Presence of exercise physiology or similar coursework in the curricula of Brazilian health science undergraduate programs

Bolstered by evidence of the health benefits of exercise, health professionals advise their patients about it. Thus these professionals should have a basic knowledge of exercise physiology. In Brazil, a graduate degree is not mandatory, so for many health providers, the only opportunity to receive information on exercise physiology content is during their undergraduate study. Therefore, it is imperative that health science undergraduate programs include content on exercise physiology. The aim of the study was to verify the presence of exercise physiology (or similar coursework) in the curricula of seven health science undergraduate programs (biomedicine, physical education, nursing, physiotherapy, medicine, nutrition, and psychology). The study was divided into three phases: 1) a survey of the total number of undergraduate programs (n = 4,940) through an electronic system of the Brazilian Ministry of Education (e-MEC); 2) a random selection of 10% of the total undergraduate programs (n = 494) for further analysis of the curriculum; and 3) analysis of the curricula of the selected undergraduate programs. Of 494 undergraduate programs, we did not find curricula for 77 of them. Therefore, the final sample consisted of 417 undergraduate programs. In total, 65.9% of the undergraduate programs did not offer coursework in exercise physiology. The chi-square test revealed a significant association between undergraduate curricula in health science and the presence or absence of exercise physiology coursework [X2(6, n = 417) = 293.0, P < 0.0001]. We did not find exercise physiology coursework in most of the analyzed undergraduate programs. Alternatives to solve the lack of exercise physiology coursework would be the inclusion of content related to exercise physiology in professional/graduate education or in continuing education programs.

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