Exercise physiologists oversee the analysis, improvement, and maintenance of health and fitness; rehabilitation of heart disease and other chronic diseases and disabilities; and the professional guidance and counsel of athletes and others interested in sports training.
While just about anyone can call themselves a “personal trainer,” an exercise physiologist is a health care professional who has completed a degree in exercise physiology and/or has been certified by the American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP).
A CERTIFIED EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGIST (EPC) IS TRAINED TO:
- Administer exercise stress tests in healthy and unhealthy populations
- Evaluate a person’s overall health, with special attention to cardiovascular function and metabolism
- Develop individualized exercise prescriptions to increase physical fitness, strength, endurance, and flexibility
- Design customized exercise programs to meet health care needs and athletic performance goals
WHAT IS EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGY?
Exercise Physiology is the identification of physiological mechanisms underlying physical activity, the comprehensive delivery of treatment services concerned with the analysis, improvement, and maintenance of health and fitness, rehabilitation of heart disease and other chronic diseases and/or disabilities, and the professional guidance and counsel of athletes and others interested in athletics, sports training, and human adaptability to acute and chronic exercise.
WHO IS AN EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGIST?
An Exercise Physiologist is a person who has an academic degree in exercise physiology, or who is certified by ASEP to practice exercise physiology [via the Exercise Physiologist Certified exam (EPC)], or who has a doctorate degree with an academic degree or emphasis in exercise physiology from an accredited college or university.
WHERE DO EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGISTS WORK?
Exercise physiologists work in health promotion, fitness development, colleges and universities, clinical rehabilitation, and sport and athletic programs. Hence, they are hired as:
- sports and wellness program instructors and directors
- strength coaches for college, university and professional sports programs
- teachers at institutions of higher learning (i.e., if they have a PhD)
- researchers in companies that make physiological equipment for testing and evaluation
- managers and exercise leaders in corporate wellness programs
- instructors in health and fitness clubs
- supervisors of specialized health, fitness, wellness, or lifestyle programs in correctional services, police, fire, and emergency response organizations
- fitness instructors in YMCAs, spa and resort centers
- exercise specialists in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation programs
- fitness directors and managers in the military (such as the air force and army)
- exercise technologists in cardiology suites
- fitness instructors and supervisors at the state, regional, and national levels in sports and athletic programs including
- sports consultants in areas of psychology and training, biomechanics, efficiency and metabolism, and nutrition
- electrophysiology technologists in hospital settings
WHAT IS THE EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK FOR THE PROFESSION OF EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGY?
Increasingly, exercise physiology is recognized as a vital member of the allied health professions. Employment opportunities continue to expand within health, fitness (wellness), rehabilitation, and athletics. Graduates of accredited exercise physiology programs and/or those who meet the educational and hands-on requirements for the ASEP Exercise Physiologist Certified (EPC) exam find employment in diverse full-time positions, including but not limited to, health/fitness community, clinical/medical, and research/educational settings. The ASEP Board Certified exercise physiologist has an advantage in securing employment in the public sector.
EXERCISE IS A MEDICAL TREATMENT
According to ASEP, “scientific papers by Exercise Physiologists support the health benefits of regular exercise. Moreover, it is clear that an active lifestyle protects from many diseases.”
Doctors often prescribe exercise for patients who have been diagnosed with diabetes, cardiac (heart) disease or pulmonary (lung) disease. For these patients, exercise is a type of medical treatment, just like surgery or prescription drugs. Doctors refer these patients to Exercise Physiologists to ensure that the patient benefits from a medically sound, personalized exercise program.
Exercise physiologists work in health care and athletic training settings in colleges and universities, athletic programs, fitness facilities, corporate wellness programs, military training centers, rehabilitation clinics and hospitals. Aside from the exercise physiology title, they may obtain employment as clinicians, sports directors, coaches or trainers, wellness directors, exercise managers, program coordinators, rehabilitation specialists or several other titles.
Sports medicine and athletic training facilities employ exercise physiologists to create programs that help athletes reduce the number of injuries and recover faster from them. Makers of athletic equipment hire exercise physiologists to design sports gear. exercise physiologists also run their own businesses as sports or athletic performance consultants.
For patients referred by a doctor, exercise physiologists evaluate the patient’s medical and fitness needs and design a customized exercise program that promotes individual goals. Exercise physiologists also develop exercise plans for patients who want to maintain their health, reduce their risk of disease or speed recovery from certain types of illness or surgery.