Exercise Physiology & Physiotherapy – What’s the difference?

What’s the difference between an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and a Physiotherapist? In my experience when asking people this question they generally have an idea what a physiotherapist is and usually thinks that an Accredited Exercise Physiologist is the same. Although these two professions are similar there are differences between Accredited Exercise Physiologists and Physiotherapists.

The similarities between Accredited Exercise Physiologists and Physiotherapists:

  • Accredited Exercise Physiologists and Physiotherapists both complete a minimum 4-year university degree with an option to complete Post-graduate, Masters and Doctoral qualifications
  • Ability to provide treatment to patients through Worker’s Compensation, Medicare, DVA or Private Health Care
  • Use and perform similar pre-screening techniques to gain subjective and objective measurements, previous medical and exercise history during initial patient assessment
  • Maintain Accreditation with their respective governing body and attend continuing education to maintain membership and accreditation

The differences between Accredited Exercise Physiologists Physiotherapists:

  • Physiotherapists perform testing to diagnose, whereas Accredited Exercise Physiologists perform screening and physiological assessments to develop exercise interventions
  • Accredited Exercise Physiologists provide “hands off” or active treatment through specific clinical exercise programmes whereas Physiotherapist provide “hands on” or passive treatment (joint manipulation, massage or mobilisation)
  • Physiotherapists are engaged in the acute phase of treatment whereas Accredited Exercise Physiologists are engaged in the sub-acute and chronic/remodelling phase of treatment


At the end of the day there is a degree of overlap between both professions as they assist with treating many different conditions and aspects of health. The take home message is that if you are in the acute stages of rehabilitation then a Physiotherapist may be the right person to seek treatment from. However, if you are in the sub-acute and recovery or chronic stage in rehabilitation then seeing an Accredited Exercise Physiologist for a specific and tailored exercise programme is warranted.

For further information regarding how an Absolute Balance Accredited Exercise Physiologist can assist you head to our website www.absolutebalance.com.au or the governing body Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA)


Troy Crimmin(B.Sc. – Sports, Grad Dip – Ex Sci, Grad Dip WHS)

Senior Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) (ESSAM)


Information sourced from:

  1. Australian Physiotherapy Association, https://www.physiotherapy.asn.au/
  1. Exercise and Sports Science Australia, https://www.essa.org.au/