Fix your pain, chronic disease with exercise physiology

By Vanessa Wiltshire

REFERRALS to exercise physiologists should be a priority for Australian GPs, according to Exercise is Medicine Australia spokesperson Jeff Coombes.

“The evidence is clear — exercise is medicine for the prevention and management of chronic conditions, including pain,” Prof Coombes said.

“Approximately half of all Australians are currently living with a chronic health condition. Exercise is one of the most powerful tools for preventing and managing chronic disease.

“Research published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport indicated a person’s physical activity level is one of the best predictors of health, and yet many GPs aren’t asking their patients how much they move, much less prescribing exercise.”

As part of Exercise Right for Doctors Week, an annual campaign that was held in November, EIM partnered with Exercise Right, an exercise physiology information and referral platform, to help educate doctors and practice nurses as to the importance of exercise for their patients.

Prof Coombes said medical students enrolled in a five-year medical degree spend an average of just five hours learning about exercise and physical activity.

“In addition, less than half (46.7%) of all Australian medical degrees teach future doctors about the national strength training guidelines,” he said.

“One study looking at over 7000 GPs and over 680,000 patient encounters found that there were less than 619 referrals to exercise physiologists.

“This is significant because exercise physiologists are the best placed allied health professionals for prescribing exercise to those living with chronic conditions, especially pain.

“Our desire is that through advocacy and education, we can encourage health care providers, with a specific focus on doctors and nurses, to review and assess every patient’s physical activity levels at every visit.”