My GP tells me I need to see an Exercise Physiologist, but what do they do?

Exercise Physiologists or Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs) are university trained health professionals who have undertaken extensive training to treat medical conditions and pain, with clinical exercise. Exercise Physiologists also work with those without any known conditions and help map out long term plans that help you achieve better health and prevent conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. This sort of preventative approach is particularly valuable for patients who have a known familial risk of particular cardiovascular and metabolic diseases or cancers.

Here at Melbourne Osteohealth, we take a holistic approach to treatment. We know exercise is critical in restoring health, confidence and function in people with injuries, pain or are at risk of disease and illness. Exercise is essential to achieving and maintaining good long-term health, mobility, mood and body composition – as well as in preventing and managing many chronic health conditions.

Exercise Physiologists start by assessing the physical capabilities, goals and needs of each patient. They prescribe holistic and individualised exercise prescriptions, assisting patients to regain endurance, strength, control and mobility. They treat people after injury or surgery, or to better manage specific health concerns.

An Exercise Physiologist can help you prevent and/or manage:

  • excess weight and obesity
  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes and gestational diabetes
  • osteoporosis and arthritis
  • mental health and mood related conditions
  • cancer and cancer recovery
  • chronic pain and chronic fatigue
  • pre and post-surgical rehabilitation
  • multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease
  • COPD and pulmonary disease
  • and many more… The list goes on!

The duties of an Exercise Physiologist can include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Comprehensive physical assessment
  • Analyze a patient’s medical history to assess their risk during exercise and to determine the best possible exercise and fitness regimen for the patient
  • Perform fitness and stress tests with medical equipment and analyze the resulting patient data
  • Measure blood pressure, oxygen usage, heart rhythm, and other key patient health indicators
  • Develop exercise programs to improve patients’ health also known as exercise prescription
  • Home, gym or other exercise programs to complete beyond the clinic
  • Discussion and education
  • Coordinating with your entire health care team
  • Telehealth communication to provide out-of-clinic support

As part of their role, Exercise Physiologists educate their patients about body mechanics, ergonomics, safe manual handling and lifting, and injury prevention. These sorts of exercise and education programs really allow patients to take an active part in managing their own health.

Patients are often referred to an AEP after surgery and are provided with specific, tailored post-operative rehabilitation programs. These programs are often developed in consultation with their treating doctors, and are based on up-to-date research evidence. Exercise physiologist’s co-ordinate care with your whole health team so everyone who is looking after you can be on the same page. AEPs work with their patients well beyond the acute or early stages of rehabilitation and can help progress you to full function and beyond by strengthening and stabilising the relevant areas with exercise.

Exercise physiologists aim to improve your overall health.

Exercise physiologists should not be confused with fitness trainers and instructors (including personal trainers) or athletic trainers. Exercise Physiologists are required to complete a minimum of four years at university, at both a graduate (Bachelor) and post-graduate (Masters) level. This provides qualification as both an Accredited Exercise Scientist, and then an Accredited Exercise Physiologist with the national regulatory body ESSA (Exercise and Sport Science Australia). By completing extensive study and over 500 hours of placement, Exercise Physiologists possess in-depth knowledge of the human body and how it responds to exercise. In comparison, Personal Trainers are required to complete certificate level education which can range anywhere from two weeks to twelve months for them to become qualified, including 50 hours of experience with healthy populations only.

Personal Trainers typically prescribe exercise for ‘healthy populations’, assisting those without medical conditions or injuries to stay fit and well with an exercise program. Exercise Physiologists are also able to see ‘healthy populations’, as well as care for people with musculoskeletal, neurological, cardiovascular, mental health, cancer and metabolic conditions. If you currently have a health concern, it’s recommended that your exercise and lifestyle advice should be coming from someone who is qualified to manage them and know exactly what exercise science can help your health condition.

Seeing an Exercise Physiologist will ensure that the other members of your healthcare team (doctors, specialists, surgeons, allied health) are notified of your assessment findings and progress along the way. The benefits of your different health professionals working together results in the best possible outcomes for you. Exercise Physiologists are recognised as allied health practitioners, therefore you may be eligible for Medicare and private health rebates.

The combinations that can be put together to create an exercise program for an individual are limitless! These days, many Exercise Physiologists use Exercise Prescription software. Here at Melbourne Osteohealth we use a software called Physitrack which we use to prescribe clinical home exercise and education. Not only does it prescribe exercise but encourages patients to track their exercise which means achieving faster and more effective recovery.

The three major factors that influence our health and longevity are genetics, the environment and behaviour. Because we have very little control over genetic factors, it is critical that we focus on the environmental and behavioural factors we can control to improve health. Not only do they prescribe exercise intervention and education… they give advice, support you and encourage lifestyle modification with a strong focus on achieving behavioural change.

Exercise physiologists will be in demand for years to come because with our modern lifestyles, many people don’t have the time or motivation to exercise (until they see an exercise physiologist), which means a rise in treatable conditions such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.

Being an exercise physiologist can be very rewarding. AEPs spend their days helping people to become fitter and healthier through exercise programmes that have been specially created for their patients as well as helping them to manage their on-going medical conditions.

To find out more about how an Exercise Physiologist can help you, call us on 8370 3044 or alternatively you can click the button below to book a time with Marissa

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