Know the Difference: Physiotherapy or Exercise Physiology – Lauren Turner AEP

Allied Health Professionals comprise a vast variety of professions which play different roles in providing support for each individual in enhancing their health and wellbeing.  Occupational therapy, speech pathology, psychology, physiotherapy and dietetics are just some of these professions. Exercise Physiology is a relatively young allied health profession and in some cases is not fully understood by the general population. A common question asked is “what is the difference between Exercise Physiology and Physiotherapy?”. These two professions are both closely linked, and whilst they aim to achieve similar outcomes, each focuses on a different stage of management.  Consequently, the treatment paths between Physiotherapy and Exercise Physiology will differ. By understanding the different services each of these professions provide, you can decide which service provider may be the best in your situation.




According to Allied Health Professionals Australia:


“Physiotherapists are experts in the structure of the human body and its movement. They work with people of all ages to treat a broad range of health conditions including sports injuries and musculoskeletal conditions as well as chronic health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, osteoarthritis and stroke. Physiotherapists are involved in the assessment, diagnosis, planning and management of patient care.”[1]


The majority of a physiotherapist’s work is done during the diagnosis and acute phase of an injury or condition. They provide a wide range of services which include exercise programs, airway clearance techniques and breathing exercises, joint manipulation and mobilisation, massage, acupuncture and dry needling, hydrotherapy and assistance in the use of mobility aids (e.g. Splints, walking sticks, wheelchairs). Treatment is aimed towards recovery from injury, restoring mobility and functionality, and prevention of re-injury.[2]


Exercise Physiology


Allied Health Professionals Australia describes Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEP) as professionals who:


“specialise in clinical exercise interventions for people with a broad range of health issues. Those people may be at risk of developing, or have existing, medical conditions and injuries. The aims of exercise physiology interventions are to prevent or manage acute, sub-acute or chronic disease or injury, and assist in restoring one’s optimal physical function, health or wellness. These interventions are exercise-based and include health and physical activity education, advice and support and lifestyle modification with a strong focus on achieving behavioural change.”[3]


AEP’s are qualified to provide support for a range of conditions including musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, pulmonary, cancer, metabolic, mental health and neurological conditions, as well as assisting in pre and post-surgical rehabilitation. Interventions are designed for long term management and prevention of further injury or comorbidities. Whilst physiotherapists provide a wider range of services, AEP’s purely prescribe exercise to help improve strength, mobility and quality of life of each individual.

[1] Allied Health Professions Australia, Physiotherapy (2017) AHPA <>.


[2] Australian Physiotherapy Association, What is Phsyio? (2017) Choose Physio <>.


[3] Allied Health Professions Australia, Exercise Physiology (2017) AHPA <>.