic and special populations with clinical conditions:

  • Metabolic conditions
  • Cardiovascular conditions
  • Pulmonary conditions
  • Neurological conditions
  • Musculoskeletal problems
  • Mental health and psychiatric diagnoses
  • Other conditions (e.g., chronic pain, sensory disorders)


The health and physical activity needs of any population are multifactorial. Therefore, an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach provides a population with a higher quality of service. Kinesiologists frequently collaborate with other health professionals to develop multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary intervention, prevention, and treatment plans. They occasionally support medical teams in evaluations and are involved in enhancing performance, including sport performance.


Kinesiologists complement other health care professionals through their wide range of knowledge and broad scope of practice. Here are some examples of what a Kinesiologist brings to the treatment team:

  • Prevention, promotion, treatment, and rehabilitation services in various health facilities including mental health clinics and private clinics
  • Neuromusculoskeletal and functional evaluations
  • Ergonomics in workplace and occupational health cases
  • High-performance coaching and fitness training
  • Public health promotion
  • Clinical management and coordination
  • Case management for insurance companies
  • Personal training and physical condition coaching
  • Researching
  • Lecturing, instructing, and teaching
  • All other actions targeting the promotion of physical activity and the adoption of a healthy and physically active lifestyle

Kinesiology is an evolving profession. Kinesiologists adapt to the changing demands of their clients’ needs.


Complementary Training or Certifications


Although the primary mandate of the CKA is to promote kinesiology across Canada, we acknowledge that the initial bachelor's degree for our profession may be used as the basis for further training, for specialization, or as a step to a professional practice other than kinesiology. It is important to be trained appropriately to gain the right to practise in one’s province, especially if certain treatment modalities are regulated. In some provinces, some modalities may be reserved for another health care profession.

Before practising, the CKA recommends that you speak with your provincial kinesiology association to determine if you are legally allowed to perform certain services.

  • In some provinces, additional training in kinesiology may allow you to offer other therapeutic services such as occupational therapy. In other provinces, occupational therapy may be supervised by a professional order and require specific and exclusive training. Certain actions are regulated and must be done exclusively by the occupational therapist in their field of practice; such actions are predefined by legislation. Using the title of occupational therapist/ergotherapist in that province or executing professional actions that are not permitted without being a member of the order can lead to criminal prosecution.
  • In some provinces, the provincial kinesiology association may restrict the scope of practice. For example, a Kinesiologist who wants to apply osteopathic techniques may need the legal title of osteopath. Also, a Kinesiologist may not be able to use manual therapy techniques in some provinces. In other provinces, this may not be the case.





The title of a Kinesiologist may differ from province to province. The use of “Kinesiologist” with a qualifier exists because PKAs are bound by their bylaws or provincial laws. The CKA encourages use of the term “Kinesiologist” (without any qualifiers) where possible. In Canada, Ontario is the only province that legally requires the use of the title “Registered Kinesiologist.”

In addition, there are several professional labels that may sound similar to a Kinesiologist but do not mean the same thing. The titles are becoming more numerous. As a profession, we must be vigilant with regard to the quality of the education, and training, received and the nature of the services provided.

Kinesiologist is a profession recognized under the National Occupational Classification (NOC) issued by Statistics Canada: 3144 - Other professional occupations in therapy and assessment

Some similar titles include the following:

Exercise Physiologist

Although in some Canadian provinces there may be differences in education and in the distinction of terminology, for the CKA, physiology is one of the fields that are integrated into kinesiology. However, it can be the subject of a specialization in the field of kinesiology in the same way as biomechanics, motor skills, anatomy, etc. One may say that exercise physiologists are specialized Kinesiologists who do not perform the entire scope of practice. 

Athletic Therapist

In Canada, a certified athletic therapist (CAT) is a health care professional who specializes in emergency care and in the prevention, identification, intervention, and management of injuries or musculoskeletal conditions, particularly in athletes. This includes acute or chronic musculoskeletal conditions of varying origin. One may say that athletic therapists are specialized Kinesiologists who do not perform the entire scope of practice.


A Kinesiologist-kinesiotherapist is not recognized by the CKA because of the wide gap in the profession’s standards of practice. The definition of kinesiologist-kinesiotherapist is as follows [1]:

"Kinesiology-kinesiotherapy is part of a therapeutic treatment framework based on a principle of muscle rebalance with the active participation of the subject in their treatment.

After a personalized clinical observation including visual exams, palpation, and mobilization, the kinesiologist-kinesiotherapist will practise

  • Therapeutic massage care with active participation of the subject
  • Gentle mobilization maneuvers respecting physiological amplitudes
  • Exercise education to achieve musculoskeletal balance for better posture
  • Personalized exercise program to avoid relapses
  • Therapeutic follow-up to counter the recurrence of musculoskeletal discomfort
  • Participate in a multidisciplinary follow-up in association with other members of the health care field to ensure optimal patient care”

The term kinesiotherapist is the name for a physiotherapist in France, and the practice is similar.

Applied Kinesiologist

We must not confuse kinesiology with applied kinesiology, which are two similar areas, but the methods of practice are very different. Our profession is based on recognized scientific data, while applied kinesiology has an esoteric base focused on balancing energy pathways.


[1] The website for the Association of Kinesiologists, Physiotherapists, Orthotherapists and Massage Therapists of Quebec (AKKOMQ).

[1] Dynamic theory adopts a more radical point of view, assuming that the behaviour of a complex system emerges from a network of constraints, related either to the task, the organism, or the environment (Newell, 1986). Adapted by the CKA from La théorie dynamique adopte un point de vue plus radical, postulant que le comportement d'un système complexe émerge d'un réseau de contraintes, liées soit à la tâche, soit à l'organisme, soit à l'environnement (Newell, 1986).



Read A Fact Sheet on Kinesiology


The CKA . . . It’s Been a Long Time Coming In taking a historical look back at the development of the profession of kinesiology in Canada and, ultimately, in the development of the Canadian Kinesiology Association, we can see that it actually happened over a relatively short period of time. 

Here is the CKA Newsletter of 2000  the history of kinesiology in Canada and how it all began for the CKA, one PKA at a time.