What is an Exercise Physiologist?
The first step to becoming an Exercise Physiologist was studying Exercise Science for 3 years where I learned about how the brain, muscles, bones, organs, heart and lungs work. I initially learnt about how to use specific exercises to improve an athlete’s running speed, jumping height, kicking distance, etc. One of our lessons at uni involved running on a treadmill after eating take away for 3 days in a row and also running on a treadmill after eating a healthy diet for 3 days in a row. This practical activity was to show us how it felt to exercise on a crappy diet versus a healthy diet. Let’s just say the crappy diet was hell.
I started my 3 year degree in Exercise Science because I wanted to be a biomechanist that studied a tennis player’s every stroke and was able to alter their technique to make them play faster, stronger, and smarter.
What I never expected was for my dream of being involved in sport to drastically change in my final year of my Bachelor in Exercise Science a friend of mine had a stroke at the age of 33. Here I was learning every detail about the human body so I could help a tennis player to serve harder and run faster while my friend needed my help to pick up a spoon and eat their meal independently. I lost my drive to correct a tennis player’s technique, and I found a new passion for teaching the brain, muscles, and nerves to pick up a spoon, do up buttons, and drink from a cup.
Nearly 10 years ago I knew right then and there that my studies weren’t finished. I then completed a Post-Grad in Exercise Rehabilitation where I studied for a further 12 months to go into the fine detail of how to help the brain learn, develop, and ‘rewire’. Over the next 7 years since graduating I specialised in helping people with Parkinson’s disease walk and balance better; people with stroke gain flexibility in their joints; people with autism give more eye contact, improve their coordination, and engage in play.
After working with adults with autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, and intellectual disability, I was then inspired to do a further 2 years of study, completing a Masters of Disability Studies, majoring in Autism and Communication Difficulties. This lead me to be accredited as a Developmental Educator.
Our exercises that we prescribe don’t just involve running, swimming, and push ups.
Our exercises could be as specific as standing on one foot with your eyes closed to improve the function of your inner ear. Or our exercises could involve changing the way that you hold a dumb bell or a barbell at the gym to alter the exact muscle that you are trying to strengthen. We use trigonometry, speed, biomechanics, and repetition to change the way the body learns and exercises, and I am passionate about Exercise Physiology because it truly can change a person’s life, just like the study of Exercise Physiology changed mine.