What is Exercise Physiology?

Exercise Physiology is one of the many allied health professions which involves the study of our body’s short-term responses and long-term adaptations to physical exercise.

The study of how strength and endurance training cause changes to the muscular, cardiovascular and nuerohumoral systems, which in turn influence functional capacity and overall strength, is undertaken by exercise physiologists to understand the effect of exercise.  

Exercise physiologists specialise in treating people with a wide range of health issues with active exercise-based therapy. The wide range of health issues can come in the form of acute, sub-acute and chronic injuries or diseases. The individualised exercise prescriptions are aimed to prevent or manage these health issues with the goal of restoring optimal functional capacity and overall health.

Apart from exercise prescription, education and lifestyle modification are also part of what exercise physiologists do to achieve behavioural change for sustainable long-term results.

A particular focus exercise physiologists specialise in is the management of chronic diseases. People who require exercise physiology usually present with one or more of the following:  

  • Cardiovascular disease
    e.g. high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy
  • Pulmonary disease
    e.g. asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, restrictive lung disease, cystic fibrosis
  • Metabolic disease
    e.g. Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes
  • Musculoskeletal disease
    e.g. chronic back pain, arthritis, osteoporosis, general deconditioning
  • Neurological disease 
    e.g. stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy
  • Mental health disorders
    e.g. depression, anxiety, eating disorders

With exercise-based therapy, education and lifestyle modification, exercise physiologists are able to improve general muscle strength, cardiovascular endurance and overall functional capacity. This makes a positive impact on one’s quality of life despite living with chronic disease. 

Exercise physiologists often work closely alongside physiotherapists as both these professions complement each other in empowering you to achieve your goals. These two are similar in many ways but also differ from each other.

Find out the difference between an exercise physiologist and a physiotherapist here.