Tommy Boone, PhD, MPH, FASEP, EPC
Professor and Chair
Department of Exercise Physiologists
The College of St. Scholastica
Duluth, MN 55811
Self-determination is “…the freedom to decide about oneself
and to make someone of oneself….The more we are able to become aware of
ourselves and possess ourselves, including all the determining influences,
the more we will experience ourselves as responsible for what we do and
who we become.” Richard Gula 
Professions must adjust to conditions that are not generally characteristic
of classroom discussions, namely, the increased emphasis on accreditation
or self-determination. The ASEP leadership has worked since 1997
to get exercise physiologists to understand the importance of accreditation.
They are the leaders in the accreditation of exercise physiology programs
in the United States. The importance of accreditation has always
been understood among the members of health professions. It should
not go unnoticed, therefore, that the ASEP leadership was the first to
state what we do  and who we have become .
Consequently, during these interesting times in which others now seem
to get it, let us not forget the strength of character and courage it took
men like Dr. Robert Robergs, Dr. Dale Wagner, and other members of the
Board of Accreditation in the writing and the approval of the first-ever
accreditation standards. We may never know the backbone it took to
do what they did. Now, after just five years and a lot of work and
dedication, there are seven ASEP accredited programs . Perhaps, it should
be noted that each of the seven academic institutions is accredited by
[the] professional organization of exercise physiologists (i.e., the American
Society of Exercise Physiologists).
Of course, this brings up an interesting question, “The ASEP leadership
cannot accredit academic programs, can it? Well, it seems that some
exercise physiologists believe this is the case. They think the Commission
on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Program (CAAHEP) accredits
all health professions. They are wrong. In fact, the Accreditation
Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) accredits occupational
therapists . CAAHEP doesn’t. The American Physical Therapy
Association [APTA] is responsible for accrediting physical therapists .
CAAHEP doesn’t. The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) accredits
art therapists. CAAHPER doesn’t. Okay, what about the dietitian/nutritionist?
No, the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education of the American
Dietetic Association accredits the dietitian/nutritionist. There
are many other examples, too.
This brings me to say, “The involvement of any organization in accreditation
that isn’t profession-specific is a mistake.” It may also be concluded
that it is not about integrity or sound thinking. Suppose I told
you that accreditation is too important to be used in a chest game, what
would be your immediate response? Suppose I also said that I recently
received an email from a colleague who wrote, “Here’s the deal? Their
feeling is that their shrinking certification program needs a boost.
While it’s true that money isn’t everything. They must protect their
position and reputation.” The reality, of course, is the illusion
of accreditation with integrity is a con.
To see what I mean, it is important to protect against pressure to change
academic programs for reasons that are not educationally sound .
The accreditation of dozens of different academic degrees under the failed
logic of health and fitness is a mistake. Just as the vast number
of different program titles  should not have been created in the first
place, now the effort to accredit them illustrates the lack of an understanding
of the problems faced by exercise physiologists. The irony is that,
during the time that exercise physiology was gaining in academic popularity,
the administrators and faculty failed to provide national standards against
which the graduates would have reasonable assurance of quality educational
The ASEP model of accreditation demands much of the exercise physiologist.
It is logical therefore to assume a direct relationship between the ASEP
accreditation and the future of exercise physiology. This can be
seen by examining the relationship between other professional organizations
and the idea of professionalism, including their scope of practice and
code of ethics. Think about it. I shall never forget my graduate
student’s reaction when he read about the sports medicine initiative to
accredit undergraduate programs, regardless of their titles. He said,
“Why are they doing it?” I said, “I don’t know. It seems to
be reactionary to the ASEP accreditation initiatives.” He said, “While
I was in the twin cities, I heard a teacher say it is all about money.”
As the conversation was about to conclude, the student said, “There are
many reasons for accreditation, ‘money’ is not one of them.”
The symbolic accreditation effort that suggests the non-profession specific
organization “cares” is a bold plan. Here’s where it gets interesting.
I’m convinced that it will not work. The clock is ticking.
The reality dawning as we look over the horizon is that virtually anyone
can call him- or herself an exercise physiologist, leaving the students
with an interest in exercise physiology effectively disenfranchised.
This is the tragic result of our failed gatekeepers . Fortunately,
a new moment is upon us. Though few exercise physiologists today
realize it, the ASEP leadership is serious about fixing our biggest problems.
Exercise physiologists need (and now have) their own professional accreditation.
It is also clear that the accreditation must be linked to their professional
code of ethics  and scope of practice.
As I look back over the brief history of ASEP, I am pleased to have
embraced it with complete faith and commitment. It is hard to understand
why anyone would not do the same. In fact, in my opinion, failure
to commit to exercise physiology professionalism is irresponsible .
Therefore, exercise physiologists must step up to the plate to make a personal
commitment to the profession. To commit our time and energy to ASEP
is to let the world know that the American Society of Exercise Physiologists
is [the] professional organization of all exercise physiologists.
After all, it is about respect and credibility for all students majoring
in exercise physiology.
The truth is that time is on our side. What’s more, I’m convinced
that at this moment in the 21st century history of exercise physiology
students are discovering the prerequisites for professional survival.
Sounds unthinkable, perhaps, by the establishment , but ASEP offers
the hope, luck, and faith of moving past the failed logic and false choices
that can never solve our problems. As one graduate student put it,
“My college professor is not a neither a professional nor someone I respect
as long as he continues to persists in not promoting the welfare of all
exercise physiologists, regardless of whether they have a master’s degree
or a doctorate degree.” The comforting reality is that students are
now getting the bigger picture. The ASEP web site is a place where
students can exchange ideas, get information on how and where to make a
difference, and to build momentum.
Accreditation with integrity and purpose is a mandate of ASEP.
It is for the right reasons for the right people. It means supporting
or creating academic institutions that can package and market a professional
exercise physiology degree in ways that bring respect and accountability
for all exercise physiologists. It means that the exercise physiologist
is no longer alone. The ASEP organization is constantly present with
the privilege to help sustain will power to provide the necessary energy
and determination. To this end there are important distinctions about
the professional advancements of ASEP. Just imagine the personal
sense of alienation from colleagues when the ASEP leadership declared the
right to think as an exercise physiologist. Imagine how difficult
it must have been. Yet, without reflection or reservation, they stayed
the course. This is exactly what ASEP will do. It will stay
It is the thesis of this article that we are becoming what we were meant
to be. Although other health professions (like occupational therapy,
physical therapy, dietetics) got their start 80 or more years ago, ASEP
has already left its mark since 1997. It was founded to change our
direction that otherwise would not have occurred. The result is a
new way to think about exercise physiology as a health profession, and
thus the need for accreditation. The members of the ASEP Board of
Accreditation are of a “common mind” with the members of the ASEP Board
of Directors. Collectively, they have come to understand that change
begins from within. They have freed themselves from the sports medicine
myth . Hence, it should come as no surprise that they are shaping
the character and future of exercise physiology.
No college teacher mindful of his responsibilities to students is free
to watch from the sidelines. The ASEP voice and perspective regarding
maintaining standards of quality should be raised time and again in the
hopes and expectation that the influence of non-exercise physiologists
would thereby be reduced. The present work wants to be part of the
effort that seeks truth and justification of exercise physiology through
a peer review process that includes documentation and periodic site visit
evaluation. The ASEP accreditation process is designed to establish
and promote educational standards, support the development of exercise
physiology programs, foster communication among exercise physiologists,
and provide information to the public sector regarding professional standards
and career opportunities.
“Exercise physiologists who deceive others are well on their
way towards deceiving themselves.” – Tommy Boone
1. Gula, R. (1989). Reason Informed By Faith: Foundations of Catholic
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2. American Society of Exercise Physiologists. (2005). Standards of
Professional Practice. [Online]. http://www.asep.org/standards.htm
3. Boone, T. (2004). The Professional Practice of Exercise Physiology
and Ethical Thinking. Professionalization of Exercise Physiologyonline.
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4. American Medical Association. (2003). Health Professions Career
and Education Directory. Chicago, IL: American Medical Association Press.
5. Rademacher, E. and Pittsley, J. (2001). Analysis and Comparison
of Colleges and Universities with Degree Titles of Exercise Physiology
or Related Titles. Professionalization of Exercise Physiologyonline. 4:12:
6. Boone, T. (2001). Professional Development of Exercise Physiology.
Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press.
7. Boone, T. (2004). Exercise Physiologists in Denial. Professionalization
of Exercise Physiologyonline. 7:4: [Online]. http://faculty.css.edu/tboone2/asep/ExercisePhysiologistsDenial.html
8. American Society of Exercise Physiologists. (2005). Code of Ethics.
9. Boone, T. (2004). Indifference to Professional Standards is Irresponsible
Behavior. Professionalization of Exercise Physiologyonline. 7:2: [Online].
10. Boone, T. (2003). Doctorate of Exercise Physiology: An Excellent
Idea or Is It? Professionalization of Exercise Physiologyonline. 6:3: [Online].
11. Boone, T. (2001). Sports Medicine Myth. Professionalization of
Exercise Physiologyonline. 4:7: [Online]. http://faculty.css.edu/tboone2/asep/SportsMedicineMyth.html