Exercise physiologists help people maintain fitness and improve their health. They also provide assistance in recovering from injuries and diseases, and coping with disabilities.

These individuals are not simply personal trainers. A degree, special training, and certification are required. Exercise physiologists conduct muscular stress tests, examine patients’ cardiovascular system functions, and design customized workouts. The goal is to improve patients’ strength, flexibility, and endurance

Exercise physiologists create special exercise regimens for those with diseases of the heart and lungs. They also serve as athletic trainers and fitness directors, and work with doctors to provide rehabilitation and therapy services.

Exercise physiologists are well paid and in demand. The number of jobs for clinical and research physiologists has grown significantly in recent years. Students who pursue this career have the opportunity to experience a great degree of job satisfaction, as they help people lead fuller and less painful lives.

Exercise Physiologist Job Description

An exercise physiologist is concerned with assessing, improving, and maintaining patients’ fitness and health. The American Society of Exercise Physiologists has defined the profession as “the study, assessment, and improvement of human biomechanical movement.”

Practioners deal with acute and chronic conditions that can be corrected or relieved by exercising in certain ways. They work with athletes, people recovering from injuries, those with disabilities, and clients who simply wish to get into better shape.

The profession involves the use of equipment like treadmills and ergometers. Exercise physiologists analyze how the body responds to certain exercises, monitoring muscles, chemical reactions, and cardiorespiratory function.

These professionals often work in universities, where they do research or teach classes. Some are employed by hospitals to coordinate the institutions’ rehabilitation services.  Others work for professional sports teams, training facilities, and sports-medicine clinics. Physiologists are employed by the military, corporations, rehabilitation clinics, and others.

The responsibilities of an exercise physiologist include:
  • Meet with patients to understand their needs and wishes, and to review their medical histories;
  • Conduct diagnostic procedures like exercise stress tests to evaluate patients’ health;
  • Suggest exercise programs, discussing the benefits and any potential risks with patients;
  • Design individualized exercise and physical-therapy plans, based on patients’ needs and goals;
  • Administer exercise prescriptions designed to improve mobility and flexibility, hasten recovery from injury, and help patients live with disabilities;
  • Advise patients about nutrition and ongoing exercise regimens;
  • Teach classes and conduct research;
  • Obtain continuing education in the field.

Exercise Physiologist Prerequisites

An exercise physiologist must be dedicated to serving patients with their health and fitness needs. Good communication skills, sympathy, and understanding are required. The job sometimes involves dealing with people who are emotionally upset or in physical pain. Physiologists also must work in cooperation with doctors and medical specialists, hence an ability to coordinate with others is a necessity.

In addition to people skills, exercise physiologists must know how to use sophisticated equipment and analyze data. They need a deep understanding of the various systems of the human body.

This profession can entail irregular or long working hours, as well as stressful emergency situations. An ability to remain calm under pressure, while performing duties in a professional manner, is required.

How to become an Exercise Physiologist

To become an exercise physiologist, an undergraduate degree from a four-year college or university is mandatory. Students should major in exercise physiology, exercise science, or a related field. They are advised to take classes in nutrition, fitness, and kinesiology.

A master’s degree in exercise physiology qualifies a person to do research, clinical testing, and teaching. During the two-year master’s program, a student learns more about the cardiopulmonary and neuromuscular systems. Requirements for successful completion of these programs include writing a thesis, completing an internship, and passing exams.

Students who want to be teachers or researchers may obtain doctorate degrees in philosophy. They can specialize in issues affecting overweight, senior, or pediatric patients.

Exercise Physiologist Certification

In undergraduate school, many prospective exercise physiologists take a class in cardiopulmonary resuscitation. This qualifies them for CPR certificates.

The American Society of Exercise Physiologists also offers a certification program for professionals in the field who wish to advance their careers with additional credentials. Certain levels of education and experience, as well as passing written and applied exams, are required to be eligible for certification. After five years, a certificate must be renewed.

Exercise Physiologist Salary

Click here for Exercise Physiologist Salary Page

Exercise Physiologist Job Description Summary

Here is a short recap of the exercise physiologist job description:
  • Maintain fitness and improve patients’ health
  • Work with physiotherapist and athletic trainers
  • 4 years bachelor’s degree
  • Must be certified to practice
  • 9% employment growth by 2022