What is an exercise physiologist?


3 minutes

04 November 2022

Man lifting weights on lawn

Exercise physiologists are experts in movement. Whether you’re seeking injury rehabilitation, pain management, or simply motivation, an exercise physiologist can help you reach your health goals.

You've likely heard of a Physiotherapist, but what about an Exercise Physiologist? Suari Price from Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) helps us answer some of your questions, including when you might see an EP and what kind of exercise they prescribe.

In this article

What does an Exercise Physiologist do?

Exercise Physiologists (AEPs) specialise in designing and delivering safe and effective exercise interventions for people, including those with chronic medical conditions, injuries, or disabilities.

Exercise physiologists also specialise in behaviour change.

“If you struggle to stick to exercise, a physiologist can coach and motivate you to increase physical activity by assessing your preferences, needs, barriers, and goals,” says Suari Price from Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA).

Exercise physiologists are multi-skilled and can work in a broad range of clinical and non-clinical settings, including hospitals, gyms, aged care, and the disability sector.

What qualifications does an EP have?

Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs) are university-qualified allied health professionals. A bachelor degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology is required to become an Exercise Physiologist. When it comes to the prescription of exercise, they are the most qualified professionals in Australia.

When should you see an Exercise Physiologist?

Exercise physiologists provide services to a range of people from those managing health conditions or injuries to those who are looking to boost performance.

You might see an AEP if you are:

  • Recovering from a work or sporting injury
  • Wanting advice on lifestyle modification
  • Living with a chronic condition like type 2 diabetes or heart disease
  • Pregnant or have recently had a baby and would like support choosing the right exercise
  • Have a disability (physical or neurological) and would like support choosing the right exercise
  • Wanting to improve your athletic performance
  • Experiencing issues with pelvic floor health/urinary incontinence
  • Living with chronic pain or acute pain
  • Living with a mental health condition
  • Wanting to maintain your independence as you age

Exercise Physiologists won’t diagnose an injury or illness, but will work alongside other health professionals, like your GP, physio or specialist to optimise treatment, says Price.

Your GP (or another medical professional) will often refer you to an AEP if they believe exercise can help with health outcomes.

What kind of exercises does an EP prescribe?

The kinds of exercise prescribed by an exercise physiologist will vary depending on your health status, fitness level, and individual needs. Exercise prescription is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

“Everybody is different with different challenges, different barriers to being active, and different goals,” says Lauren Sexton, Accredited Exercise Physiologist.

“As an exercise physiologist, we look at the whole picture and help to find the right exercise for the individual. For some people, getting out of a chair is a challenge, where as others may be training for a marathon.

Our job is to help them reach their health and lifestyle goals, whatever they may be.”

What is the difference between an EP and a physiotherapist?

While physiotherapists and exercise physiologists both focus on body movement and function for optimal health, their approaches are slightly different.

Physiotherapists can offer some hands-on treatments including massage and joint manipulation and electrotherapy such as ultrasound and TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). 1

An exercise physiologist specialises in clinical exercise interventions for people with a range of health issues. They focus on providing health-related information and advice, including counselling on maintaining a healthy lifestyle and creating individual exercise and rehabilitation programs.

Does health insurance cover exercise physiology?

If you’re an HBF member, you can check what you're covered for by logging on to myHBF or calling us on 133 423.

Extras explained – how much do I get back?

Certainty feels good, that’s why we’ve created a line-up of extras options that give you a guaranteed % back^ on your visits to popular services like Physio, Chiro, and Dental.

Explore HBF Extras


1Better Health Victoria- Physiotherapist Services


This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.

^Annual limits and waiting periods apply. Percentage back benefits are payable for services, programs and providers approved by HBF, when provider charges in accordance with the Member Plus schedule fee. Excludes Basic Extras and closed products.