So you have decided to reach out to a health care professional with the aim of improving your health? Maybe that’s to improve pain, lose a little weight, get stronger, or a number of other possibilities. 

You have most probably been to, or know someone, that has seen a Physiotherapist before, but now you have been hearing about exercise physiology popping up in gyms, doctors offices and physiotherapy clinics across the board. 

So what are the similarities, what are the differences, and who is going to be the best fit for you?

What is Exercise Physiology?

Exercise physiology is a branch of science that stems directly from wealth of knowledge of exercise and sports medicine. 

Exercise Physiologists are trained in interpreting the latest findings in the research and converting that into manageable (and enjoyable) individual exercise plans for their clients that will help them to manage chronic conditions, musculoskeletal injuries and improve overall quality of life. 

An Exercise Physiologist’s goal is to bring the beneficial impacts of movement and exercise to their clients. The conditions and pathologies they have been trained to assist with according to Exercise and Sports Science Australia are:

  • Cancer 
  • Cardiovascular Conditions
  • Kidney 
  • Mental Health 
  • Metabolic 
  • Musculoskeletal 
  • Neurological/Neuromuscular 
  • Respiratory/Pulmonary 

What are the similarities between Exercise Physiology and Physiotherapy?

Both an Exercise Physiologist and a Physiotherapist are university qualified allied health care professionals boasting an in-depth skill set in cardiothoracic, neurological and musculoskeletal rehabilitation and:

  • Are recognised by Department of Veterans Affairs, Medicare, Private Health Insurers, Worker’s Compensation and NDIS
  • Can assist with lifestyle and behavioral coaching as well as providing health/ injury prevention education to their clients
  • Have minimum professional development and ongoing training requirements and undergoing multiple placements and internships throughout their studies
  • Be involved with injury rehabilitation, taping and group fitness

What are the differences between Exercise Physiology and Physiotherapy?

It is true there are some areas of overlap between the professions, but depending on your needs or stage of rehabilitation, selecting the right field for you can make all the difference. 

Exercise Physiologists typically ASSESS, TAILOR AND DELIVER Rehabilitation through the previously discussed similarities, but consider seeing an Exercise Physiologist if you also need any of the below:

  • Biomechanical movement and risk screening
  • Assessing safe functional capacity 
  • Metabolic and Diabetes education and monitoring
  • Workstation Assessments
  • Clinical Group Exercise Therapy 
  • Exercise Prescriptions for multiple and coexisting concerns, including high risk and post surgical clients
  • Exercise Prescriptions for chronic injuries (longer than 6 months)

Physiotherapists, in contrast typically DIAGNOSE, TREAT and PLAN Rehabilitation through the previously discussed similarities, but consider seeing a Physiotherapist if you also need:

  • Manual Therapy (massage, dry needling, manipulation or mobilization)
  • Exercise for specific areas of weakness or injury
  • Help with aids like crutches 
  • Diagnosis of recent acute and subacute injuries like sprains or muscle tears 

How do you choose between Exercise Physiology and Physiotherapy?

Exercise Physiologists and Physiotherapists have their own strengths and specialities. But ultimately they are all working towards improving the health and wellbeing of their clients. The two fields often have a harmonious relationship, with clients needing to see one or both at any time depending on what they need more focus on. 

Here at Integrate (formerly 8th Ave Physio), we understand and value the role of both professions in the healthcare space. This is why our Physio Team and Resident Exercise Physiologist work hand in hand in the clinic to make sure the goals of our clients can be most effectively addressed, empowering them to succeed and trust their own bodies again. 

For more information and resources check out Exercise and Sports Science Aus  and the Australian Physiotherapy Association websites for factsheets and guides.