Vol 2 No 3
March, 1998
ISSN 1097-9743
ASEPNewsletter is devoted to informative articles and news items about exercise physiology. It is a monthly magazine of news, opinions, exercise physiology professionals, and events that shape exercise physiology. While it contains views and opinions of the Editor who oversees the ASEP Internet Websites, visitors can have a voice as well. We welcome interested practitioners, researchers, and academicians to e-mail the Publisher their thoughts and ideas or to respond directly via the ASEP Public Forum.
April, 1998

ASEP Vice-President
Journal of Exercise Physiologyonline


I wanted to respond to the questions concerning the existence of ASEP and ACSM. I find it confusing and disturbing that many exercise physiologists view that ACSM is their professional organization. Of course, this is what officials of ACSM continue to preach, and more so now that ASEP is functioning and thriving. However, a simple, factual approach to this issue clearly shows that ACSM is not an exercise physiology organization, that exercise physiologists need a professional identity, and therefore that ASEP is needed. I first started acting on my beliefs that exercise physiology and exercise physiologists deserved more professional recognition in February, 1997. At this time, I also had questions concerning the functions of ACSM and a professional exercise organization, and how these organizations would and should interact. Afterall, I wanted to make sure that my thoughts, feelings, and decisions were based on fact - a typical scientific approach.

Consequently, I did some of my own research, and a lot of reading. I read Berryman’s text on the history of ACSM (2). To improve my understanding of the history and development of exercise physiology, I read Massengale’s and Swanson’s “The History of Exercise and Sport Science”(3), and in particular, Buskirk’s (1) and Tipton’s (5) chapters on the history of exercise physiology. I read past mission statements of ACSM, and investigated ACSM membership statistics, contributions to research and publication by discipline category, and extensively documented the other organizations that relate to exercise physiology that exist in the USA and other countries (4). My research and reading led me to write a somewhat frank report of the history of ACSM and exercise physiology (4). Since March 1997, I have mailed a copy of this report, upon request from replies to several of my internet postings to, to more than fifty exercise physiologists. Now that ASEP is functional, and gaining increasing support, it is apparent that I once again need to lay down some basic facts about the co-existence of ASEP and ACSM. It is best to start with the basic questions that form the foundation of ASEP, and clarify the functions of ASEP and ACSM.

What is a profession?
Tommy Boone has detailed answers to this question in sections of the ASEP website. However, it is clear that a profession is characterized by many features, some of which include - representation by a professional organization, adhering to professional standards and ethics, self regulation of education, training, and professional certification/licensure, etc.

What is a professional organization?
The organization of a profession is formed and exists to represent the profession. The organization consists solely of members who are, or intend to be, working in the profession, or have been allowed special membership status.

Does exercise physiology need professional status and professional representation?
Obviously myself and many other exercise physiologists think exercise physiology should become a profession. However, it is important that you know why. Unfortunately, explaining why is not a simple process as there is no clear distinction, or line to cross, that reveals the need for professionalism. In addition, many could argue that the process of professionalization is not a discrete event, but a process that is continually evolving, hopefully to bigger and better ideals. If you think that exercise physiologists should have control/influence over who they are, how they are trained, what they do, and how they are recognized by society, then they need a professional organization. If you think that exercise physiologists are inadequately recognized for their talents and knowledge, then they need a professional organization. If you think that potential students in exercise science and exercise physiology are persuaded against entering the field because of inadequate professional status, then they need a professional organization. If you think that exercise physiologists have the responsibility to develop their own discipline and profession, then they need a professional organization. If you think that society will be better educated and informed about exercise if exercise physiologists are given more responsibility and attain increased acceptance by society, then they need a professional organization. I could continue, but I think you get the point.

Who are the members of ACSM?
Based on 1996 membership statistics, ACSM is comprised of approximately 25 different membership groups ranging from students, Ph.D. exercise physiologists, medical doctors, physical therapists, nutritionists and biochemists. Based on professional membership groups, ACSM has 33.6% (4,435) of its membership from clinical and applied exercise physiologists, 29.3% (3,869) from medicine, and 22.5% (2,970) from “other” miscellaneous professions (4).

Is ACSM an exercise physiology organization?
Based on the previous 1996 membership statistics, the answer is a clear NO. ACSM is no more an exercise physiology organization, than it is a cardiology, orthopedics, family and general practitioner, applied physiologist, or applied biochemist organization.

Is ACSM a professional organization?
One again, based on the membership statistics, ACSM is not a professional organization. It certainly is an organization that consists of professionals, but ACSM was not developed to represent and focus attention on any one of the disciplines/professions that serves it. Based on my reading from Berryman (1), the following quote from the Interdisciplinary Coordination and Advisory Committee of ACSM, in 1968 read, “Sports medicine draws from the various professions but does not absorb them. A mutual understanding and respect among these professions, therefore, is necessary for the promotion of the ideals of sports medicine. .... The meaning of sports medicine is its responsibility to share, respect, and synthesize the interprofessional implications of these components.”

If ACSM is not a professional organization for exercise physiologists, then why do so many exercise physiologists view it as their organization?
I cannot answer this question without making a few enemies. However, I believe that an open discussion of the potential answers to this question is very needed. First of all, the history of ACSM reveals that for the organization to succeed in the US, it required the support of physical educators and physicians. Afterall, physical educators made up 8 of the 11 original founders, and it was the three founding cardiologists of ACSM who realized that exercise professionals could make a significant contribution to better understanding how exercise influenced health and well being. In 1954, when ACSM was formed, exercise physiology was an integral component of physical education, and the strong physical education influence in the early ACSM directed attention of exercise physiologists towards supporting ACSM. In hindsight, I am somewhat frustrated by my exercise physiology predecessors. If as much attention had been given to the professional needs of exercise physiologists during the 1960s and 1970s as was given to ACSM, then we would not be needing to ask and answer all these questions. During the 1970s, exercise physiologists became even more side-tracked. During the period from 1974 to 1983, there were 7 presidents who were classic exercise physiologists. It is no surprise that this period led to the development of the guidelines for exercise testing manual, ACSM certifications, and ACSM position statements. Despite the overwhelming contribution to all these functions and products by exercise physiologists, little credit for this work and knowledge filtered down to the discipline of exercise physiology. Clearly, the history of ACSM is indebted to exercise physiologists, and perhaps this is why there is a lingering feeling of “belonging” to ACSM. However, as I have already mentioned in previous questions and answers, the exercise physiology contribution to ACSM does not mean that exercise physiologists are ACSM, or that ACSM is exercise physiology. Rather, it should be that ACSM is cognizant of the contributions exercise physiology has made to ACSM, and in return, they should be totally supportive of the need for a professional exercise physiology organization.

Why does ACSM remain unsupportive of ASEP despite supporting other professional organizations?
ACSM allows many other organizations that serve ACSM to have their own professional organization. Apart from the obvious medical and allied health (e.g., physical therapy) organizations, other exercise science disciplines also have professional status - athletic training, biomechanics, sports psychology. The fact that ACSM is against the professional development of exercise physiology is a huge anachronism to how they view other membership categories/disciplines. ASEP is not against ACSM. ASEP and ACSM can function together and follow each other’s missions independently and without conflict or repetition. However, it is my belief that ACSM officials are being terribly unprofessional in their current views on ASEP and their own relations to exercise physiology and exercise physiologists. I would urge ACSM officials to do their own reading of the history of ACSM and exercise physiology. They might be enlightened by what they find! I am sorry to have allowed this posting to become so long. However, I think you will agree that responses and comments like the ones I have made are needed, and preferably, in a format that all members of ACSM, and all exercise physiologists could immediately respond to. We have politely asked ACSM for such a forum, but they have refused. If ACSM feels that they should represent execise physiologists, then let us all (ACSM officials, exercise physiologists, and ASEP officials) sit down and discuss this topic together in a professional format and atmosphere. The topic of the future of exercise physiology and exercsie physiologists is a bigger and more important issue that that of the success of ACSM or ASEP.

1. Berryman J.W. Out of many one: A history of the American College of Sports Medicine. Human Kinetics, Champaign, Illinois, 1995.
2. Buskirk E.R. Exercise physiology. Part I: Early history in the United States. p. 367-395, in Masengale J.D. and R.A. Swanson. (editors) The history of exercise and sport science. Human Kinetics, Champaign, Illinois, 1997.
3. Masengale J.D. and R.A. Swanson. (editors) The history of exercise and sport science. Human Kinetics, Champaign, Illinois, 1997.
4. Robergs R.A. ACSM and exercise physiology: Past, present and future. unpublished document, 1997.
5. Tipton C.M. Exercise physiology. Part II. A contemporary historical perspective. p. 396-438, in Masengale J.D. and R.A. Swanson. (editors) The history of exercise and sport science. Human Kinetics, Champaign, Illinois, 1997. 

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