What does an exercise physiologist do?
Exercise Physiologists (EPs) design and deliver safe and effective exercise programs for people suffering from health problems.
They aim to prevent or manage chronic diseases or injury, and restore physical function, health, or wellness. They do this by creating individualised exercise programs to improve fitness, strength, endurance, and flexibility.
An EP can show you how to do these exercises without causing as much pain or discomfort, and help you manage your symptoms like fatigue and loss of movement when practising your exercises.
Your appointment can include health and physical activity education, advice and support, and lifestyle changes. EPs can be privately funded but may also be accessible through MBS subsidised team care plans, which are arranged by your GP, or alternatively through your private health insurance rebates.
What happens during an appointment with an exercise physiologist?
An EP appointment begins with an initial assessment. The EP will gather information about your medical history, medications, lifestyle, and diet.
The EP will ask you questions including your exercise history and any sport or activities you participated in in the past, your pain and injuries, and if you are currently exercising. They may ask what equipment you have at home and anything else relevant to your ability to complete an exercise program.
The EP will take you through some simple activities in the gym to determine what you may need help with and any exercise limitations you may have.
The EP may provide you with an exercise plan that is simple and easy to follow. It may be tailored to your goals, fitness levels, and any injuries or other concerns you may have. You may also be required to come back for another appointment.
The EP ensures you are safe and cleared to exercise by discussing goals and plans and completing exercise assessments.
What are some reasons people may see an exercise physiologist?
There are many reasons to see an EP; here are some of the most common.
#1. If you have a chronic condition.
The EP has the knowledge and skills to prescribe a safe exercise program to suit you. They may understand the effects of your medication, and your movement limitations.
Before exercising, consult your GP if you have a chronic disease. Your GP may refer you to an EP to assist you in becoming active in a safe manner.
#2. If you suffer from chronic pain
Chronic pain is pain that lasts more than three months. EPs prescribe pain management techniques to help assist with pain management.
Exercise is one of the most effective treatments for arthritis. It can help to decrease pain, fatigue, muscle tension and stress. Exercise improves mobility and flexibility of joints, muscle strength, posture and balance.
#3. If you are recovering from an injury
You may have seen a physiotherapist to help manage an injury. Your physiotherapist may then refer you to an EP after the first phase of treatment. The EP and physiotherapist will aid in your recovery and reduce your risk of re-injury.
#4. Some people may see an EP if they have want to improve their mental wellbeing
Exercise is an effective tool for improving mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Exercise releases chemicals that improve your mood and make you feel good. It can also be a social activity helping to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation and put you in touch with other people.
Exercise is also good for your arthritis, therefore taking on a more holistic approach to your health than a single treatment in isolation.
#5. People who are pregnant or have recently given birth
Your body undergoes many changes during pregnancy and after childbirth, and your exercise requirements change. While exercise is safe and beneficial during and after pregnancy, the wrong types of exercise can be dangerous. An EP can prescribe safe exercises for your body and stage of pregnancy, as well as post-natal care.
What is the difference between an exercise physiologist and a physiotherapist?
Both EPs and physiotherapists have similar end goals regarding treatment. The treatment path to recovery will be different.
EPs specialise in the design of exercise and movement programmes. These programs aid in the prevention and management of chronic diseases and injuries.
Whereas physiotherapists use hands-on treatment to manage conditions, disabilities, injuries, and disorders that affect your body’s movement and function. Many people see physiotherapists after suffering an injury or illness that prevents them from moving freely.
Depending on your condition, there are some instances where you will need just one of these services. At the same time, some injuries and conditions require assistance from both.
Finding an exercise physiologist
EPs work in both public and private health systems and fall into the group of health professionals called ‘allied health professionals’. To see an allied health professional, speak to your GP about organising a GP Management Plan.
GP management plans (GPMP) and team care arrangements (TCA) can help people with a chronic health condition to access needed care from a range of allied health professionals.
To find an EP, you can search using ESSA to help you find one in your area.