The world of Allied Health is filled with many professionals who are skilled in helping patients enjoy good health. An exercise physiologist helps patients stay healthy through the use of exercise. They are trained to treat people’s medical issues with the use of exercise.

The competencies that an exercise physiologist has through University training; makes them more equipped than the ordinary personal trainer or physio at the gym. They have vast knowledge of the human body and they blend this insight with exercise for optimal health delivery. Exercise Physiologists facilitate physical and mental healing through their professional practice.

Based on their training, exercise physiologists have sound knowledge of the effects that exercise has on the cardiovascular system, endocrine system and musculoskeletal system. They can schedule exercise programs that help patients get rehabilitated or stay fit. They have a wide array of treatment options that they work with; they may recommend Pilates or home based/gym based exercise routines. Furthermore, their practice covers behavioural modification programs. Exercise physiologists can treat medical conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity, asthma, arthritis, depression, diabetes, osteoporosis, as well as other health conditions.

Director and head exercise physiologist at Live Well Rehab Brendan McCann outlines one of the core responsibilities of exercise physiologists is to help people develop new and healthy habits to enable them manage their medical condition. The dynamics, information and skill that they share help patients handle their health issues in the best way possible. Beyond this, they can work side by side with podiatrists, physiotherapists, physical therapists and occupational therapists.

Exercise physiologists have a rich stream of opportunities on where they can carry out their practice. They may work in hospitals, private practice, medical centres or gyms. The patients they treat can range from children to the elderly members of the society. Exercise physiologists can also work in the field of professional sport or in the area of sports medicine research. This is a very popular area of work and study, and is therefore the most competitive niche within the industry.

Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA) is the professional body that accredits all exercise physiologists in Australia.

How to start your career as an exercise physiologist

This career requires you to undertake a four year university degree course. You can study Exercise Physiology in most universities in Australia. The course covers nutrition, bio-mechanics, psychology and physiology. Part of the course work requirements is to create fitness and rehabilitation programs. Some of the Universities in Australia that offer this degree include QUT, Latrobe, University of Sydney, and Murdoch University.

In the event where the University of your choice does not offer a degree course in this discipline, there are other courses that can be chosen that still allow for your study of Exercise Physiology. For example, some universities offer relevant courses such as Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science, Bachelor of Applied Science or Bachelor of Science. These may be a three year degree course, but they can help you on your way to becoming an exercise physiologist.

At the end of your degree program, you would be eligible to apply for membership in ESSA. One of the things that can drive this career route is your passion. If you like physical activity and would love to help others manage their medical condition through exercise; then you need to give it a shot as an exercise physiologist.

As the elderly population in the society keeps growing, exercise physiologists would continue to witness an increased demand of their service. Most of our modern lifestyle puts limitations to how much physical activity people get engaged with. This is where an exercise physiologist comes in; he helps them build solid programs that help them stay fit. Ultimately, this would result in the rise of various health conditions receiving treatment through the use of exercise. Some of the medical conditions that can be addressed include high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.

It is obvious that a career as an exercise physiologist can be quite rewarding. You would help many people stay healthy, fit and full of vigour through the exercise programs that you create for them. You would also play major roles in helping them manage their medical condition in an effective way.

Who is an exercise physiologist?

An Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) is a graduate who has earned a University degree or its equivalent in this discipline. He specializes in preventing and managing chronic diseases/injuries with the use of exercise. AEPs can serve people challenged with the following:

  • Arthritis and Osteoporosis
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Obesity
  • Neuromuscular exercise therapy (Parkinsons disease, Multiple
  • Sclerosis and Cerebral Palsy)
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Post-surgical rehabilitation (Hip/Knee replacement, ACL
  • reconstruction)
  • Chronic pain and Fatigue
  • Cancer and Cancer treatment recovery
  • Mental health conditions
  • Diabetes and more

What differentiates Accredited Exercise Physiologists from other exercise professionals?

Here are some of the unique reasons:

  • They are trained to work with all kinds of people. They can handle chronic health conditions through the use of well-structured exercise programs. This is not common to other professionals.
  • They are University trained experts
  • They are eligible to register with WorkCover, the Department of Veterans Affair, Medicare Australia and are recognized by most private health insurers
  • They go through strict accreditation requirements before they are fully certified


Accredited Exercise Physiologists are different due to the following factors:

  • They can provide health modification counselling for people with chronic disease and injuries.
  • They have a good grasp of clinical exercise in treating or managing patients.
  • They have extensive knowledge and skill in the alternative health practice.

What differentiates accredited exercise physiologists from personal trainers?

Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEP) undergoes extensive training in the University, which qualifies them to treat patients with chronic medical conditions. AEPs also treat people who do not have any health challenge and help them map out long term plans to stay healthy. Their program helps people prevent conditions such as cancer and diabetes.

Most AEPs are equally qualified as Pilate’s instructors, personal trainers, physiotherapists, dieticians, etc. They have the requisite expertise to help you maximize the benefits of exercise.

exercise physiologist vs physiotherapist

What differentiates exercise physiologists from physiotherapists?

Accredited Exercise Physiologists and Physiotherapists are known as allied health professionals. However, the primary focus of AEPs is to use exercise to prevent, manage and treat chronic medical conditions. AEPs typically work with conditions such as (but this is not limited because they do so much more): osteoarthritis, heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, lower back pain, mental illness, some cancers, delaying cognitive decline and mental illness.

AEPs combine their expertise in exercise prescription and behavioural change to help their clients become their own health advocates. They have a growing number of clients since most individuals would like to age well.

We’d like to thank Brendan McCann for helping us put together this Careers in Focus piece. Follow him on Facebook or Google for his latest updates about the world of exercise physiology.