What is an exercise physiologist?June 23, 2017
In this article, we had the chance to sit down with Fortius Exercise Physiologist Elizabeth Perrotta to learn more about the roadmap to this profession.
1. When and why did you decide to become an exercise physiologist?
I came out of high school with the initial plan of becoming a sports medicine physician. I have been very active my entire life, was a gymnast in my youth and continued to play competitive soccer. I’ve always had an interest in sport and health & fitness and thought this would be an excellent way to connect my passions into a career. Entering into university from a small town in Alberta, I had never really been exposed to the field of Sport Science or Kinesiology and really had no idea how broad of a field it is.
Luckily, through a family friend, I was exposed to Kinesiology—specifically the world of exercise physiology and the various avenues this field could cover. I got involved in the Work Physiology Lab at the U of A and assisted with work-specific testing for local and incumbent firefighters. I was also able to join the sport physiology group running pre-season camps and combine testing for the Edmonton Oilers (let’s go OILERS!) and Edmonton Eskimos. This was an amazing experience for me and up until this point I had no idea one could make a career of doing this.
2. Where did you get your education/certifications?
Flash forward to when I graduated from my Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. I knew I wanted to further my education and focus on Exercise Physiology. I had considered reverting to my initial plan and applying to medical school but something about that path just didn’t feel right. I came across a unique program at the University of Calgary and knew exactly where I wanted to go next.
It was a Master’s in Kinesiology program, but it was an applied program, as opposed to a standard thesis based Master’s degree. This was exactly what I was looking for! It allowed me to further my education in exercise physiology while including a considerable lab portion. We tested protocols and training techniques on other students and gained a thorough understanding of the effect of exercise and other stresses on the body, as it relates to health and human performance.
The Canadian Sport Institute of Calgary was also located at U of C at the time I was completing my degree which allowed me to shadow and assist with lab and field testing with some of our country’s national level athletes. This only fueled my passion further and I continued to volunteer (once I completed my Master’s and CEP certification) and work as a contracting exercise physiology technician for CSI Calgary until I made the move to Fortius.
3. What are the general educational requirements to enter this profession?
- Undergraduate degree in Kinesiology, Human Kinetics or similar discipline. Typically a Master’s education focusing on exercise physiology.
- CSEP (Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology) certification for Certified Exercise Physiologist or equivalent (such as ACSM) often requires specific undergraduate or graduate course to ensure knowledge base is there and includes a practical testing component to test your skills and application of the theory to real-world sport and clinical settings. Requires bi-annual completion of CEUs (continuing education credits).
- I completed the NSCA-CSCS to have a better practical understanding of the strength training component.
- CPR with AED
- I obtained a certificate in phlebotomy for safe practice of blood collection during physiological assessments.
- I also completed my ISAK Level 1 certificate in anthropometry for the accurate measurement of body composition.
4. What organization is responsible for governing the field of exercise physiology in BC or Canada?
a. Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP)
5. What continuing education is required?
- Annual membership renewal and CPR with AED renewal
- Biannual completion of minimum 30 CEUs
6. What areas of interest or personality traits would you typically see in an exercise physiologist?
- Geeks unite! Definitely a love of data and interpreting that data makes the job that much more exciting. When you are able to accurately measure and track changes in fitness and performance and show your client the improvements they’ve made, that’s what it’s all about.
- Attention to detail is KEY! It is important to be able to step back and view performance as the big picture goal, but as an exercise physiologist it is my job to ensure no stone is left unturned when trying to improve one’s health or performance. Some areas I can address directly, others I will refer to the specialists, but having a sound understanding in each component that contributes to the big picture of performance is essential in helping my clients achieve their goals efficiently and effectively.