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What is an Exercise Physiologist?

What is an Exercise Physiologist?

An Exercise Physiologist: What Do They Do?

Jarrod Wilson (Exercise Physiologist – Burnie)

You’re an Exercise Physiologist… so what is it that you do?

Exercise Physiologists are often confronted with this question, so if you are one to not know the answer, read on!

It is also common for Exercise Physiologists to be confused with Physiotherapists, Physio Assistants and even Personal Trainers.

Despite the profession existing for some time now, there is still relatively little awareness and knowledge of what an Exercise Physiologist does and what their role is within the health-care system.

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So what then is an Exercise Physiologist and what do they do?

An Accredited Exercise Physiologist (EP) is a University-qualified Allied Health Professional and is registered to practice through the peak organisation body that is Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA). They can be viewed as the most qualified exercise professional in their field.

An EP can work within a number of different environments including:

  • Private clinics (e.g. Physiotherapy clinic)
  • Public and private hospital settings
  • Workplace health and rehabilitation and corporate settings
  • Aged-care
  • Fitness centres, gyms and sporting/athletic clubs
  • Corporate settings
  • Research fields


An EP will assess for, and subsequently prescribe, safe and effective exercise working with multiple populations including people with acute (short term), sub-acute (medium term) and chronic (long term) medical conditions, injuries or disabilities. Put more simply an EP has a wide knowledge base with respect to how the human body functions, what can go wrong (and how it can go wrong) and what the best solution to treat or manage that problem. They truly are a ‘Mechanic’ of the human body.

Working as an EP in Private Practice (i.e. Coastal Physiotherapy)

Working as an EP in a private setting typically involves seeing people that are living in pain or are disabled or restricted in some other way. A patient is normally referred to an EP by their GP, their Physio or by another health professional who believes that a course of Exercise Physiology will benefit their condition. Here at Coastal Physiotherapy we certainly also welcome self-referrals which are now starting to become more popular as more people learn about the benefits of appropriate exercise for their well-being.

The EPs at our Burnie clinic (Simon and Jarrod) predominantly see people with musculoskeletal pain or injury (e.g. lower back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, knee pain) and work together with them to develop the necessary strength, mobility, and stability that they require to regain function and reduce pain and/or disability. Unfortunately for most people in this position, the process of recovering back to normal life again can be debilitating however an EP can be the best health professional to guide them through this difficult time.

An EP will also commonly see people with diabetes; cardiovascular disease – including hypertension (high blood pressure); osteoporosis, arthritis; mental health conditions (depression, anxiety, stress, etc.), obesity; COPD; asthma, cancer; hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol); asthma and many other health conditions.

A vast majority of the people that consult an EP will have multiple musculoskeletal and/or health problems. For example, a patient may present with chronic lower back pain as their main problem however will also have a history of depression, high blood pressure and they may be overweight. Despite this not being the ideal health presentation an EP is very used to working with people in this position and are the most qualified exercise professionals to do so. Therefore when consulting an EP for advice on a particular injury or condition, you should feel comfortable to bring up any additional issues so that the EP can safely negotiate these within your management plan. An EP will also provide enough time in each appointment to discuss any issues, to educate and help you understand your condition and what to do about it. This can be a point of difference between other health professionals who may provide a diagnosis yet no education in terms of a solution to the problem.

What is the difference between an EP and a Physio?

A Physio and EP both prescribe exercises for their patients so often this is where there can be some overlap and confusion between the role of a Physio and an EP.

The main difference is that an EP cannot and will not provide manual therapy (hands-on treatment) that a Physio is renowned for. Manual therapy encompasses treatments such as massage, joint mobilisation, manipulation and dry needling. An EP does not train in manual therapy at University and it is outside their scope of practice.

Exercise rehabilitation forms a significant part of the recovery of an injury, so often a patient who has started seeing a Physio will either reduce or cease Physio treatment and, if required, will then commence with a course of Exercise Physiology. Consequently that patient will likely have a better rehabilitation outcome and be able to prevent recurrent episodes of pain/injury in the future.

Another point of difference is that a Physio will normally see an injured patient first, can provide a diagnosis and generally will not see a patient for as long a timeframe. This means that a Physio will typically see more acute-based injuries as opposed to an EP who works with people who have chronic injuries and conditions.

An EP can also see healthy, injury-free people who just want to consult a professional about any health and/or fitness goals related to their lifestyle.

Of course there are always some exceptions to the norm when we look at the differences between an EP and a Physio. It is sometimes difficult to know the difference which can explain the confusion.

Our Environment

The expansive rehabilitation facility at Coastal Physiotherapy’s Burnie clinic is equipped to make a consultation with one of our EPs seem like an easy process. There are two private consultation rooms within the large gym area where our EPs can work with you to achieve any goals you may have.

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Now that you have learnt what an Exercise Physiologist is and what they do, you’ll know exactly what to expect in an appointment.

Simon and Jarrod are experienced Exercise Physiologists, both of whom work out of our Burnie clinic and can help with any problems that you may have.

For more information about how we can help you here at Coastal Physiotherapy, call our Burnie clinic today on 64314586.