Paradigm Lost

By Dr. Lon Kilgore

In ExPhysiology, Rest Day/Theory

November 18, 2010

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Dr. Lon Kilgore questions the modern foundations of the study of exercise physiology and suggests a new way forward.

“Into what abyss of fears and horrors hast thou driven me, out of which I find no way, from deep to deeper plunged.” —John Milton, Paradise Lost

I don’t know why no one has asked this before. I don’t know why it has come down to me to ask a question central to the existence of an academic discipline. But someone needs to cowboy up and question the validity of a field of study fraught with data that informs but fails to illuminate—a discipline spawned of misunderstanding, misinterpretation, misapplication, misinformation, and misdirection in the path of science and discovery.

I could easily be referring to physical education, coaching, biomechanics, kinesiology or “exercise science” in general, but I am specifically questioning the theoretical and practical basis of the discipline known as exercise physiology.

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11 Comments on “Paradigm Lost”


wrote …

Interesting article. I found the following quote particularly accurate -" Research conducted, or an opinion expressed, in the vacuum of inexperience is frequently wrong or useless. " What I see as an unfortunate reality in academics, and I guess the world in general, is either a resistance to change or an inability to facilitate change. As you, myself and Ripp discussed a few years ago the field of exercise science would benefit tremendously from a focus on true application as opposed to a theoretical structure that exists in many programs. Thanks for spurring this conversation.


wrote …

Couldn't agree more. Great article


wrote …

I completely agree with Lon, there are some major problems in the field of exercise and health. Lon is pointing out that these problems have come about because the paradigms in place are either lacking or woefully misguided.

The weightloss paradigm should be replaced by a weight maintenance paradigm, i.e. the goal of losing weight should be replaced with the goal of keeping weight off. The USDA should not be given the lead in nutrition science because the USDA is in charge of both the supply and demand of food, a built-in conflict of interest. The whole aerobics=fitness paradigm needs to die. The clinical exercise community, meaning coaches and trainers, needs to stop looking at short-term studies of untrained college students as the end-all-be-all of scientific exercise literature. The academic community needs to stop publishing these studies as the end-all-be-all. The field of nutrition needs to stop being a safe harbor for would-be scientists who can't handle math. These things need to be fixed. Refining and fixing our base paradigms will go a long way towards improving the state of fitness and health.


wrote …

love it!


wrote …

Possibly the best article the Journal has ever had!


Chris Worden wrote …

This should be a free download. Excellent read.


wrote …

Could we send this to every Exercise Science Department head? I think that would definitely ruffle some feathers but hopefully get some wheels turning in the right direction!


wrote …

The side effects of this situation have bled over badly into the military fitness programs of all the services. The Air Force, in particular has paid a high price. Our regulations, published as recently as this summer have no separation between fitness, heath, readiness and combat. Thanks for the inside perspective.


"What I see as an unfortunate reality in academics, and I guess the world in general, is either a resistance to change or an inability to facilitate change."

The paradigm of a field is really just the "road map" of the majority of the practitioners, but in the end, they will change as new information is "discovered." The call to "develop new ways, on campus and off, to provide factual and useful physiological information to students, trainers, coaches and the general public" is noble and appreciated, but not necessary. I think the onus is really on the user of science to adopt a paradigm of knowledge acquisition that allows for differing and competing paradigms especially in practical fields, like coaching, where problems are multi-factorial and change is constant.


wrote …

Fantastic article! I myself am starting on the road into this feild after 5 yrs in the Army and have some mix emotions after reading this. I feel sort of doomed knowing that I'm headed into a s#*t storm of a field but also motivated to do my part to change it for the better. Dr. Kilgore have you ever thought of teaching at University of Hawaii?


wrote …

We should start the Crossfit Research Center for Human Performance. We have a million lab rats already providing data.

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