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ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, What Does an Exercise Therapy Specialist Do?

What Does an Exercise Therapy Specialist Do?

Reading Time: 3 minutes 37 seconds


DATE: 2024-05-30

It's currently estimated that more than 45 percent of Americans have at least one chronic health condition. These include things like heart disease, high blood pressure, or being overweight or obese. A common risk factor for most chronic conditions? A lack of physical activity.

Many people are inactive or far less active than they should be to achieve and maintain optimal health. In some cases, this is because they are physically unable to perform exercise. In other cases, people may be too ill or have an injury that prevents activity. Regardless of why, there are ways to break the cycle and improve physical condition and longevity.

Exercise Therapy Specialists are educated and certified professionals who are part of an integrated healthcare network. Never heard of them? Well, let's take a deeper look at who these people are, why they are so important, and how you can become one of them!

Exercise is Medicine

There is a growing movement to include fitness as a regular part of healthcare. Exercise Is Medicine calls for physicians and healthcare providers to evaluate the physical health of patients, prescribe exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle, refer patients to community resources, and help to follow up with their progress in fitness. Why is this important? Because regular exercise has been found to improve quality of life, reduce the risk of chronic disease, and make people healthier! When paired with traditional medicine, patients are more likely to improve their health and add years back to their lives.

Think of it this way, orthodox or traditional healthcare is designed to treat or control conditions and rehabilitate people. Alternative medicine like chiropractic care can also help prevent chronic conditions and pain. But exercise and naturopathic care can prevent, treat and control, rehabilitate, restore function, and prevent the recurrence of chronic health issues! Exercise is powerful. Exercise is medicine!

Exercise Therapy for General Health

Exercise therapists keep people healthy. They can work with a client's medical team to implement exercise protocols to reduce or prevent chronic health conditions and keep people moving well.

Exercise Therapists Help with Chronic Conditions

People with health issues (and there are a lot of them) can see an exercise therapist to implement recommendations that are unique to their condition and health status. Many clients with chronic conditions will have limitations and an Exercise Therapist is well versed in indications and contraindications. Clients will see progress without the risk of getting hurt.

Exercise Therapy for Injury and Rehabilitation

Both athletes and non-athletes get hurt. Sometimes it's something as simple as tripping in the bathroom. Like a physical therapist, an Exercise Therapist can help clients rehabilitate through injuries to restore their normal functions....and most likely improve them! Exercise therapy aims to prevent the recurrence of injury by helping people come back stronger after an injury.

Did you know that low back pain and knee pain are the two most common orthopedic pain conditions people experience? Learn more about low back pain and how to get relief in this informative ISSA blog: Exercises For Low Back Pain—Help Clients Get Relief

Education for Exercise Therapy Specialists

Exercise therapy is something that requires a specific educational background. It is similar to corrective exercise, but Exercise Therapy dives deeper into chronic conditions, limitations, and helping people improve their overall health. Exercise therapy is also often confused with physical therapy (PT). Let's clear that up: PT focuses on the restoration of movement and capacity at the site of an injury. Exercise therapy focuses on the use of exercise to restore optimal function of the body as a whole!

To become an Exercise Therapist, a certification is the first step. Certification takes 2-4 months depending on how fast you move through the material and sit for the exam. There are degree paths available for those who prefer classes or are moving towards licensure in occupational therapy or physical therapy, but it is not required for entry-level employment as an Exercise Therapist.

Certification is also an important step as it will be a minimum requirement for employment as an Exercise Therapist. If you're interested in also pursuing a degree in Exercise Therapy, check out this helpful site for more on accredited programs!

Career Outlook for Exercise Therapy

Careers in exercise therapy, physical therapy (sports and orthopedics), and exercise physiology are booming! According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pay for this type of job is $54,860 per year with projected job growth of 13 percent between now and 2030—that's much faster than usual!

The Exercise is Medicine movement is driving the push for more educated and credentialed specialists. Healthcare providers are expanding their referral networks and even hiring Exercise Therapists to work with patients in their medical offices.

When on the job, Exercise Therapists can expect to:

  • Conduct client assessments (static and dynamic)

  • Develop programming for resistance training, flexibility, balance, and cardiovascular health

  • Deliver programming to clients with various chronic conditions or limitations

  • Help clients with nutritional guidance to promote overall health

  • Engage in rehabilitation programming and delivery for athletes and non-athletes

  • Perform administrative tasks to uphold patient records and progress reporting

How to Become an Exercise Therapy Specialist

Exercise Therapists drive results! If you're a Certified Personal Trainer already, take your knowledge up a notch. Learn more about chronic conditions and rehabilitation and expand your clientele. Enroll in the ISSA's Exercise Therapy Certification today!

Featured Course

ISSA | Exercise Therapist

According to the American Sports Data Company Inc., numerous employment opportunities are opening up in facilities for health & fitness professionals who have an expertise in Post-Rehab exercise. Nearly 1,000 hospitals in the US alone have already opened fitness facilities and hundreds more are in various stages of development. The broad goal of this certificate program is to train students for an entry-level position in Exercise Therapy through distance education.


Exercise Therapist Career. Psychologyschoolguide.net. (2024). Retrieved 13 May 2024, from https://www.psychologyschoolguide.net/therapist-careers/how-to-become-an-exercise-therapist/.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Exercise Physiologists, at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/exercise-physiologists.htm (visited May 13, 2024).

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