So, What is an Exercise Physiologist?

By Georgia Ferguson – Exercise Physiologist

Exercise physiology has been a profession for far less time than physiotherapy and therefore not many people know the extent of what we do day to day. Exercise physiology (EP) has been a career for over 40 years and is a 4-year university degree, the same as physiotherapy.

Exercise physiologists have been educated about the inner workings of the body and understand the pathophysiology behind many health conditions. We also know how exercise directly impacts on the pathophysiology of different health conditions and the intensities, frequencies, and types of activity required to elicit positive changes to your internal health. Similar to how a doctor will prescribe a specific medication for a health condition, exercise physiologists prescribe exercise that is tailored to you to create effective and lasting change to your health.

We truly believe that exercise is MEDICINE.

A myth that we often bust in our appointments is the belief that if you see an exercise physiologist (EP), you will be huffing, puffing, and sweating within your first session. This is untrue. We take the time to understand you holistically as a person and how your life, work, relationships, and activities can potentially be impacting your health (e.g. specific health condition, injury, pain, fatigue, stress, mental health). To do this, our first session can include lots of talking (I’m yet to find an EP that can’t talk under water) so that we can better understand your condition. We also do a lot of client education within that first session, as a big aim of ours is to equip you with the tools that eventually lead towards ‘self-management’ or ‘autonomy.’ We love you being able to walk away from our appointments better understanding your health condition and knowing a clear pathway through it and beyond.

Accredited exercise physiologists specialise in clinical exercise interventions for people with a broad range of health issues. Some health issues that we commonly help clients with include:

  • Chronic health conditions
    e.g. diabetes, heart disease, lung disease
  • Fatigue management
    e.g. long covid, post-viral fatigue, chronic fatigue
  • Women’s health conditions
    e.g. pre- & post-natal, endometriosis, PCOS, pelvic organ dysfunction (including pelvic organ prolapse)
  • Osteoporosis and osteopoenia – also treating those interested in preventing these conditions
  • Arthritis management
    i.e. osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Musculoskeletal injuries
    e.g. lower back pain, shoulder pain, hip pain
  • Neurological conditions
    e.g. Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke patients, spinal cord injuries
  • Oncology exercise – during treatment and after-care
  • Return to exercise and/or sport post-injury, surgery, or any other setbacks


The aims of exercise physiology interventions are to prevent or manage acute, sub-acute, or chronic disease or injury, and to assist in restoring one’s optimal physical function, health, or wellness. These interventions are individualised, research-based, and have a strong focus on behavioural change to ensure intervention effectiveness. It is important to note that when we say ‘exercise’ physiology, it doesn’t always mean that our focus needs to be getting you back into the gym or rehabilitation of an injury. It could also be with the aim to be ‘strong for life’ in whatever way that is meaningful for you. For example, making everyday activities like walking the dog, gardening, or spending time with your kids or grandchildren more achievable.

If anything noted above sounds like something you or someone you know would benefit from, please contact Higher Function to book in with one of our fantastic exercise physiologists.


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