For those who are not familiar with it, physiology is the study of living systems and their physical and chemical functions, including the examination of cells, organ systems, nutrition and more. The field of physiology finds a balance of biology, chemistry and physics. The science of physiology further divides into microbial physiology, bacterial physiology, viral physiology, cellular physiology, plant physiology and animal physiology. It’s evident that physiology encompasses a wide range of sciences, and the number of opportunities for employment will vary with your specialization.
Taking online courses is a great way to find your focus and interests when considering the physiology career path. However, it is likely that you’re well beyond this information if you have stumbled upon this article. If you are looking to jump-start your career in physiology with detailed courses that you can take at your own pace, considering an online educational foundation can be a step in the right direction. There is a myriad of online lessons available for your consideration, but that is why we are here - to help offer you information on the best online courses in exercise physiology.
How We Choose Our Ratings
It is important to us that the information that we present to you is accurate and honest. Your education is a serious matter, and we strive to offer the best of the best when it comes to exercise physiology courses online. Because of our dedication to providing you with the best information possible, we have reviewed the syllabus of multiple online classes, checked course graduate testimonials and reviews, as well as reports from students who are currently enrolled and even those who dropped out, to bring you the most accurate overall information about each course.
Introduction to Biology - The Secret of Life
Our first course comes from MITx, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s massive online open course program. This 12-week course with a workload of 7-14 hours per week is perfect for building foundational knowledge for new students. The course materials, videos, interactive problem sets and exams are free, but for a verified certificate of completion, there will be a $150 fee. Professor Eric Lander, who was one of the leaders of the Human Genome Project, and the team at MITx Biology, will guide students through the activities in the video lessons. This course recently went through optimization with instant feedback, and all of the course content is now available all of the time. An added Biology Competency Exam has been included as well to add extra value to those students who choose to register for the verified certificate track.
Your first focus in the course will be on macromolecules like DNA, RNA and proteins. You will observe changes in these structures and understand how these changes of structure also bring changes in function that affect human health. You will learn about human diseases and molecular biological techniques that have the potential to impact our world. By the end of the course, the student will be able to describe life’s building blocks, predict genotypes and phenotypes when given genetics data, convert DNA sequence to RNA sequence to protein sequence, and use molecular tools to broaden your knowledge of biology that you can further apply to exercise physiology.
Respiration in the Human Body
Respiration in the Human Body is a seven-week course from LouvainX with a required effort of approximately three to five hours per week. Franck Verschuren, Chargé de Cours of the Université catholique de Louvain, will guide you through the functions of the lungs, oxygen and CO2 in the body. The course is designed to be an introductory course for those who are interested in human respiration, the purpose of lungs and the link between life and oxygen. Through the duration of the course, experts in the field cover discussion topics. These may include respiration during exercise or at high altitudes, the role of pollutants in the air, and asthma. You will also explore human anatomy, physical volumes and pressures of gases, smoking, blood, and chronic bronchitis.
By the end of the course, you will be able to describe and explain the principles of ventilation, transport and consumption of oxygen, oxygenation, and gas diffusion between air and blood. You will also be able to explain respiration with the use of diagrams, fundamental formulas and calculations, as well as evaluate a patient’s quality of oxygenation and distinguish pathological respiratory situations from normal ones. Much like the course from MITx, Respiration in the Human Body is free to take but requires a $50 fee for a verified certificate.
Essential Human Biology: Cells and Tissues
The next course on our list is a five-week long program that requires two to three hours per week, which is perfect for those who are attempting to balance online learning with other aspects of their lives. The course comes from AdelaideX and the University of Adelaide, and it is an introduction to health-related careers or studies in the health sciences that will give students a foundational knowledge of human anatomy and physiology. Throughout the course, you will begin to understand the relationships between function and normal structure in human tissues and cells in health as well as in disease states. You will also gain a complete understanding of the four main types of tissues: epithelial, connective, muscular and nervous.
With the help of short videos, animations, integrated quizzes and interactive lessons, by the end of the course, you will have gained knowledge of the functionality of human cells and tissues, understand basic human anatomy and physiology, and prepare yourself for further health science studies and a health science career. While this class and its materials are available for free, there is a charge to obtain a verified certificate upon completion. The classes instructors are Mario Ricci, Professor; Rachel Gibson, Associate Professor; Sophie Karanicolas, Senior Lecturer; Catherine Snelling, Senior Lecturer; and Femke Buisman-Pijlman, Senior Lecturer in Addiction Studies.
Science of Exercise
Science of Exercise is a four-week long introductory course from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Through the course, instructor Robert Mazzeo, Ph.D., will guide you through understanding the physiology of your body and how it responds to exercise. You will begin to identify behaviors and environments that affect your health and your exercise training. Students will observe changes required by your body to adjust for new levels of physical stress. These changes include adjustments in carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism. The course covers nutritional considerations, causes of muscle soreness, and the effectiveness and dangers of performance-enhancing drugs. The student will actively learn by monitoring his or her heart rate, keeping nutrition logs, and calculating total daily caloric expenditure and body mass index. You will also explore the evidence for health benefits of exercise like prevention and treatment of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, depression, and dementia.
This course is perfect for anyone who wants to understand exercise physiology basics, no matter if it is for your own personal fitness and well-being or for more academic pursuits. The first week of the course focuses on the energetics of exercise, with eight videos, one reading assignment and two discussions. Week two concerns physiological systems during exercise, in which you will have seven videos to view, two reading assignments and a discussion prompt. In week three, you will be learning about exercise for fitness and performance. This week has the same workload as week two. The final week is all about exercise in health, wellness and disease, in which you will watch seven videos, have five reading assignments, and respond to a discussion prompt. Every week there will be a graded quiz, and there will be a final course assessment at the end of week four.
Unlike our other courses, Science of Exercise is not a free course; however, there are video lectures and some course content that you can audit for free. A certificate of completion and access to the full course materials require payment of the course fee.
Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body Is Telling Us
The last online exercise physiology course on our list comes from the University of Pennsylvania and is taught by Connie B. Scanga, Ph.D. This six-week course, with three to five hours of time commitment per week, will allow you to begin exploring your vital signs: heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, respiration rate and even pain. Observe how these vital signs communicate important information about the health of the body. You will review the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, and students will begin to identify normal ranges and variants, as well as the underlying mechanisms that change in the objective measurements of your vital signs. You will also learn appropriate techniques for measuring your own vital signs, as well as vital signs in others.
The course is intended for those who are interested in working in healthcare and even those interested in personal health and fitness. Week one covers the pulse and heart rate by exploring the inner working of the heart and learning to assess the heart rate and pulse clinically. Week two focuses on blood pressure, and the function of blood vessels. After week two, you will have explored systolic and diastolic blood pressure and learned to assess blood pressure accurately. Week three introduces metabolism, and the students will learn about anabolism and catabolism, basal metabolic rate and how the body generates heat. The fourth week of the course explores temperature in the body, and how the body regulates its temperature. Hypothermia and the differences between hypothermia and fever will be points of discussion. Students will also learn to assess body temperature. In the fifth week, respiration rate will be discussed, along with pulmonary anatomy, regulation of respiration and capillary gas exchange. Students will gain a clear understanding of respiration assessment by health care providers, and the quality of lung sounds. The last week of the course, week six, covers pain in the body, and the difference between pain tolerance and pain threshold.
Similar to the Science of Exercise, Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body is Telling Us is not a free course, but does offer videos and some course content to audit.
While the majority of the courses that included in our list have at least some free content available, you may be interested in researching more to find the perfect exercise physiology course for you. Though we believe that our list consists of the best online courses out there, only you are able to assess your needs for a class. Here are a few things to consider if you continue looking for a course in exercise physiology:
- Know your own ability when it comes to time management. Taking a class online requires you to manage your time wisely, and if you have difficulty keeping a schedule, online courses may not be your best course of action, as balancing your course time with the work required outside of watching the videos and note taking and with your personal and professional life can be difficult.
- Understand your own budget. It is likely that you will spend some money on your course. The cost of any given class is an important thing to consider. It may contain a wealth of knowledge, but if it puts a strain on your finances, then it may not be worth it.
- Check the syllabus. Understand what the contents of the course are before enrolling. This can save you time, money and frustration. Knowing the focus of the class can help you hone in on which online exercise physiology courses are the best for you and the work that you are interested in.
Whether you select a course from one that made our list or you’ve found another in your own research that best fits your needs, online classes can be a great first step or next step in your exercise physiology career path.