Clinical Exercise Physiology is a relatively new healthcare profession that has been around since the late 1960s. It is a fascinating and developing profession that has recently been accepted and defined as an occupation. Clinical Exercise Physiology is concerned with the investigation of human physiological changes during physical activity and the delivery of treatment services to mitigate and prevent chronic disease. Clinical Exercise Physiologists administer exercise testing and therapeutic training programs for individuals with chronic health disorders, including but not limited to cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease and metabolic disorders. They use exercise as medicine to assist healthcare providers and patients to manage and reduce the risk.
Because Exercise Physiology is a new occupation, it can be easily confused with Physical Therapy. Both professions are involved with physical activity and human kinetics so there is some overlap. However, an Exercise Physiologist might work more in conjunction with cardiology, pulmonology, and internal medicine. Whereas, a Physical Therapist is more concerned with patient ambulation and treatment of acute orthopedic injuries and pain. One can think of Exercise Physiology as doing the same for your heart, lungs, and internal organs as what a physical therapist does for your bones and muscles after an injury.
In a typical appointment, the Clinical Exercise Physiologist will obtain a patient’s medical history and administer exercise-related tests such as an electrocardiogram, cardiac stress test and spirometry. They will also carry out assessments of body composition, muscular strength, endurance, flexibility, mobility, coordination and balance. Then an Exercise Physiologist can consult with a patient to prescribe an exercise program that will be relevant to their medical condition and desired health outcomes. The goal is to counsel the patient into adhering to an enjoyable lifestyle that includes habitual exercise. The main objective is improving aerobic endurance and whole-body strength in order to enable those with a chronic disease to live a full life and achieve management of their disease.
Many people associate exercise as a means of gaining confidence by looking and feeling your best, in addition to burning energy, engaging in fun activities and stress relief. These are all great benefits of exercise; however, the greatest benefit of exercise may be that it is the primary prevention of up to 34 chronic diseases and disorders. This includes ischemic heart disease, diabetes, and cancer which are some of the leading causes of death around the world. Many chronic diseases need not be inevitable when physical activity is used as a therapy and treatment for prevention. That is why the role of an Exercise Physiologist, along with medical providers, in making physical activity assessment and promotion a standard in clinical care is so important.
As decades of research have shown that exercise is an effective medicine in the management of several chronic diseases, Clinical Exercise Physiologists are becoming more widespread in healthcare. They are commonly involved in cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, as well as bariatric clinics, stress testing departments, and cancer rehabilitation. Over time their value and skillset will continue to become more familiar to the public. It will become more common to find a Clinical Exercise Physiologist in a doctor’s office, hospital, and a medical fitness facility.
At the moment, this specialty is available at Alfardan Medical with Northwestern Medicine (AMNM), an ambulatory care center that provides high-quality, multidisciplinary medical care, and patient service at Lusail, Qatar. Members of the public are invited to book an appointment through 4004 6000 or visit amnm.com for more information.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. 2011