What is an Exercise Physiologist?
Exercise physiologists (EPs) specialise in the delivery of exercise, lifestyle and behavioral modification programs for the prevention and management of chronic diseases and injuries.
An Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) will be a member of "Exercise and Sports Science Australia" (ESSA) which is the professional organization that represents and promotes tertiary trained exercise and sports science practitioners and their role in improving the health and well-being of all Australians.
The field of Exercise and Sports Science is a multidisciplinary field based on the disciplines of exercise physiology, biomechanics, motor control and motor development, exercise and sport psychology, and their interaction when applied to the whole person. Practitioners are trained to apply these disciplines to the understanding of human movement, sport and physical activity, to assist individuals with a chronic disease or injury, regain their health and work capacity, and to improve fitness, health and performance of all Australians.
Exercise Physiologists are experts at prescribing and suggesting exercise to help achieve your goals, whether those goals are increased fitness, improved quality of life, function around the home, or halting the progression of a disease state.
EPs provide physical activity and behavior change support for clients with conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, colon and prostate cancer, arthritis, chronic lung conditions and many other health conditions. Clients at risk with chronic musculoskeletal injuries or at risk of developing such a condition and requiring exercise rehabilitation programs to improve physical function or mobility may also benefit from services provided by an EP.
How can an Exercise Physiologists help me?
An Exercise Physiologist (EP) can help you by advising, educating and instructing you on how to utilize exercise to maximize your health. If you have any of the following conditions, an EP can help improve or maintain your quality of life and help you manage your illness or health targets to help you get the best long term benefits.
Exercise provides several important benefits to the patient with diabetes. Benefits include; improvement in blood glucose control, improved insulin sensitivity, decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, reduction in body weight and decreased levels of stress reducing medication requirements and allowing them to work effectively. Regular aerobic exercise can also assist in the prevention of Type II Diabetes, especially in patients with impaired glucose tolerance, a family history of diabetes or those who have had gestational diabetes.
Osteoporosis and Osteopenia
Regular exercise can assist patients with oesteopenia and those at risk, as it can significantly decrease the age related decline in bone mass, delaying onset of clinically diagnosed osetoporosis. Therapeutic exercise can also improve muscle strength, posture, balance, thereby reducing the risk of falls and subsequent fractures in both patients with osteopenia and osteoporosis.
Therapeutic exercise has been shown to be a very effective method of decreasing pain and increasing functional ability in patients with arthritis. In particular there is strong evidence of the effectiveness of exercise in the management of patients with knee and hip osteoarthritis.
Regular aerobic exercise has been shown to directly and indirectly cause positive changes in lipid and lipoprotein concentration in both patients with normal and abnormal lipid profiles. Exercise directly affects this profile by decreasing triglyceride concentration, increasing HDL concentration, and increases in enzyme activity thereby enhance reverse cholesterol transport. Indirectly, exercise can decrease body fat percentage also aiding this process.
High Blood Pressure
Elevated BP (hypertension) is one of the major modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In most cases the fist line of treatment is to reduce BP by beginning lifestyle changes, of which regular aerobic exercise is a principal component.
Along with the well published physical benefits of exercise, positive psychological benefits have also been shown to be linked with exercise. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise provides an anti-depressive effect not only decreasing depression and anxiety but improving mood, self concept and work behavior.
It is now generally clear that participation in some activity is better than none, and that more is generally better than less, at least up to levels meeting national physical activity guidelines. There are well defined physical and psychological issues associated with cancer which respond well to exercise participation. Therefore exercise should be seen as vital adjuvant therapy for maintaining, improving function, alleviating symptoms, assisting the recovery of survivors of slowing the decline of palliative care patients
De-conditioning is very common in people suffering from chronic injuries and also in people who have long term decreased levels of activity. If you are not as fit as you used to be or you feel yourself physically going backwards you may certainly benefit from the reconditioning services offered by an EP.
Exercise programs can be specifically designed to manage and improve back pain.These programs can be designed on a standalone basis or in conjunction through consultation with Physiotherapy treatment.
Specific exercise programs can be utilized specifically to aid with rehabilitation from a specific sporting or work related injury. If you are currently under the care of another health professional (eg, Physiotherapist) your EP can communicate and integrate an exercise program to assist and optimize your recovery or maintain your current health and fitness without jeopardizing your injury.
What will the EP do to help me?
Exercise Physiologists are trained in the use of the following techniques to assist you towards better health:
Health Education – 'Knowledge is Power'. The more you understand about your chronic medical condition, the better able you are to maintain your quality of life for as long as possible and keep your health under control. Your EP can educate you about how increasing activity can assist your health and they will work in conjunction with your other health professionals to maximize the control of your disease.
Physical Rehabilitation – Your EP will take into account your specific situation and can assist you by providing the following;
Individual exercise program for you to complete at home, with updates as required provided by your EP to optimize your progress.
Assistance and monitoring of your exercise program which are like having an expert personal trainer who knows what your body needs to optimize your health.
Group exercise class where you will get the support of an EP as well as support of other group members who may have similar health conditions to you. These sessions are conducted in a supportive environment, at each person's individual level with the goal of improving your health
Behaviour Coaching – The choices we make about diet, exercise and health have far reaching effects within ourselves and to those who are closest to us. And sometimes it can seem like there is so much to change that it is all too overwhelming. Your EP can help you identify behaviors that are less helpful to your health and guide you to health behavior changes to undertake fist which will assist you in maintaining long term healthy change. Getting assistance to change these into positive behaviors is highly important on your way towards better health and well being.
Exercise Progression planning – It is highly important to know where you're going with your exercise. Goal setting and steady exercise progression is important for success. Your EP will help you establish goals that are realistic, healthy and achievable. Then a specifically stepped exercise plan can be put into place.
What kind of training do Exercise Physiologists undertake?
An Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) is a 4-year University trained health professional who specialises in the use of exercise to safely assists in the recovery to optimal health, or maintenance of health in the presence of a chronic illness.
Exercise Physiologists receive intense University training in anatomy, muscle physiology, medical disease states, and the effects of exercise on the body, exercise prescription and wellness management through exercise.
Further to initial university training; in order for an AEP to maintain accreditation with Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA) they are required to complete mandatory continuing education annually.
Do I need a referral from my Doctor to see an EP?
No, a GP referral is not necessary, but your EP may discuss your case with your GP, providing you are happy for them to share information in the interests of improving your health.