doctor refer to exercise physiologist

8 Reasons your doctor should refer you to an exercise physiologist

The science is clear – exercise is medicine. But many doctors aren’t even asking their patients about their activity levels, much less prescribing exercise. If you want to start moving more, then it might be time for your doctor to refer you to an exercise physiologist.

So, what exactly is an exercise physiologist?

Accredited Exercise Physiologists are university-qualified allied health professionals. They specialise in designing and delivering safe and effective exercise interventions for people with chronic medical conditions, injuries or disabilities. Services delivered by an AEP are also claimable under compensable schemes such as Medicare and covered by most private health insurers. When it comes to the prescription of exercise, they are the most qualified professionals in Australia.

Here are 8 reasons your doctor might refer you to an exercise physiologist:

1. To improve your mental health

There’s plenty of research that demonstrates how valuable exercise is for both improving mental health and helping to protect against mental illnesses like depression. People living with mental illness often experience additional barriers to being active. An exercise physiologists understands these challenges and is specially trained to help you overcome them. They also have the skills and knowledge to deliver safe and individualised exercise prescription for those living with conditions like depression, anxiety and PTSD.

Read more: Exercising with depression


2. To help you manage a chronic condition or injury

Unlike other exercise professionals, exercise physiologists focus on clinical exercise prescription. Unlike, say, a personal trainer, who is trained to work with healthy populations, exercise physiologists specialise in working with those living with illness or injury. They understand the challenges and complexities associated with a range of conditions and will work alongside your healthcare team to deliver safe and effective exercise interventions.

3. To help you to increase your physical activity levels

 Exercise physiologists specialise in behaviour change. If you’ve ever tried (and failed) to start a “health kick” or a new exercise routine, then you know how tough it can be! An exercise physiologist can help you to make long-term lifestyle changes that you’ll actually stick to.

4. To overcome persisting pain caused by injury or overuse

Persistent pain (also called chronic pain) affects over 3 million Australians. Many people living with pain avoid exercise for fear that it will make it worse. In fact, research suggests that exercise may be one of the most effective pain management techniques. But – and it’s a big but – it must be prescribed by an expert! If you’re living with chronic pain, seeing an exercise physiologist can often help you to get more out of life.

Read more: Five yoga poses for back pain

refer to exercise physiologist

5. To improve your heart health

Cardiovascular disease kills one Australian every 12 minutes and is one of the nation’s biggest health issues. Research has repeatedly shown that living an active lifestyle can reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you have an increased risk of heart disease, either through lifestyle factors or family history, you should see an exercise physiologist to help you keep your heart healthy.

6. To rehabilitate following a cardiac event

Many people who have experienced a cardiac event are afraid of exercising. Although exercise is beneficial, it’s exceptionally important that exercise prescription is administered by an expert who is able to monitor you and ensure you’re exercise safely.

7. To control your diabetes or prediabetes

Exercise helps to regulate insulin levels, which helps with management of diabetes. It can also help control weight and reduce your risk of developing comorbidities, like heart disease, that are often associated with diabetes. An exercise physiologist understands the complex relationship between exercise and insulin and will work with you and your GP to help manage your condition.

Read more: 7 facts you should know about diabetes


8. To improve your recovery during and after cancer treatment

Every four minutes an Australian is diagnosed with cancer. Slowly, the way we approach cancer care is changing. An extensive and growing body of scientific research has established that exercise is a particularly potent medicine for the management of cancer.  One recent study found that women who began exercising after a breast cancer diagnosis halved their risk of dying compared to those who remained inactive.

Exercise physiologists who specialise in oncology can help to get patients moving sooner, which helps to manage fatigue and other side effects following both chemotherapy and surgery.

Learn more: Download our free Exercise & Cancer eBook


Finding an exercise physiologist

Moving more reduces your risk of virtually all chronic conditions, improves your mood and helps you to get more out of life. Yet, less than half of all Australians get enough exercise. We get it… It can be tough! It’s important to remember that there’s absolutely no shame in asking for help.

If you want to get healthier and live a more active life, ask your doctor to refer you to your local exercise physiologist. Alternatively, you can use this search function to find an Accredited Exercise Physiologist near you.

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