1. The qualification matters.
Exercise Physiologists (EPs) are not just glorified personal trainers. At the moment in Australia, it takes a minimum of 4 years of University training to earn a degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology, which includes over 400 hours of practical clinical experience. This then permits the individual to apply for accreditation as an Exercise Physiologist with ESSA, the Australian body for Exercise Science. This allows the EP to have the relevant insurance, professional contacts and medical referrals such as Medicare. To maintain their accreditation, they much invest a significant amount of time and money annually into professional development courses around the country.
2. There are Different Specialty Areas within Exercise Physiology.
Just like within Physiotherapy and medicine, an EP by law must graduate with qualifications and competency in all areas of Exercise Physiology, but will generally choose one or two specialty areas to base their career on.
These specialties include:
– Cardiac Testing (eg ECG stress testing in hospitals);
– Cardiac Rehabilitation (eg in-hospital following a heart attack);
– Clinical Pilates;
– Coaching (from kids through to elite level);
– Neurological Rehabilitation (eg following a stroke or Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis)
– Mental Health;
– Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation (eg strengthening after acute sports injuries, or for injury prevention);
– Chronic Pain Management (eg Low Back Pain);
– Research (typically university-based); and
– Public Health (eg weight management and disease prevention, education).
3. They are the future of our Health System.
In the last 5 years doctors globally have started to recognise the key role of exercise and weight management in prevention of increasingly common chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, depression & anxiety, osteoporosis, cancers and so on. With a health system that is currently in crisis (in terms of both costs and resources), EPs will be at the forefront of health care in the coming decades. Take home message: don’t be surprised next time you see your GP and they prescribe 60 minutes of physical activity a day and 5 visits to an Exercise Physiologist instead of medication and a handful of tests!
4. A good training program may seem easy at first.
The Commando off The Biggest Loser will scream at you until you finish 50 chin-ups in your first session. A “Bootcamp” instructor may demand you flip ridiculously huge tyres, regardless of your injury history. An EP will not. Every person has a unique set of challenges to work with, and it is imperative that both the EP and the client have clear and common goals established from the first session so that an individual program can be developed that will work for the long term. The research tells us over and over that the quick-fix programs not only do not work, but tend to make the problem (whether it be weight, injuries or pain) worse in the long term. Be patient, trust in the fact that you are in the best and most qualified hands, and acknowledge the relationship with your EP as the worthwhile investment into your health that it is. Think of it like this: you can put in the time and money to be healthy now, or you can put in the time and money being sick later. Both are hard. You choose.
5. The best trainer in the world cannot make up for a shitty diet.
In this day and age I would find it hard to believe that anyone genuinely does not know that being sedentary, eating processed foods, and smoking are bad for your health. But we still have the issue of increasing obesity and chronic disease. Hence, we know that simply educating people is not the whole picture, and that is where an EP comes into the equation by helping you to create the best possible health and lifestyle plan for you and your family.
But here’s the catch: simply “buying into your health” by seeing an EP for exercise sessions and an eating plan won’t make you healthier – you have to actually put in the hard yards and stick to it. If you are not meeting your weight loss goals and are working out every single day with your trainer while eating cereal, sandwiches, candy, soda, and other crap – don’t blame the trainer. Your weight, the way your body looks and your health are predominantly a function of what you put in your mouth. Exercise can positively alter what your body does with the food that you eat, in addition to the phenomenal emotional, physical, and mental benefits it offers.
The human body is an amazing machine and the knowledge that you can gain from working with an EP is an incredibly powerful tool; embrace it, and discover how good life can be when you achieve optimal health.
6. I am yet to meet a person who cannot benefit from a few sessions with an Exercise Physiologist.
Where most other health professionals are limited to fairly specific areas, an EP is truly is the “jack of all trades”. They work with clients of every age, from healthy to sick, from elite athlete to chronically ill, from families to individuals. They can: make you fitter; stronger; more injury proof; reduce your pain; improve your posture; improve your flexibility; make your spine stronger; rehabilitate your body (from toe injuries to hip replacements to heart attacks!); assist with weight loss – or weight gain; muscle sculpting; power; help to reverse chronic diseases (from depression to diabetes); even keep you fit during pregnancy and immediately after. If you have ever wanted to improve any aspect of your body, health or happiness, then you could benefit from seeing an EP.
Exercise Physiology sessions can be expensive for many people, so to get the most out of your sessions, do some prep work beforehand. Spend some time thinking about your goals, your main limitations, your strengths and weaknesses. Write them down, along with any questions you may have. Turn up on time, and listen to every word, and don’t be afraid to write notes!
What are you waiting for?!
– Kristy Shannon
Kristy has a degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Queensland and a Master’s Degree in Physiotherapy from Griffith University.