Using exercise as medicine in the treatment and management of chronic diseases, lifestyle-related health conditions, and acute injuries.
Physical activity has been shown to be an effective tool for managing, treating, and preventing a range of health conditions – particularly chronic and lifestyle-related health conditions including diabetes, asthma, COPD, osteoporosis and osteoporotic fractures, chronic back pain, and overweight and obesity.
Likewise, exercise therapy – using the right intensity and amount of physical activity for each individual – is acknowledged to be effective in rehabilitating individuals following acute injury, surgery, or pregnancy.
What is Exercise Prescription?
Exercise Prescription refers to an individualised plan of strength – or fitness – related activities, which is developed by a fitness, mobility, or rehabilitation specialist in response to the specific needs of an individual client or patient. Each plan is uniquely designed to support or improve an individual’s health, physical function, wellbeing, and overall quality of life.
The intent of Exercise Prescription is to build or maintain strength, fitness, and conditioning through exercises that are appropriate the fitness, injuries and age of the client in a way that targets their health status, needs, preferences and interests.
The aim is to recommend a set of exercises tailored to the client and successfully employ behavioural techniques that encourage the client to be successful in that exercise routine. As a result, they will be able to see tangible proof of improvement and achieve their fitness, strength, or mobility goals.
The ultimate goal of exercise prescription is to enact behavioural change within the individual, to encourage their motivation to shift from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one, increasing the likely success of their health-based goals.
Physiotherapists and Exercise Prescription
Physiotherapists are university-trained in the areas of injury diagnosis, biomechanics, kinetics, biochemistry, and exercise science. They use their knowledge, skills, and training to:
- assess the impact of an individual’s health condition or injury on their muscle function, flexibility, mobility, and overall level of fitness.
- formulate and prescribe a customised exercise plan.
How do physiotherapists use Exercise Prescription?
People with musculoskeletal chronic health conditions or acute injuries, or those who are pre/post-operative, are frail, immunosuppressed or deconditioned, all have different exercise and fitness needs. The goal of the physiotherapist is to prescribe a course of exercise that will build muscles or muscle groups that are essential for stability and/or protect and support weak localised muscles and associated joints around an individual’s injury.
To ensure that Exercise Prescription is safe and effective, the physiotherapist will assess the individual and formulate a prescription that incorporates a set of suitable exercises appropriate to the individual’s needs.
In developing the exercise prescription, the physiotherapist will carefully consider a range of factors, including the client’s:
- baseline fitness
- muscle function
- aerobic capabilities
- injuries or chronic health conditions
- potentially harmful drugs, procedures or surgeries
- other complicating conditions that the client already suffers from
- exercise and movement preferences
- health, fitness and mobility goals.
What is included in an Exercise Prescription?
A physiotherapist will prescribe an exercise routine, in much the same way that a doctor will prescribe medication to treat or manage the symptoms of a health condition. The difference is that, rather than simply taking a pill as instructed by the doctor and pharmacist, an Exercise Prescription is comprised of several components, which will generally include:
Activities and exercise
This may be an aerobic activity, such as walking, cycling, or swimming, or strengthening exercises using weights or resistance bands, and stretching exercises, designed to increase strength, aerobic fitness, flexibility, range of motion and functional mobility.
The types of activity chosen will not only be tailored to the individual’s current physical capability, needs, and goals, but may also consider their preferences. As motivation is often key to ensuring an individual’s compliance with the exercise prescription, it is important to consider the individual’s preferences and recommend exercises or types of activities that the individual enjoys.
Client-specific weight, level of resistance and intensity
The prescription will generally recommend the individual use a particular level of resistance, perform a number of repetitions and sets, or aim for a specific target heart rate range or rate of perceived exertion (RPE). If using motorised equipment, such as an exercise bike or motorised treadmill, the prescription may include recommendations for the speed required.
Frequency and duration of activities and exercise
Depending on the prescribed activity or exercise, the physiotherapist may advise the individual of the length of time they should continue to perform each activity/exercise, or the entire program, without regard to the number of repetitions.
The physiotherapist will also prescribe the frequency with which the individual should engage in the prescribed activity or program.
A progression plan
The prescription will often include recommendations for increasing the frequency, duration, workload, number of repetitions, or intensity. For example, the individual may be advised to increase the weight being lifted when they find that they are able to comfortably perform more than 20 to 25 repetitions.
Any other recommendations
This may include further recommendations about specific precautions the individual should take with regard to any orthopaedic concerns, cardiopulmonary restrictions, or considerations, or any other existing or potential issues that the individual needs to be mindful of.
It is important for individuals to ensure that they consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any exercise program, to ensure that the recommended exercise plan aligns with their current fitness level and capabilities and is not contraindicated for any health concerns or injuries they may have.
Physiotherapists are university-trained exercise, mobility, and rehabilitation specialists, with expertise in the areas of injury diagnosis, biomechanics, and exercise science. They are experts in developing and prescribing customised exercise programs to assist individuals with musculoskeletal chronic health conditions, injuries, and other special health or fitness needs, to safely rebuild their strength, conditioning, flexibility, mobility and overall health and fitness.
Improve your physical health and wellbeing with Transcend Health’s Exercise Prescription Plan
Transcend Health offers a range of services to help clients improve their mobility, flexibility, and fitness, and increase their overall health and wellbeing. Talk to us today to arrange a one-on-one session with one of our physiotherapists or accredited exercise physiologists, who can assess your health status and muscle function and prescribe an individualised exercise program to assist in the treatment, management, or prevention of your chronic health condition, injury, or special health or fitness needs.
This information is not intended to replace the advice from trained medical professionals. Always consult your physiotherapist or physician for personalised medical advice.