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Is exercise rehabilitation the same as physiotherapy?

As an exercise rehabilitation instructor I often get asked the following questions:

‘’Are you a physiotherapist?’’
‘’What type of people do you work with?’’
‘’How do you instruct exercise rehabilitation sessions?’’
‘’Is exercise rehab the same as sports rehab?’’

Let’s have a look at each one of these in turn to get a better understanding of what my job involves.

Q. Are you a physiotherapist?
A. No. A physiotherapist assesses and diagnoses injuries and conditions. An exercise rehab instructor cannot and should not provide diagnoses. However, there is some cross over between the two roles. Both will aim to improve a client’s range of motion around a joint, increase stabilisation at a joint if required, strengthen specific areas of the body and provide a progressive rehabilitation programme with the goal of recovering from injury and improving quality of life.

leg injury

Physiotherapists and exercise rehabilitation instructors can often work together to ensure a holistic approach to injury recovery and improved quality of life.

Q. What type of people do you work with?
A. This can vary greatly. I may have a person who has had multiple knee operations and has been told they need to lose weight to ease stress on the joints. In this instance, my role becomes a blend of rehabilitation, to ensure there is no further degeneration of the knee joint, and weight loss, where we focus on improving a person’s relationship with exercise and nutrition.

Additionally, someone may present with acute or chronic lower back pain, which can often affect them both physically and psychologically. Here, my goal is to help them identify areas of the body to strengthen and areas that might require more range of motion or flexibility, whilst helping to identify daily habits that may contribute to the condition. Overall, it really is a varied role, constantly helping me learn and evolve as a trainer.

Q. How do you instruct exercise rehabilitation sessions?
A. It always starts with a consultation and movement analysis. The consultation allows me to identify what it is that a person wants to achieve from working with me, in addition to discussing exercise history and their lifestyle. Then, I will conduct a movement analysis to help me determine areas of the body that are overactive (usually tight and over-used) and underactive (usually weak and under-used). The information gleaned from the movement screen then helps to dictate my programming, taking into account movement compensations and daily habits that may be exasperating the presenting problem e.g. long periods of sitting and lower back pain. I aim to incorporate elements of mobility, flexibility, functional strength training and Pilates into all rehab programmes.

Q. Is exercise rehabilitation the same as sports rehabilitation?
A. Sports rehabilitation is primarily focused on helping get someone ready to participate in their chosen sport again, ideally minimising the impact of injury on performance. On the other hand, exercise rehabilitation is concerned with general quality of life, and helping someone go about their day to day life pain free. That’s not to say the two don’t cross over, and on occasions someone will start to live pain free via exercise rehab and decide to start playing a sport they had once stopped participating in due to injuries. 

If you feel you may benefit from working with an exercise rehab instructor, we can arrange a FREE consultation to discuss your goals/needs. Feel free to contact me here:

email: 07512 367735

Written by our Personal Trainer Alex Munn


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