So, I’ve heard of a physio. I’ve also heard of exercise. But what is an exercise physiologist?!

More often than not, we begin a consult by answering the question:

“What’s the difference between an exercise physiologist and a physiotherapist?”

Not many people understand the role of an exercise physiologist and often get it confused with that of a physiotherapist. Both exercise physiologists and physiotherapists have similar end goals when it comes to treatment. However, the treatment path to recovery, may be different.  In today’s blog we will explain the difference between the two, so you understand what’s more suitable for your needs.



What’s the difference between an exercise physiologist and a physiotherapist?

Accredited exercise physiologists, (AEP) specialize in prescribing exercise for:

  • Management of chronic (long-term) health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease
  • Prevention and management of injuries and musculoskeletal concerns, like low back pain, etc
  • Lifestyle and behavior change
  • + more

In contrast, a physiotherapist specializes in assessing and diagnosing injuries and pain. They manage and treat these conditions with exercise prescription and passive treatment (e.g massage, acupuncture, cold/heat packs, etc). These passive treatments are usually provided in the acute phase (< 6 weeks) to relieve the pain and symptoms shortly after an injury. Visiting a physiotherapist in this phase is most beneficial.

Active treatment, such as exercise interventions, are usually provided in the mid to late phase of a rehabilitation program (> 6 weeks). Exercise physiologists focus mainly on this stage to help you return to activities of daily living and to the exercise/activities you enjoy – while progressing you to take your fitness levels to the next level.


What does an exercise physiologist do?

  • Design an individualized exercise program for your needs, abilities, goals and medical conditions.
  • Provide rehabilitation through exercise to help you manage and recover from injury, illness or surgery.
  • Teach you how to perform exercises safely.
  • Give you advice and education about how to maintain an active lifestyle and help you improve your quality of life and general health.

How to find an exercise physiologist?

  • AEP’s work in private practice or in the public health system.
  • To see an AEP in the private health system in Australia, you do not need a doctor’s referral. However, if your GP refers you to an AEP as part of care plan, Medicare may cover some of the costs. Ask your GP for more information.
  • If you have private health insurance, your health fund may cover part of the costs of seeing a private AEP
  • Contact us for more information