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This science degree could see you transform lives with exercise

Exercise is the new medicine, and Clinical Exercise Physiology at QUT is the exercise science degree to do if you want to help people 

You may have heard the saying ‘exercise is medicine,’ but did you know you can have a career prescribing exercise to help people living with medical conditions?

Clinical exercise physiology is a growing field and a great option if you’re looking for a STEM career with variety.

Accredited Exercise Physiologists use their knowledge of human physiology to develop exercise plans for people living with acute and chronic conditions, injuries or disabilities.

And while it would be helpful, you don’t have to be deeply into science or exercise to follow this path.

QUT Bachelor of Clinical Exercise Physiology graduate Trent Darbyshire was into sport and exercise, but didn’t study science in year 12. And his fellow student Julia Davies only really connected with science after studying psychology. Both are now happily working in the field.

“I knew that I wanted a job that allowed me to work one-on-one with people,” Julia says.

“I also wanted variety, like I just didn’t want to do the same thing every single day. And working in health you work with so many different people.”

Julia says just as a GP prescribes medication, exercise physiologists prescribe exercise in order to treat, prevent and manage chronic and acute health conditions.

“So we work with people with diabetes. We work with people who have just gotten out of cardiac surgery. We work with people who have been injured. And we also work with healthy populations too.”

Since finishing her course, Julia has gone on to start a PhD and is keen to help add to the evidence base for exercise as a treatment for medical conditions. She’s also teaching clinical exercise physiology part-time and is about to start a role as the clinical exercise physiologist on a cancer trial.

Julia says the small class size at QUT meant she could get to know her teachers. “They really do care and if you put the effort in, they’ll put the effort in with you.”

A day in the life of a clinical exercise physiologist

Trent was initially planning on doing engineering after high school so he chose maths and physics subjects over science. Still, he says, physics came in handy, and he also studied health and physical education.

“Biology and chemistry would have been very helpful, but I was still able to pick it up by putting in the work in the first year,” Trent says.

Today, he’s working for a clinic that assists people with osteoporosis. Here’s what a typical day looks like.

6am Group exercise classes

I start the day leading group exercise classes. We do specialised medical exercise that’s targeted towards building bone density. This includes lifting weights, but also balance training to help our clients prevent falls. 

9am Scans and appointments 

Clients start arriving for scans. We do DEXA (dual x-ray absorptiometry) scans which measure bone density (thickness and strength of bones), with both new clients and clients returning for annual follow ups. 

In appointments we’re assessing clients based on their scans, getting their medical history via an interview and getting baseline measurements so we can work out an exercise plan and track their progress over time.

11-30am – 12 noon Lunch

12.00-1:00pm Data entry and paperwork

We work with a university to provide research data, with the permission of clients, so part of my day involves entering data. And there’s always client report writing to update as well as progress letters to GPs and allied health practitioners to do.

1pm Group exercise classes

2pm Head home

This post was created in partnership with QUT.

Looking for more inspiration in what to study? Our STEM + X guide is packed with ideas. No matter your passion or interest, there’s a STEM job to suit you.

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