Exercise Physiology

Exercise Physiology

Tailored exercise interventions for optimal health and wellness

How can exercise physiology nourish you? 

Exercise physiology is a type of therapy that uses exercise interventions to treat a broad range of health conditions.[1]

Accredited exercise physiologists (AEP)[2] are qualified allied health professionals who provide safe and effective exercise protocols to prevent and manage acute and chronic disease or injuries. As such, the purpose of this therapy is to restore physical function and achieve optimal health and wellness. 

Exercise for health and survival is not new to humans. Throughout human history, fitness has been needed when hunting for food or escaping from life and death situations. Fitness in the modern day is still a critical factor for promoting longevity and it is indisputable that regular movement and exercise[3] are effective tools for preventing chronic disease and promoting healthy ageing. In contrast, physical inactivity is a primary risk factor for many chronic health concerns.[4]

Exercise physiology is an important modality that can mitigate the risks associated with modern lifestyle diseases, with AEPs using a multidisciplinary approach to help people move and exercise their way to good health. 

In Australia, the Exercise and Sport Science Australia (ESSA) is recognised as the peak organisation for the allied health profession of exercise physiology[5] and is the sole accrediting authority for AEPs. 

Benefits of exercise physiology

Anyone can benefit from physical activity,[6] regardless of age group, sex, race or ethnicity, health status, weight or shape.

Exercise physiology offers a plethora of benefits for both the management and prevention[7] of chronic disease and injury, acute conditions, rehabilitation, disabilities and mental health conditions. Moreover, a growing body of research is highlighting the value that AEPs add[8] to a primary healthcare setting for chronic and non-communicable disease management. 

Literature supports the view that exercise and physical activity provide positive health outcomes for diseases[9] such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Daily exercise has been reported to lower the risk for bone fractures and improve muscle strength, as well as provide numerous cognitive benefits. 

Mounting evidence further suggests that exercise is linked to improved mental health.[10] AEPs play a crucial role[11] in motivating people to move more, which may help to mitigate and manage symptoms of poor mental health[12] such as depression, anxiety, stress or addiction.   

For individuals who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis (MS), it has been reported that exercise may improve aerobic fitness,[13] muscle strength, flexibility, balance, fatigue, cognition, quality of life and respiratory function. As such, exercise is recommended[14] for people with MS. 

Exercise physiology may assist in relieving symptoms related to:

Alcohol and drug addiction
Anxiety
Arthritis, rheumatism and osteoarthritis
Balance, stability and coordination
Cancer
Cerebral palsy
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME)
Dementia and alzheimer's
Depression
Diabetes
Flexibility, endurance and strength
Heart conditions and heart attack
Insomnia and sleep disorders
Joint issues
Mental health
Mobility and movement
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Muscle strain and injury
Nervous system and neurological conditions
Pain relief
Sports injuries
Sports performance
Sprains, strains and ligament injuries
Weight control and obesity
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What to expect from an exercise physiology session 

A session with an AEP is usually conducted on a one-to-one basis. AEPs cover a broad scope of practice, which will vary according to your individual needs. 

During your first session you can expect a comprehensive assessment of your health from your AEP. This is so your AEP can develop an exercise plan that is tailored to your unique requirements. After this session, you will likely be provided with a plan of action[15] for safe, effective, individualised exercise intervention.  

While the interventions are exercise-based, you may also expect physical activity education, advice and support for lifestyle modification. This is because the overarching purpose of exercise physiology is to provide you with the tools required for lasting behavioural change.

Medicare does not usually cover treatments offered by allied health professionals,[16] however, you may be eligible for rebates if you suffer from a long-term chronic health condition. Speak to your doctor who may provide you with a chronic disease management plan or a mental health treatment plan. 

As with any exercise or wellness program, please consult your medical professional before commencing exercise physiology. Exercise physiology should not substitute medical treatment that you receive. If you suffer from any underlying health condition it is important to discuss this with your accredited exercise physiologist prior who may tailor your treatment according to your needs. 

References

  1. Exercise Physiology | ahpa.com.au
  2. Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs) | essa.org.org.au
  3. Physical activity in older age: perspectives for healthy ageing and frailty | Biogerontology
  4. Impact of physical activity as a risk factor for chronic conditions: Australian Burden of Disease | aihw.gov.au
  5. Practice of Sports Science in Australia | health.gov.au
  6. Physical Activity Prevents Chronic Disease | cdc.gov
  7. Exercise physiology | healthywa.wa.gov.au
  8. Exercise physiologists: essential players in interdisciplinary teams for noncommunicable chronic disease management | Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare
  9. Physical activity, exercise, and chronic diseases: A brief review | Sports Medicine and Health Science
  10. Physical activity and mental health: evidence is growing | World Psychiatry
  11. World Mental Health Day: The Benefits of Exercise on our Mental Health | essa.org.au
  12. Consensus statement on the role of Accredited Exercise Physiologists in the treatment of mental disorders | mhaustralia.org
  13. Exercise prescription for patients with multiple sclerosis; potential benefits and practical recommendations | BMC Neurology
  14. Exercise and MS l msaustralia.org.au
  15. What to expect when you see an accredited exercise physiologist (AEP) for the first time | exerciseright.com.au
  16. Allied Health l healthdirect.gov.au