Do we need a common name for the study of Physical Activity in South Africa? A narrative review

  • Terry J. Ellapen
  • Yvonne Paul
  • Bongani T. Qumbu
  • Mariette Swanepoel
  • J. Hans De Ridder
  • Marlene Opperman
  • Gert L. Strydom
Keywords: Physical activity, Human Movement Science, Kinesiology.


The identification of the study of Physical Activity in South Africa may be confusing, due to the different names adopted by universities offering programmes in its related sub-disciplines. A common name uniting all the sub-disciplines of the study of Physical Activity would secure interalia the following benefits: a common identity among all human movement practitioners, the attraction of more students to Physical Activity related sub-disciplines, collaborative departmental, faculty, national, and international relationships, and efficient facilitation of applications, and awarding of, elusive research grants. A narrative literature approach was adopted in which peerreviewed papers and professional electronic records in Google Scholar, Sabinet and grey literature were perused. Key search phrases were: title changes of South African Physical Education Departments, Sports Departments, and, Exercise Science Departments. The fundamental themes developed were: name change of South African Physical Education departments, and, name variations of degrees and diplomas awarded at South African universities. The exclusion criterion was non-South African tertiary institutions. As no such results were found, the names of all the relevant South African university departments as well as the degrees and diplomas offered were reviewed. Seven departments were housed in the School/Faculty of Health Sciences (43.7%), two each in the Faculties of Science (12.5%), and Science and Agriculture (12.5%). One department fell under the ambit of Business and Management Studies (6.25%), Arts and Social Sciences (6.25%), Humanities and Health Sciences (6.25%), Applied Science (6.25%) and Community and Health Sciences (6.25%). Regarding the nomenclature of the departments, 10/16 adopted the word “Sport” while three adopted the words “Human Movement,” a further four departments used the word “Biokinetics” as a descriptor and the word “Exercise” featured in the names of only two departments. It was concluded that a number of benefits could be derived within the South African context by embracing Kinesiology as a common nomenclature for the study of Physical Activity.

Keywords: Physical activity, Human Movement Science, Kinesiology.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1117-4315