Could your patients benefit from being referred to an accredited exercise physiologist (AEP)?

Exercise physiologists are university-qualified allied health professionals who specialise in the delivery of exercise interventions for the prevention and management of chronic diseases and injuries. Exercise physiologists specialise in lifestyle modifications and help people make long-term behavioural change towards restoring optimal function, health or wellness. We use evidence-based practice to prescribe specific types and amounts of exercise for particular health conditions, just as doctors prescribe certain types and doses of medicine.

A large amount of research shows that exercise can effectively prevent or manage a variety of chronic diseases. Therefore, exercise physiologists have the ability to work with different populations including people with overweight or obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They work with cancer survivors by improving physical function and reducing cancer-related fatigue; and in mental health where current evidence suggests exercise is as effective as cognitive behavioural therapy or anti-depressant medication in combatting depression. Exercise physiologists can help target the side effects of medication, such as excessive and rapid weight gain from anti-psychotics. There are exercise physiologists working to manage musculoskeletal injuries such as chronic lower back pain and rehabilitation after surgeries, such as knee replacements.

According to a report by Deloitte Access Economics, exercise physiologist interventions are greatly underutilised in the Australian health setting, despite being efficacious and cost-effective. Less than 0.8% of eligible patients with type 2 diabetes were referred to or received the one Medicare-funded assessment service in 2012. General practitioners are able to refer patients to exercise physiologists under Medicare schemes, allowing Australians to access beneficial services. Referring to exercise physiologists on chronic disease management plans and type 2 diabetes group exercise services can significantly impact the management of chronic disease. Exercise physiologists can and should be considered when creating a chronic disease management plan with patients. They are the best-equipped allied health professionals to be able to prescribe targeted exercise therapy for a range of chronic health issues and focus on behavioural change to improve patients' adherence to exercise and find out what motivates them to improve their health.

You can also find more information about exercise physiologists on the Exercise Right website, where you can search for an exercise physiologist in your local area.

Article submitted by Anna-Louise Moule and Izzy Ramos.

Anna-Louise Moule is the Director and Senior AEP at Balanced Bodies Lifestyle Clinic located in Darlinghurst, Neutral Bay and Cremorne. Izzy Ramos works alongside Anna as an AEP and both have a particular focus on using 'exercise as medicine'.