Latest News

Back to Latest News back


ESSA encourages GPs to refer more patients to exercise physiologists

ESSA encourages GPs to refer more patients to exercise physiologists
December 19, 2018

Victoria University researchers highlighted in a recent study that GPs are yet to be convinced of the benefits of referrals to Accredited Exercise Physiologists, despite the significant role that exercise physiology services and physical activity play in improving population health.

With more than 11 million Australians reportedly living with chronic diseases that would benefit from exercise, the paper, published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, found that only a tiny fraction of GPs refer patients to exercise physiologists.

“Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) strongly encourages that all medical professionals undertake further education about the role of exercise physiologists in the prevention and management of chronic disease, and for exercise to be included in to standard protocols for GPs,” says Anita Hobson-Powell, ESSA Chief Executive.

“Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs) are university-qualified allied health professionals who are equipped with the knowledge and skills to design, deliver and evaluate safe and effective exercise interventions for people with chronic medical conditions.”

The data shows that over the seven-year period (2009-16), out of more than 680,000 patient encounters from more than 7,000 GPs, there were only 619 referrals to exercise physiologists, or 0.91 per 1000 GP-patient encounters.

“Although referral rates to exercise physiologists increased over the years, our analysis shows there is a need to educate GPs, and to advocate for exercise medicine to be embedded into medical schools,” reported lead author Associate Professor Melinda Craike, of Victoria University’s College of Sport and Exercise Science.

Almost 50% of Australians have at least 1 of 8 common chronic conditions (cancer, cardiovascular disease, mental health, arthritis, back pain, lung disease, asthma, diabetes), a 5% increase over the last ten years. However, exercise can assist with the prevention of risk factors for chronic disease, with 32% of Australia’s total disease burden attributed to modifiable risk factors.

Physical activity is also beneficial for mental health through preventing or reducing the impact of mental health conditions, as well as reducing stress and anxiety. Results of the 2018 HUNT study stated that 12% of cases of depression could have been prevented by just one hour of exercise a week.

“Australia is one of only a few countries where allied healthcare professionals with specialised university education and training in exercise prescription and delivery (AEPs) provide services within a government-run healthcare system (Medicare). Australian GPs need to better utilise the services of, and refer patients on to, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist.”

Although a previous study investigated the factors that influenced doctors to query their patients' levels of physical activity, it was found that a GPs own physical activity level was linked with this frequency.

“While it’s great to see that those doctors who engage in exercise themselves are querying about physical activity, more needs to be done across the board to encourage and educate all GPs on discussing physical activity levels with their patients.”

Education is certainly available with Exercise is Medicine® Australia offering complimentary online and face-to-face workshops to educate GPs about the role of physical activity in the prevention and management of chronic disease. The workshop is accredited with the RACGP, APNA and the ACRRM and provides an understanding of the role of AEPs in chronic disease prevention and management.

Last month, Exercise Right, ESSA’s public awareness platform, introduced its newest campaign, Exercise Right for Doctors, in hopes to encourage GPs to make a habit of asking their clients how much they move, which received a wide range of positive feedback and engagement.

“Exercise Right for Doctors is also about motivating the general public to talk to their GP about how exercise can improve their health and well-being, and whether they require a referral to an exercise professional, such as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, as we know GPs aren’t asking the questions themselves.”

Educating GPs about the benefits of physical activity for specific population groups, including older adults, people with mental health conditions and people from non-English speaking backgrounds is vital, and educating and reminding them of the important relationship between a GP and AEP will benefit all Australians and their health.

To find your local Accredited Exercise Physiologist, visit the ESSA website.

Related Articles

29th November 2018 - ESSA highlights the key role of physical activity in breaking down disability barriers

27th November 2018 - ESSA highlights the urgent need for Australian children to increase their physical activity

28th September 2017 - ESSA highlights how physical activity is beneficial for all ages

Asking a small favour
We hope that you value the news that we publish so while you're here can we ask for your support?

The news we publish at is independent, credible (we hope) and free for you to access, with no pay walls and no annoying pop-up ads.

However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.

Published bi-monthly since 1997, the printed Australasian Leisure Management differs from this website in that it publishes longer, in-depth and analytical features covering aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues management.

Subscriptions cost just $90 a year.

Click here to subscribe.


supplier directory

The Complete Guide to Leisure Industry Products & Services.

See the directory see all

Felton Industries

Felton Industries is Australia’s leading designer, manufacturer and supplier of quality outdoor furniture and has been supplying premium seating solutions for all sporting, commercial, community…

read more

Parks / Play / Recreation / Sport / Venues


Aflex Inflatables

Aflex Inflatables are the leaders for obstacle courses, pool toys, waterparks and land-based watersides and fitness runs. They are industry leaders offering the widest range of pool, lake and beach…

read more

Aquatics / Play / Waterparks


Altitude Training Systems

ATS are global leaders in altitude training and research. From mask systems and inflatable tents to simulated altitude facilities, we help all athletes gain the competitive edge. Our…

read more

Fitness / Sport / Technology


Enta Australasia

As of the 1st July 2018, Enta Australasia Pty Ltd/Best Union has been rebranded as VIVATICKET Pty Ltd.  Click here to view the VIVATICKET Pty Ltd listing.  19th July 2018 - ENTA…

read more

Technology / Ticketing / Venues



Vticket Pty Ltd is the Australian and New Zealand distributor for Gateway Ticketing Systems Inc., the world leader in high-speed access control, admission control and ticketing software for the…

read more

Attractions / Security / Technology / Ticketing / Venues


Perfect Gym

Perfect Gym Solutions is a software as a service (SaaS) solution purpose-built to service the fitness industry, with over 1000 clients servicing over 2 million gym members across 40 countries making…

read more

Access / Fitness / Marketing / Recreation / Technology



The Fitness Generation is now part of NovoFit - see

read more

Fitness / Technology / Wellness


iDwala Pty Ltd

iDwala is the Community Sports Facility Specialist offering the highest quality designs and technical expertise to Councils, Schools and Sporting Clubs looking to create sporting…

read more

Consultants / Design / Recreation / Sport / Surfaces


get listed with our suppliers directory

Get your business noticed in our targeted directory. Viewed by 10,000 industry professionals per week!

list your business