What is the Difference Between Physiotherapy, Exercise Physiology & Personal Training?
There are many types of health professionals that work within the industry and in various sectors. Sometimes, these sectors can overlap into others. When it comes to Physiotherapy, Exercise Physiology and Personal Training, let’s first describe what each of these health professionals do - and how they are similar - and then define how they are different.
Similarities Between Professions
A Physiotherapist will assess, diagnose and manage a wide variety of injuries, chronic conditions and disabilities. An Exercise Physiologist will use exercise as a way of preventing and managing chronic disease, injuries and disabilities. A Personal Trainer will provide exercise prescription and instruction to an 'apparently healthy' person. All three health professionals use exercise within their roles, however there are differences in their respective 'scope of practice,' outcomes and goals. Let’s take a look now at their differences.
Differences Between Professions
Firstly, to operate as a Physiotherapist or as an Exercise Physiologist, degree level university qualifications are required; whereas a Personal Trainer will generally have either a Certificate III or Certificate IV in Fitness.
A Physiotherapist is permitted to do certain things within their 'scope of practice' which neither an Exercise Physiologist nor a Personal Trainer is permitted to do. A Physiotherapist can diagnose injuries and conditions, and are permitted to use manual techniques such as massage, dry needling, joint mobilisation and manipulation. Physiotherapists can also prescribe or provide advice regarding assistive technology (ie: aids, appliances or equipment like walking aids or wheelchairs). Physiotherapists can work across all stages of injury rehabilitation but often focus on the acute stages.
In terms of the disability sector, a Physiotherapist will use different forms of exercise and stretches, along with passive and active movements, to assess and manage various disabilities. A Physiotherapist may also look at functional mobility such as transfers (getting in and out of a car/bed), balance and make assessments regarding how someone can move around and perform everyday tasks. Physiotherapy can be applied across all stages of an individual's life, depending on their needs and goals. Physiotherapists must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency to operate in Australia. Refer also to our previously published definition of a Neurophysiotherapist in our blog.
An Exercise Physiologist uses exercise as a form of treatment to manage chronic diseases, injuries and disabilities, but also works to prevent chronic disease from occurring. Exercise Physiologists often focus on the later stages of injury rehabilitation to assist a person to return to pre-injury sport and physical tasks. Within the disability sector, Exercise Physiologists can provide exercise, stretching and passive movement techniques.
An Exercise Physiologist can also work alongside a Physiotherapist or an Occupational Therapist to assist with achieving desired outcomes and goals. Exercise Physiologists also have an important role in behavioral change and education regarding self-management techniques to improve health, wellness and quality of life. Exercise Physiologists work with healthy people, people recovering from injury, people with chronic disease, people with disabilities, children or elite athletes to create exercise programs to help people achieve their goals in a safe manner. Exercise Physiologists are accredited by Exercise & Sports Science Australia. Also refer to our previously published blog article: 'What is a Exercise Physiology?' for more details.
Personal Trainers also deliver exercise programs, but they generally work with 'apparently healthy' individuals (meaning people who are not seeking clinical treatment, but rather are seeking to improve their general health, fitness and wellbeing). Personal Trainers generally focus more on weight loss / gain / management, body composition change, strength changes and athletic goals. Personal Trainers have a strong emphasis on increasing motivation and encouraging healthy exercise behaviours. A Personal Trainer will focus on person's goals and help them to achieve these goals, which may also include providing nutritional advice. Personal Trainers can work on an individual or group basis.
As mentioned, there are similarities between all three health professionals. However, as explained, there are also multiple differences between the professions, ie: how they are governed, mandatory qualifications and their permitted scope of practice. We hope that our explanations empower you to select the correct health professional for your goals and needs.
Personalised Treatment Aligned to Achieving Your Goals
If you or someone you love would like further guidance regarding Physiotherapy, Exercise Physiology or Personal Training, reach out to us to have a chat. We will take the time to understand what you'd like to achieve and integrate this into a personalised Support Plan to help you achieve your goals.
Body Agility Can Help You
Body Agility are nationally registered NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) providers of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, exercise physiology and personal training. Experience the Body Agility difference and experience exceptional care and customer service. We take the time to understand your NDIS Goals, to fully understand your condition, and to create a tailored Treatment Plan to help you achieve your goals.
What are YOUR goals? We can help. Contact us now, we have capacity to provide services to you immediately, right across the broader Perth region with home visits, or at one of our locations - or via video consultation (telehealth). We'd be delighted to hear from you. Book an appointment with one of our awesome health professionals here.
We have taken a peer reviewed, team approach to the creation of this article. Tash Thomas is Body Agility's Senior Exercise Physiologist, who also supervises our Personal Training team. Georgie McLaren peer reviewed this article, and is one of Body Agility's Physiotherapists.