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Exercise physiology as a means of health management

Photo: Exercise physiology as a means of health management
An exercise physiologist is a qualified university graduate who possesses a wide range of skills and knowledge in preventing and managing chronic disease, injuries, and rehabilitating individuals to optimum health and fitness. These exercise physiologists can prescribe clinical exercises, offer health education, and even lifestyle modification programmes so that patients can manage and improve their conditions (1).

When an exercise physiologist meets a patient for the first time, they will initially explain to the patient how exercise overall can benefit their medical condition and improve their quality of life. Goals and strategy plans are discussed and a physical assessment is carried out so that the physiologist can determine which exercises are suitable to meet their patient’s needs and desired outcomes.

The exercise physiologist then prescribes the patient with a workout programme and will demonstrate each exercise to ensure the patient is confident in undertaking the exercise unsupervised. Patients are also given written reports, as many physiologists work in collaboration with medical doctors in order to track health and fitness progress (1).
Common and new applications of exercise physiology

Exercise physiology can be implemented in many clinical and non-clinical settings. In healthcare however exercise physiology is most commonly used to treat and manage patients who have a chronic condition, are being rehabilitated after surgery or trauma, or who are elderly. Some exercise physiologists also study the effects that exercise has on pathology and mechanisms by which exercise can reduce or sometimes even reverse the progression of disease. It is the duty of an exercise physiologist to stay aware of possible safety issues and health factors during workouts so that patients are much less likely to injure themselves.

Recently it has been discovered that exercise physiology is surprisingly effective in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Although the neurological condition is still incurable, patients can turn to exercise to strengthen and improve muscles, balance, and coordination so that they can carry out daily activities with minimal discomfort and independence. One American study found that Parkinson’s patients who carried out low intensity exercise improved their walking (2).

Exercise physiology for treatment and management of chronic conditions

Exercise can be successfully applied to the following chronic conditions to improve patient health and wellbeing (3);
  • Diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and obesity as a result of a metabolic syndrome. Sessions aim to help diabetic patients reduce and maintain blood sugar levels at a healthy level. Cardiac patients are given assistance so that they can lead as normal a life as possible after suffering from heart attacks or strokes. Overweight or obese patients are prescribed exercises so that they can reduce their risk of developing further health conditions and diseases. Sessions involve both light resistance and cardiovascular based exercises.
  • Arthritis and osteoporosis. Patients with these bone disorders require regular exercise and a healthy diet to build skeletal integrity and prevent possible bone fractures due to their weakened bones. Exercise physiology sessions focus on weight bearing, improving balance, and fall prevention exercises via the use of therapeutic bands and light weight lifting to improve bone strength.
  • Chronic respiratory diseases including asthma. Exercise can increase physical capacity and reduce patient anxiety about becoming breathless. Exercise physiology for respiratory disease patients can give patients greater independence, a better quality of life in carrying out day to day activities, and reduces feelings of exhaustion.
  • Cancer. Exercise physiology can provide patients with support during their diagnosis, treatment, and post treatment periods. Exercise can improve surgical outcomes, reduce the symptoms associated with cancer, and manage unfortunate side effects of radiation and chemotherapy. The exercise itself plays an important role in improving psychological health, physical strength and stamina, as well as reducing fat-gain, bone and muscle loss.
  • As a risk factor management for hypertension, pre-diabetes and high cholesterol levels.
  • Management of neurological and mental health conditions such as Parkinson’s, dementia, Alzheimer’s, anxiety or depression.
  • For rehabilitation post-surgery to build body strength.

Exercise physiology for strengthening and rehabilitating seniors

Exercise physiology can also be used to strengthen, condition and rehabilitate elderly patients in order to help them avoid diseases and to improve their quality of life. Implementing exercise physiology can be used as a treatment strategy for (4);
  • Weakened bones and to avoid the development of osteoporosis: exercises involve light weights to build bone strength.
  • Management of risk factors such as cardiac disease by focusing on cardiovascular endurance exercises to improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.
  • Prevention of falls and improvement of balance.
  • Musculoskeletal imbalances which are causing pain and aches in lower back, knees, hips, or shoulders.
  • Brain exercises to improve and maintain memory, reaction speeds and to hold attention.
  • Improving daily living activities to build stamina, energy levels and reduce pain.

Sources:

  1. MYEP - About Exercise Physiology
  2. Shake It Up
  3. MYEP - Chronic Conditions
  4. MYEP - Senior Health

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