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Exercise Physiologist: Helping People Stay Healthy and Fit


People sometimes forget the value of exercise. Getting involved in physical activity can help in many ways, including reducing the risk of developing certain diseases such as cancer or Type 2 Diabetes. In addition, exercise can also help them achieve healthier minds. Health professionals recommend 30 minutes of physical activities daily to reap the long-term health benefits of exercise.

Although going to the gym or attending fitness classes are ideal, some people need more than just an exercise routine. They may need clinical intervention to manage their existing medical conditions. In this case, an exercise physiologist can help as they specialise in delivering lifestyle and exercise programs. He or she is a qualified health professional who works with a team to assist patients suffering from chronic diseases. Their goal is to help them meet their health goals.

An accredited exercise physiologist has a diverse range of skills and expertise to manage or prevent certain injuries or diseases. Some of their targeted pathologies include:

  • Metabolic – diabetes mellitus, impaired glucose tolerance, dyslipidaemias and obesity.
  • Musculoskeletal – osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic and sub-acute injuries or musculoskeletal pain.
  • Cardiopulmonary – asthma, cystic fibrosis, myocardial infarction, coronary heart disease, hypertension and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  • Neuromuscular/Neurological – cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injury.

Exercise-based interventions are used by exercise physiologists to help patients restore their health and physical function. Aside from these, they also educate their patients on the importance of exercise and lifestyle modification. Behavioural change is an essential part of keeping fit and staying healthy.

Exercise physiologist’s scope of practice

There are many factors which influence a professional’s scope. These may include their area of practice, environment, individual needs and existing policies set by the industry or government. Below is the list of an exercise physiologist’s typical scope of practice:

  • Develop safe and individualised exercise interventions for each patient.
  • Assess a patient’s health level, overall well-being and movement capacity.
  • Provide health education, support and advice to enhance a patient’s well-being.
  • Screen, assess and apply clinical reasoning to ensure the safety of their patients.
  • Provide exercise intervention to patients who are at risk of developing chronic conditions.
  • Provide the correct clinical exercise prescription for patients suffering from complex medical conditions.

Exercise physiologists were trained to provide the best exercise-based interventions to ensure the appropriateness and safety of each patient. They continue to advance their scope of practice through continuing education, clinical practice and professional experience. Accredited exercise physiologists are expected to follow the standards set through common law and legislation.

The difference between Personal Trainers (PT) and Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEP)

Most people confuse exercise physiologists with personal trainers. They think PTs and AEPs are the same. However, exercise physiologists are different from personal trainers. AEPs came from the medical and health sector while PTs are fitness professionals from the recreation and sport sector. Below are the key differences between accredited exercise physiologists (AEP) and personal trainers (PT):

Personal Trainer

  • Certificate in Personal Training which can be completed in 6 months.
  • Understanding about the fundamentals of human movement is limited.
  • Delivers exercise programs to a “healthy population” or low-risk individuals.
  • Provides instructions and supervised exercise programs based on templates. Can also give fitness assessments.

Their main role is to motivate individuals or groups to exercise regularly, teach them correct techniques, conduct basic fitness testing and design food programs. They still serve an important purpose to the community.

Accredited Exercise Physiologist

  • Specialises in exercise for “healthy populations” and people who have chronic, complex or musculoskeletal conditions.
  • Earned a university degree or Master’s degree in Sports Science and has 500 hours minimum of clinical experience.
  • Uses an evidence-based scientific approach when supervising patients. Each exercise is customised for each patient.
  • Has extensive knowledge and understanding about diseases, human physiology, biomechanics and anatomy.
  • Accredited and recognised by health professional bodies such as the Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA).

They can fulfil the roles of Personal Trainers but give much more than just exercise routines. Exercise physiologists were trained to manage people with musculoskeletal injuries and help athletes reach their full potential, with more experience and knowledge to back it up.

Both PTs and AEPs have roles to play in promoting exercise and good health. While PTs sometimes follow fad-based exercise regimens, AEPs have to follow exercise procedures based on science. All their recommendations and prescriptions are backed by evidence. This ensures all their results are safe and effective. Science plays a huge role in helping achieve better results and lowering risks of injury.

Staying healthy and fit can be challenging. Exercise Physiologists help people achieve their fitness goals through the customised exercise programs, reduce the risk of injuries and certain diseases and manage chronic conditions. They give a holistic approach to exercise and aim to help people change their lifestyle for a better health.


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