If a friend told you he wanted to improve his health and well being so he joined a football team, what would you think?

Well, I guess there are parts of playing football that could help.  One might improve stamina, strength, reflexes and enjoy the mental and social benefits.

Yet, there are inherent risks of playing football, too.  If your friend loves playing football it could be worth the risk.

If that friend said he didn’t like it, but it would be worth it to be healthier, you might question his logic.

I see many people doing sports training under the guise of exercise for weight loss or  improving health.   It might not be called sports training, but by definition, that is what it is.

Exercise science (physiology) = The study of the body’s metabolic response to short-term and long-term physical activity.

Sport science = a branch of exercise science that studies the application of scientific principles and techniques with the aim of improving sport performance.

Clinical exercise science = a branch of exercise science that studies chronic diseases and how exercise training can be of therapeutic benefit, including but not limited to cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, neuromuscular and metabolic disorders (ie: heart diseases, asthma, back pain, elevated body weight, diabetes, etc.).

You might notice some subtle, but very important differences.

Exercise science is the general science for all types goals for physical activity.

Sports science is training to do better at an athletic (or even military) activity.  Whether it is a personal goal of finishing a marathon or winning a team competition, for success the training sacrifices long term benefits for short term gains.

Clinical exercise science is training for living healthier and better in some way.  For success the approach needs to be sustainable.   It is focused on the short as well as the long term benefits.

Yet, the difference between clinical exercise science and sports science are muddled in the fitness industry.

Our culture tends to value athleticism, overcoming the odds, pushing past limits.  These qualities get lots of media attention.  The average Joe exercising five days a week and is now able to play with his kids does not get much press.

This leads many astray. I believe it contributes greatly to the fact that 80% of the US population does not get the recommended amounts of exercise to improve health and fitness.  Yes 80%!

A simple yet powerful question can save unnecessary injury, discouragement and loss of motivation.


Why am I doing this exercise, fitness class, exercise program, sports, competition, etc?

If you keep asking why until you get to the deepest personal reason.  Here you will find keys to lasting motivation.

Next, check to see if what you are doing is the best way to your personal definition of success.

Finally, create your own risk/benefit ratio.

List the potential risks:

  • inherent risk of the activity itself. It may not be advertised so look at the level of intensity, duration, frequency and type of activities.  Ask why for each of these.  In general, the more they exceed general recommendations, the greater the risk.
  • your current physical condition compared to conditioning needed for the activity
  • old or current injuries and/or medical condition, alignment issues, muscle weaknesses, etc. that could be negatively impacted by doing this activity

List the potential benefits:

  • benefits of the activity shown by exercise science
  • how this activity will help you get what you really want from physical activity
  • how this activity might improve your quality of life

Weight loss is probably one of the major areas for this confusion.  Yes, to lose weight one risk benefit 2needs to exercise.  Yet over exercising to lose weight brings inherent risks for injury or loss of motivation, discontinuing exercise, and much higher risk of weight regain from not exercising.

So when choosing an exercise program,  remember to ask why.   You will be more likely to stay motivated and reach your true success.

May You Be Well,


Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC