Exercise Physiology and Rehabilitation Courses

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What is Exercise Physiology and Rehabilitation?

Physiology is the scientific study of the body and how it works, including all of the mechanical, physical and chemical processes that take place. Exercise physiology utilises this knowledge to prescribe effective exercise programs for rehabilitation and relief from pain and discomfort as well as to treat many chronic health conditions.

Exercise physiology and rehabilitation is a specialization within the field of kinesiology that uses exercise to restore good health and physical capability to people after illness or injury, or to improve the quality of life and manage physical function in people with chronic disease and physical disabilities.

What 3rd level courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland are offering courses in Exercise Physiology and Rehabilitation in the following subject areas:

  • Anatomy & Physiology (QQI Level 5) – Gain the knowledge, skills and competence to understand the structure and function of the human body.
  • ITEC Reflexology Diploma Inc. Anatomy & Physiology – This reflexology training course is intended for those who wish to gain a recognised professional Irish qualification and internationally recognised qualification (ITEC) in order to practice in Ireland and around the world as a professional reflexologist.
  • Diploma in Anatomy and Physiology of Human Body: Level 3 – Increase the understanding of the structure and function of the human body, anatomy and physiology.
  • Amputee & Prosthetic Rehabilitation – Gain a solid understanding and skills in the rehabilitation of patients with amputations and prostheses, with a focus on older people.

Studying Exercise Physiology and Rehabilitation in college

There are many courses in Exercise Physiology and Rehabilitation that may take place over a few days, weeks or even 1 year to 4 years depending on the course and modules selected. There are also part-time courses and night courses available so you can be sure to fit in your studies no matter what your schedule is like.

Courses will cover theory work through lectures, assignments, tutorials and taught modules. Assessments will take place on a continuous basis with written examinations and practical assignments combined in order to achieve a qualification. You could also consider work experience or a work shadow in the industry. Relevant work experience is a good way of demonstrating a genuine interest in the field and is regarded favourably by employers.

Work Experience will not only give you the opportunity to obtain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the industry, it will also give you a chance to do some essential networking with other industry professionals and gain valuable contacts for the future.

Career options

After completing an Exercise Physiology and Rehabilitation course you will be able to get started in a career that uses specific knowledge of the way the body responds to exercise and training.

As an exercise physiologist you will investigate how people respond and adapt to muscular activity and will use your skills and knowledge to improve their performance and fitness levels or to help prevent or treat illness.

You’ll typically provide scientific support to athletes and teams within one or several sports. This may involve monitoring training through the measurement and assessment of physical functions such as respiration, metabolism and the nervous, pulmonary and cardiovascular systems. You might also be involved in developing fitness training programmes to adequately prepare athletes for competition. If working as a clinical exercise physiologist in a hospital setting, you’ll provide expert advice on exercise for people with a range of chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, diabetes or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Accredited exercise physiologists work across a range of health settings including public and private hospitals, private and multidisciplinary clinics, government and not-for-profit organisations, workplace health and rehabilitation, aged care facilities, fitness centres, gymnasiums and sports organisations.

Clinical exercise physiologists might specialise in cardiac rehabilitation or respiratory physiology. If you’re working in a sport setting, you may choose to specialise in strength and conditioning. Specialisation may require undertaking further training and qualifications.

Once you’ve got experience, you can open your own practice or start working on a consultancy basis. You may move into related areas such as sports development.

Working hours will depend on whether you are self-employed, employed by a facility with set business hours or if you are contracted to various businesses or companies. Working hours typically include evenings and weekends to cover appointments with clients. When on tour or at training camps with athletes or teams, your working hours may be long. If you’re working in a hospital, your working hours are more likely to be Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm.

Related jobs include:

  • Exercise physiologist
  • Physiotherapist
  • Sports therapist
  • Personal trainer
  • Health improvement practitioner
  • Nutritionist
  • Sport and exercise psychologist
  • Clinical scientist, cardiac sciences
  • Fitness centre manager
  • Sports administrator
  • Sports coach
  • Sports development officer
  • Choreographer
  • Outdoor activities/education manager
  • Pharmacologist
  • Biomedical scientist
  • Clinical research associate
  • Clinical scientist, physiological sciences
  • Research scientist (medical)

Further study

After completing a course in Exercise Physiology and Rehabilitation you may choose to pursue further study in a specialist field to increase your knowledge base and skill set. Postgraduate study can also be used as a means to change career focus or to gain professional qualifications required to practise in certain career areas such as applied human physiology, environmental physiology, exercise biochemistry and nutrition to students of sport and exercise science, physical education, medicine, nursing and other related fields.


What is exercise physiology and why is it important?

Exercise physiologists analyze their patients’ fitness in order to help them improve their health or maintain good health. They help patients with heart disease and other chronic conditions, like diabetes or pulmonary (lung) disease, to regain their health.

What is the difference between an exercise physiologist and a physical therapist?

Exercise Physiology and Physical Therapy both use physical and exercise movements to assist individuals who suffer from fatal injuries or degenerative diseases. Physical therapy is to restore movement while exercise physiology aims at relieving symptoms like pain during physical practice.

Who should see an exercise physiologist?

There is a wide range of reasons why a person may benefit from consulting an accredited exercise physiologist. These include chronic disease management referrals after diagnosis of a range of conditions including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Metabolic disease
  • Neurological disease
  • Musculoskeletal disease (including arthritis, osteoporosis/osteopenia, acute and/or chronic musculoskeletal issues)
  • Depression and other mental health conditions
  • Cancer

Accredited exercise physiologists may also assist with:

  • Assessments of functional capacity
  • Advice on lifestyle modification to improve health status
  • Exercise prescriptions for strength and function improvement pre- and post-surgery
  • Workplace assessments.

Where can I study Exercise Physiology and Rehabilitation?

Explore your options here

Did You Know?

  • Ancient physicians, including Hippocrates (460–370 BCE) and Galen (129–200 CE), prescribed exercise to promote health and cure disease.
  • Aerobic exercise promotes autophagy, which can lead to increased plasticity in the brain and removal of deranged proteins and other cellular debris implicated in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
  • Muscle strengthening activities also help with disease risk and have demonstrated effectiveness as an alternative exercise strategy in the prevention of multimorbid diseases.
  • Listening to music while exercising can improve workout performance by 15%.
  • Exercising increases the production of cells that are responsible for learning and memory

Mariza Halliday

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