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What is exercise physiology?  

03 May 2022

What is exercise physiology? 

Exercise Physiology is all about delivering safe and effective movement and exercise programs for people who want to improve their wellbeing, or who live with a chronic medical condition, injury or disability. 

Exercise physiologists can work in both clinical and non-clinical settings. That means everything from supervised exercise programs for people with, or at risk of, heart and lung disease, cancer and clinical obesity, to strength and conditioning for athletes and even general fitness in a gym setting. 

As a discipline, it encompasses education around health and physical activity alongside advice and support, with the end goal of behaviour change and an improved lifestyle.  

What do exercise physiologists do? 

Accredited exercise physiologists are university qualified allied health professionals. Their role is to work towards specific health outcomes for people experiencing a range of pathological conditions. 

They do that by prescribing individualised exercise programs, that they continually evaluate for safety, effectiveness, and appropriateness. They can also signpost clients to useful recreational opportunities as well as delivering counselling to reduce sedentary behaviours, and to help maintain this new, more active way of life.  

In short, exercise physiologists help people to move and exercise their way to a healthier lifestyle. 

By collaborating with other healthcare professionals (such as OT, physios, GPs, dietitians and psychologists), exercise physiologists provide rehabilitation services and work with people who have, are recovering from, or are at risk of developing, a huge range of conditions including diabetes, chronic pain, cardiovascular disease and depression.  

But they also work with adults who are simply keen to improve their fitness or their weight, developing plans that will increase fitness, flexibility, strength and stamina. 

Additionally, accredited exercise physiologists can deliver assessments of functional capacity and workplace assessments. 

Why work with an exercise physiologist? 

Research shows that exercise, at the right level for our individual capabilities, does improve both our quality of life, and its duration. And by quality, we even mean reducing the likelihood of chronic health conditions. 

To improve performance and fitness - or prevent/treat an illness - an exercise physiologist will observe how your body responds and adapts to muscular activity, and then create a program to suit. 

By working with an exercise physiologist, we can: 

  • improve movement 
  • increase strength 
  • improve general fitness 
  • better manage pain  
  • improve or maintain our independence 
  • maximise our quality of life. 

Who can benefit from exercise physiology? 

If you want to prevent and/or manage a chronic disease, recover faster from surgery or an injury, or create a healthier, more independent lifestyle, then an exercise physiologist can help. 

Exercise-based interventions can benefit people with, or at risk of:  

  • Cardiovascular disease (Including heart disease, coronary artery disease and cardiomyopathy)  
  • Pulmonary disease (Including COPD, bronchitis, emphysema, bronchitis, pulmonary fibrosis)  
  • Metabolic disease (Type 2 diabetes) 
  • Neurological disease (Including stroke, MS, motor Neuron, cerebral palsy) 
  • Musculoskeletal disease (Including chronic pain, arthritis, osteoporosis, osteopenia) 
  • Mental health conditions (Including depression and anxiety)  
  • Cancer (assistance with enhancing quality of life and managing pain).