As an Exercise Physiologist, I have to say the most difficult thing I have to do every day is explain what it is that I actually do! If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me I probably wouldn’t have to do it anymore. Trust me, if it were up to me I would’ve come up with a different name for my profession because not only is it a little difficult to say, it doesn’t do much by way of explaining our services either.
So what is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP)?
At least 4 years of university study is required with most undergoing post-graduate study (which means two Uni degrees) studying anatomy and physiology, biomechanics, neurology and psychology among others. It’s because of this an AEP can help people use the power of their own physiology to fight illness, injury and disease.
What sorts of conditions do we treat, then?
We regularly help people with metabolic conditions such as diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome, or cardiovascular conditions like heart failure and peripheral vascular disease. We provide services to improve the quality of life for people with neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, stroke and Parkinson’s disease, and mental illnesses including eating disorders, depression, anxiety, PTSD and even schizophrenia. For patients with some cancers such as breast, prostate and bone cancers, the AEP can craft treatment to help frontline therapies like hormone/endocrine and chemotherapy be more effective. Respiratory conditions like asthma and emphysema can actually be improved by working with an AEP, and let’s not forget musculoskeletal concerns like surgical and injury rehabilitation and osteoporosis. Then there’s my obvious passion, pain and painful conditions, which is more than just injuries but includes arthritic conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, CRPS and phantom limb pain.
What do we do then for patients with these conditions?
By using the selective, adaptive and gradually increasing application of stress, we can stimulate the human body’s potential to address deficiency, deficit and dysfunction. For example, in the case of osteoporosis, using specific bone loading stress we actually can increase bone mineral density. In conditions like COPD, characterised by deteriorating lung function, symptoms like breathlessness can be significantly improved by strategies that lead to many changes from increased cellular mitochondrial count to improved diaphragm function. Often this will look like various types of exercise, movement and activities and all with next to no side-effects.