Program in Exercise Science

Major in Exercise Science 

Exercise is an important part of American culture — for the young and old, the sports-minded, and those who just want to live healthy longer. We’re seeing a boom in the need for trained professionals in exercise careers, especially as the population matures. Our bachelor's degree in exercise science provides both foundational knowledge and practical training to prepare you to work in this rewarding field. Through Cardinal Fit-our nationally recognized experiential learning program, rigorous course work, and an immersive internship, you'll be ready to influence the lives of your clients in the next step upon graduation.

As a graduate of the exercise science major, you'll be prepared to work in the health and fitness industry and pursue the American College of Sports Medicine Exercise Physiologist (ACSM-EP) exam, among others. By understanding how physiological and anatomical factors combine with interpersonal, social, and behavioral aspects of health, you'll be prepared to make a difference in your client's life.  

Strength and Conditioning Combined Program

If you want to focus your professional practice on improving athletic performance, consider the Strength and Conditioning Combined program. By combining your exercise science major with the strength and conditioning minor, you'll gain the skills and knowledge needed to prepare for the National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) credential. Our early adopter Combined Program has applied for accreditation by the CASCE and is positioned to have a site-visit in the spring of 2024. The nationally recognized NSCA-approved "ERP" Program exercise Science curriculum at North Central College prepares students with the knowledge and skill areas needed to successfully challenge this respected certification to establish yourself as a health and fitness expert. The Combined Program uses a secondary admissions process and has limited capacity. Interested students should view the Strength and Conditioning Program tab for more information. 

Graduate Study Preparation

If post-graduate study for careers in cardiac rehabilitation, physical therapy, athletic training, or occupational therapy interest you, our program will prepare you for graduate or professional school in these areas and others. You can also choose an accelerated 3+2 program leading to a B.S. in Exercise Science and a Master of Athletic Training Degree in 5 years. Whatever your path, you'll gain skills you can use in the next step of your education through your Exercise Science courses. 

The B.S. degree in Exercise Science is designed for students with an interest in the human body and learning how to work with individuals so they can achieve more in their life through optimal health. Whether you are interested in a career as a fitness specialist or exercise physiologist, or planning to apply to a graduate healthcare or other graduate program, the Exercise Science major can help you get there. 

Exercise Science Major Student Learning Outcomes

  • Explain anatomical, biomechanical, and physiological concepts related to movement.     
  • Obtain, evaluate, and interpret discipline specific literature         
  • Administer and interpret fitness assessments for diverse populations     
  • Prescribe safe and evidence based programming to diverse populations
  • Operate effectively in a professional setting

Exercise Science, B.S.

Exercise Science is broad discipline that studies the effects of physical activity on the human body. Exercise Science includes topics such as kinesiology, biomechanics, exercise physiology, fitness assessment, exercise training techniques and exercise programming for healthy and special populations. Exercise Science is a degree that prepares graduates to work in wide range of careers related to health, fitness and human performance.

For additional programs and courses in this department, see Kinesiology.

The Strength and Conditioning Combined Program can be completed by students who major in exercise science, apply to and are granted admission to, the Minor in Strength and Conditioning, and who successfully complete the requirements for both programs. The program uses a secondary admissions process. Interested students will apply for admission to the Combined Program during their sophomore or junior year. If admitted, students will complete the minor courses during their final year of enrollment at the college. Completing the Combined Program will prepare students for the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) credential, as offered by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. 

Student learning outcomes for the Combined Program are:  

  • Student Learning Outcome 1: Explain anatomical, biomechanical, and physiological concepts related to movement. 
  • Student Learning Outcome 2: Obtain, evaluate, and interpret discipline specific literature.  
  • Student Learning Outcome 3: Demonstrate the ability to properly select, administer, and analyze exercise tests for athletes for a variety of sports. 
  • Student Learning Outcome 4: Demonstrate the ability to design an exercise program for a variety of sports while considering the training status, sport- season, and goals of 
     the individual. 
  • Student Learning Outcome 5: Demonstrate the ability to identify optimal nutritional strategies required to optimize performance and recovery.    
  • Student Learning Outcome 6: Operate effectively in a professional setting.  

The program is currently seeking accreditation by the Council on Accreditation for Strength and Conditioning Education. The program is positioned to host a site visit during the spring of 2024 and anticipates an accreditation decision subsequent to the site visit. Programmatic accreditation is not required at this point for the strength and conditioning profession. By a target date of 2030, candidates for the CSCS exam must have graduated from an accredited, NSCA-approved accrediting agency. 

Students who are interested in applying to the Combined Program should contact Dr. Rachel Luehrs for more information. 

NOTE:  This page contains all of the regular course descriptions for this discipline or program. Academic credit for each course is noted in parenthesis after the course title. Prerequisites (if any) and the general education requirements, both Core and All-College Requirements (ACRs), which each course fulfills (if any) are noted following each course description. Not all courses are offered every year. Check Merlin, our searchable course schedule, to see which courses are being offered in upcoming terms.

EXSC 101 - Foundations of Exercise Science

4.00 credit hours

Introduces students to the field of exercise science as a discipline and profession. Topics include the role of physical activity on morbidity and mortality, methods and techniques the fitness professional will use to develop positive lifestyle behaviors in their clients, basic components of fitness, liability concerns and considerations, professional roles and certifications, careers in fitness and health, and facility management among others. Observations at various exercise science related facilities are required. Required: Physical activity may be utilized to facilitate learning experiences in this class. Participate at a level at which you are comfortable or consult the instructor.


EXSC 295 - Research Practicum

2.00 credit hours

A class designed to allow students to engage fully in an ongoing research project or develop a project of their own. Activities will vary according to project needs and student background, but may include literature review, recruitment of participants, data collection, and/or statistical analysis. This course may be repeated once for credit.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 250.


EXSC 345 - Training Techniques

2.00 credit hours

In-depth study of safe and effective training techniques including resistance training using free weights, weight machines, resistive bands, body weight and other major fitness equipment. Plyometrics, speed and agility drills and core stability exercises are studied. Proper execution of exercise along with spotting techniques and appropriate cuing are emphasized. Students are expected to demonstrate mastery of techniques. Physical activity is required in this course.

Prerequisite(s): KINE 247.


EXSC 347 - Physiology of Exercise

4.00 credit hours

Investigation of cellular mechanisms of various body systems and the impact of acute exercise and prolonged training on those mechanisms; in-depth study of bioenergetics and metabolism; mechanisms associated with fatigue and recovery, and special populations are discussed. Laboratory required. Required: Physical activity may be utilized to facilitate learning experiences in this course. Participate at a level at which you are comfortable or consult the instructor.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 202.

iCon(s): Examining Health.


EXSC 354 - Applied Nutrition

2.00 credit hours

Application of nutritional principles. Topics discussed include nutritional programming for daily life, management of body composition, hypertrophy, physical activity, hydration, pre and post-competition nutrition, supplementation, and eating disorders. Students practice skills to help them develop healthy nutritional habits for life.

Prerequisite(s): BCHM 140.

iCon(s): Examining Health.


EXSC 390 - Special Topics

2.00 credit hours

A project-based class designed to engage students with community partners or institutional departments. Students work with the agency or department to assist in project development, implementation, or assessment. This course may be repeated once for credit.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 250.


EXSC 410 - Fitness Evaluation

4.00 credit hours

Comparison of fitness tests and techniques followed in schools, health/fitness clubs and cardiac rehabilitation programs. Development of fitness assessment proficiencies and certification requirements of various certifying boards. Special populations are covered. Practical fieldwork. Exposure to fitness computer software programs. Required: Physical activity may be utilized to facilitate learning experiences in this course. Participate at a level at which you are comfortable or consult the instructor.

Prerequisite(s): KINE 247EXSC 347 or concurrent enrollment.


EXSC 420 - Exercise Program Design

4.00 credit hours

Provides the fundamental knowledge of exercise programming. The integration and application of kinesiology topics are applied practically through direct :client-practitioner interaction. Scientific principles are applied to the design of exercise programs that encompass the health-related components of physical fitness. Topics include exercise prescription for the general adult population, special populations and athletes including design of programs to enhance mobility, balance, strength, power, endurance and muscle hypertrophy.

Prerequisite(s): EXSC 410.


EXSC 440 - Athletic Conditioning

4.00 credit hours

An in-depth examination of sport-specific demands, work capacity enhancements, movement skills development, periodization programming, and regeneration techniques. The student learns to properly analyze any sport in terms of specific conditioning demands and be able to design a training prescription for any sport.

Prerequisite(s): EXSC 420.


EXSC 447 - Exercise Medicine

4.00 credit hours

A course examining acute physiological adaptations to exercise and chronic physiological adaptations to exercise training. The student will learn to prescribe exercise as medicine to mitigate disease and improve health outcomes of clients. This is an advanced clinical exercise physiology course covering exercise metabolism, immunology, cellular and molecular physiology, ECG, endocrinology, and pathophysiology.

Prerequisite(s): EXSC 347.


EXSC 450 - Exercise in Extreme Environments

2.00 credit hours

An in-depth, research-based course on how certain environmental stresses alter the physiological responses to exercise. The environmental stressors covered include: altitude, heat, cold, diving, microgravity, hyper-gravity, and air pollution.

Prerequisite(s): EXSC 347.


EXSC 490 - Internship Seminar

2.00 credit hours

Students engage with their internship cohort and reflect on the internship experience. Provides students the opportunity to reflect on the internship experience. Course includes weekly reflections of fieldwork interactions, group discussions of discipline related topics, and a culminating project.

Prerequisite(s): KINE 317EXSC 347 and Exercise Science Clinical Coordinator Approval. Concurrent enrollment in EXSC 497.


EXSC 497 - Internship

10.00 credit hours

Students complete a 15 week, fully immersed, field-based experience in an approved facility. The facility is selected through cooperation between the student, the Exercise Science Clinical Coordinator, and an agency supervisor. Students must apply one term in advance through the Exercise Science Clinical Coordinator.

Prerequisite(s): KINE 317EXSC 347, and Exercise Science Clinical Coordinator Approval. Concurrent enrollment in EXSC 490.

The Human Performance Lab is located in Wentz Science Center and includes the following:

Click the Virtual Campus Tour to see inside the Human Performance lab. The lab is accessible to all students who have declared Exercise Science as their major or are taking classes in Exercise Science. It includes state of the art testing equipment used in the exercise science industry, including a Cosmed Bod Pod, the InBody 770, a Bertec Portable Force Plate, the iWorx system with LabScribe Software and a Cosmed K5 for cardiovascular system testing, a Woodway Treadmill, a Monark Cycle Ergometer, a Portable Blood Lactate Meter, and a Portable Blood Glucose Meter. 

Minor equipment includes a Posture Zone Chart, Blood Pressure Cuffs and Stethoscopes, Lange Skinfold Calipers, Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitors, Video Camera and Tripods, Hand Grip Dynamometers, Plyo Boxes, BOSU Balls, Stability Balls, ViPR’s, Foam Rollers, TRX suspension trainer, Vertec Vertical Jump Tester, Bands and Tubing, Jump Ropes, Medicine Balls, Kettlebells, Dumbbells, Goniometers, Metronomes, and an Examination Table.


Faculty Emeriti

Gerald Gems
Professor of Kinesiology Emeritus
A.A., Mayfair Junior College, 1975; B.A., Northeastern Illinois University, 1977; M.S., University of Arizona, 1980; Ph.D., University of Maryland, 1989

Heidi Matthews
Professor of Kinesiology Emerita
B.S., University of Wisconsin, 1981; M.S., University of Arizona, 1982.

Extra-curricular and professional activities that will enrich your exercise science education.

HEXA (Health and Exercise Association)

  • This organization is open to student majoring in exercise science or who are interested in learning about a career in health and exercise.  Among other things, the group invites professional speakers to campus, visits fitness and human performance training facilities, attends professional meetings and seminars, and serves as a networking resource.

PHO (Pre-Health Organization)

  • PHO is a student-run organization that provides helpful information, valuable resources, and amazing opportunities to North Central College students who are interested in entering health-related careers such as medicine, dentistry, physical therapy, optometry, veterinary medicine, podiatry, and much more!

Cardinal Fit

  • Cardinal Fit is a nationally recognized program that provides exercise science students with opportunities to gain valuable practical experience throughout their curriculum! By performing fitness orientations, fitness testing, and designing programs for the campus community members, under the guidance of expert faculty, both students and community members gain value from the Cardinal Fit program. 


  • Exercise Science students complete a full semester, 360 hour internship as a culminating experience. With the help of the program's Field Experience Coordinator, students provide input into their ideal internship setting. Because Naperville is located in the heart of Chicago’s large metropolitan area with access to many of the Midwest’s premier corporations, park districts, community centers and professional sports teams, there are plenty of opportunities. Internships are available in health clubs, corporate wellness centers, performance enhancement centers and group exercise programs.