02.Exercise and medicine
Sports physician or sports medicine doctor
A sports physician is a medical practitioner who has gained specialist standard qualifications in sport and exercise medicine and holds the qualification of Fellow of the Australasian College of Sports Physicians. A sports medicine doctor has typically qualified as a GP, then done additional formal training in sports medicine.
Like GPs, a typical sports medicine doctor has trained in all areas of medicine, but also undergone further training in diagnosing and coordinating management of acute or chronic musculoskeletal or sports injuries. These injuries can involve muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, cartilage and nerves. Sports medicine doctors may work in conjunction with physiotherapists and massage therapist, or refer you to specialists such as radiologists and orthopaedic surgeons.
Using exercise as medicine
Clinical research has consistently shown that exercise, at the correct intensity and duration, decreases the risk of disease (such as cancer), chronic health conditions (such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, arthritis and osteoporosis) and obesity, as well as improving overall quality of life and mental health.
Exercise is Medicine Australia is an initiative from ESSA and the American College of Sports Medicine, and aims to get doctors prescribing exercise – via qualified allied health professionals - for prevention, treatment and management of many chronic diseases. The website includes fact sheets about exercise and various diseases and conditions.
Safe to start?
If you’re ready to start exercising but haven’t been physically active for a while, it’s recommended you see a doctor first if you:
- Are over 40.
- Get very breathless or suffer chest pains from moderate physical activity.
- Often faint or have spells of severe dizziness.
- Think you might have heart disease or your doctor has said you have heart problems.
- Have certain heart disease risk factors, such as smoking, being overweight, high blood cholesterol or high blood pressure.
- Are pregnant.
If your doctor has any concerns about your health in relation to exercising, they may refer you to an exercise physiologist, physiotherapist or another appropriate allied health professional.
For a summary of the qualifications, registration requirements and type of client each exercise expert deals with, download this handy reference table.