What is Exercise Physiology?

 In Exercise and Health

Exercise Physiology

Exercise Physiology is the practice of using exercise, lifestyle and behavioural change modification for the management and prevention of chronic disease, illness, and disabilities (i.e. diabetes, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease, etc.). An exercise physiologist is a movement and exercise specialist. They are recognised allied health professionals who can provide personalised exercise interventions to improve general health and wellbeing and enhance physical performance.

Who can an Exercise Physiologist help?

Exercise physiologists provide evidence-based treatment to a plethora of populations; whether that be for general health, athletic performance, or with complex medical health conditions. Their skills are particularly well received by clients looking to age well and independently. An Exercise Physiologist can assist clients seeking to gain confidence in their movement, when returning to activities following injury. Their skills translate to performance enhancement across a variety of athletic populations and skill levels, be that of the ‘weekend warrior’ to elite athlete. Finally, exercise physiologists are specifically trained and skilled to provide safe and effective exercise to people living with chronic medical conditions. These conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • Cardiovascular diseases (i.e. coronary artery disease, heart failure, etc.)
  • Metabolic diseases (i.e. insulin sensitivity, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, obesity, etc.)
  • Neurological/movement disorders (i.e. stroke, spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s Disease, etc.),
  • Muscle, bone and joint diseases (i.e. fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, etc.),
  • Cancers,
  • Respiratory and pulmonary dysfunction (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, etc.)
  • Mental health (depression, anxiety, etc.).

So, what is the difference between an Exercise Physiologist and a Personal Trainer?

I’m glad you asked! Exercise Physiologists are university qualified and have undertaken extensive training to treat clients with complex conditions or looking to obtain advanced movement and exercise capacities. It is an essential requirement that an Exercise Physiologist stays abreast on the latest research and technology to provide the best possible clinical outcome for clients of all health and fitness statuses.

Let’s talk chronic disease for a moment.

Prepare yourself for some worrying stats here:

  • Chronic disease is the leading cause of ill health, disability, and death in Australia (Australian Institute of Health, 2016).
  • Australians are living longer than ever but with higher rates of chronic disease, suggesting a decreased quality of life (National Report Card, 2016).
  • Half of Australian’s (more than 11 million) have at least one chronic disease. One quarter have two or more (National Report Card, 2016).
  • Chronic disease costs the health system an average of $27 billion (Australian Institute of Health, 2016).
  • High out-of-pocket expense for people living with chronic disease is a serious problem. The following table illustrates the average out-of-pocket expense for individuals living with chronic disease. (Australian Journal of Primary Health, 2016).

Chronic disease has the potential to overwhelm the health budget and our health services while severely limiting communities and families. The problem is rapidly increasing due to changes in our lifestyle and our ageing population. Have you noticed the significant influx of 24/7 gyms, brand new health trends, education, research and ‘health products’ flooding our social media and supermarket shelves? Yet, preventable diseases remain on the rise. We are still a nation struggling with the epidemic of obesity, cancer, and heart disease.

So, how do we fix this, how do I manage my disease or PREVENT the onset of disease?

The lifestyle-related behaviours causing disease are complex and ingrained into everyday life. Prevention and management requires a personalised approach via professional evidenced-based care, that moves beyond people’s personal choices to one that educates and empowers them to lead healthier lives. Let’s move to the evidence in the research.

The evidence behind the exercise!

“The proof is in the pudding…” Well, in this case – the proof is in the research! In the medical field, it is known as ‘best-practice’ to prescribe evidenced-based treatment. Evidenced-based is as it sounds – something that has been carefully studied and observed to find evidence proving a method to be successful. Which makes sense when it comes to medical treatment, right? When we have a problem, we want to know what has been proven to work best for anyone else who has been in our situation (with minimal risks and side effects of course).

The evidence suggests that exercise therapy is a highly effective treatment.  Strong scientific documentation (i.e. many relevant high-quality studies are available) highlights the effectiveness exercise therapy has on disease pathogenesis, alleviating the symptoms associated with the disease, enhancing general physical strength and fitness and hence quality of life of those weakened by disease. Exercise is the most accessible medicine we have available!

There is irrefutable evidence of the effectiveness of regular physical activity on the prevention of the onset of disease, illness and injury and premature death –  Premature death is unfortunately as scary as it sounds, defined as death occurring before an expected age and usually occurring by preventable causes. These could include hypertension (high blood pressure), insulin resistance (pre-diabetic marker), dyslipidemia (stroke and coronary artery disease risk factor), etc. These are all illnesses preventable by lifestyle modification. According to the research, the most effective modification we can action is exercise!

Hmmm… Should I see an Exercise Physiologist. How do I go about this?

Beginning an exercise program for the first time (or after a long period of inactivity) is associated with the risk of injury, risk of the ‘over-doing-its’, and risk of not doing the right movements to create the change you desire. Following a diagnosis of a serious disease, the risk of injury or symptom exacerbation while exercising unfortunately increases. In this instance, an Exercise Physiologist’s expertise should be consulted for the safest and most effective treatment path.

Great news! Here at POGO physio we provide Exercise Physiology services by our resident Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Ashlie Rainbow.

Ash is an Accredited Clinical Exercise Physiologist and a recognised allied health professional who can offer Medicare and private health rebates. DVA card holders and WorkCover clients are eligible for Exercise Physiology services at POGO Physio on referral from your GP. Contact our lovely admin team to enquire or book an appointment.

While illness, injury and disease are common in our society, it does not have to be considered a normality in your life. Take action, find the value of exercise and provide yourself with the right tools and resources to be striving for your best quality of life – you deserve it.

While illness, injury and disease are common in our society, it does not have to be considered a normality in your life. #performbetter @pogophysio Click To Tweet

What can I expect from my first visit with an Exercise Physiologist?

  1. Seek to best understand your condition or your sport performance goal, how it currently effects your life and seek to identify barriers and limitations,
  2. Explain how exercise will assist your condition or assist you in achieving your performance goals and how this will affect you and your quality of life,
  3. Work with you to create strategies and realistic goals,
  4. Complete a physical assessment, suitable to your physical capabilities, to prescribe the most suitable exercise program for you,
  5. Provide you with a personalised exercise program, behavioural modifications strategies if necessary and recommendations to achieve your goals or optimal health potential,
  6. Guide you through exercise movements to empower you to exercise independently and safely,
  7. Provide communication with your doctor/specialist/coach if necessary with any necessary details for you best care.

Ashlie Rainbow

Ashlie Rainbow
Exercise Physiologist

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