The difference between an Exercise Physiologist, Physio and Personal Trainer

Friday, 12 October 2018

Have you been thinking about getting some help with exercise but not sure who is the right person to see? Are you confused about the difference between an Exercise Physiologist, Physiotherapist and Personal trainer? Find all the answers below.

Exercise Physiologist

(Also known as Accredited Exercise Physiologist, AEP or EP).

  • Four-year university-trained allied health professional.
  • Design, deliver and evaluate safe and effective exercise for people with early stage through to chronic medical conditions, injuries or disabilities.
  • This includes cardiovascular (e.g. heart disease), metabolic (e.g. diabetes), neurological (e.g. Parkinson’s disease), musculoskeletal (e.g. back pain), cancers, kidney, respiratory / pulmonary (e.g. emphysema) and mental health, and any other conditions for which there is evidence that exercise has a benefit.
  • Must be accredited by a national organisation (ESSA) and complete continuing professional development to stay accredited.
  • Can provide services covered through Medicare, DVA, NDIS and private health insurers.

Example of when you would see an EP:

  • You have diabetes and are taking diabetes medications or insulin and want to start exercising.
  • You have chronic knee pain from an old football injury but want to be able to move more and experience less discomfort.


(Also known as Physio)

  • Four-year university-trained allied health professional.
  • Assess, diagnose, treat and prevent musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain, generally during acute or sub-acute stages.
  • May also undergo specialised training for other health conditions such as cardiac, pulmonary or neurologic rehabilitation.
  • Utilise a variety of modalities including massage, dry needling, exercise, joint mobilisation, ultrasound.
  • Must be registered with Physiotherapy Registrations Board/ AHPRA and complete continuing professional development.
  • Can provide services covered through Medicare, DVA, NDIS and private health insurers.

Examples of when you would see a Physio:

  • You fell and hurt your hip recently and are now limping and in pain.
  • You just started to get knee pain when running.

Personal Trainer

(Also known as PT)

  • Complete a TAFE course or course with another Registered Training Organisation (RTO) to obtain a minimum Certificate IV in Fitness.
  • Design and deliver exercise programs to healthy populations most often in a gym or outdoor setting.
  • There is not one governing body and therefore the fitness industry is not rigorously regulated. As such if you are thinking of seeking the assistance of a personal trainer it is a good idea to check their qualifications and experience first.
  • A good PT will be accredited with either Fitness Australia or Physical Activity Australia which requires them to undergo continuing professional development.

Example of when you would see a PT:

  • You are healthy with no injuries or conditions and want to start a program at the gym.
  • You have diabetes but are not on any medication and are otherwise healthy and keen to incorporate exercise into your life.
You don’t need to be an athlete, you just need to move a little more than you did yesterday.

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