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Exercise physiologists may work in a clinical setting such as a hospital, rehabilitation center, or nursing home, where their client base may range from patients recovering from a recent heart attack to coping with chronic arthritis. Their first step in treatment is conducting a thorough patient assessment, which consists of a patient interview and fitness test. Exercise physiologists may have the patient walk on a treadmill while connected to an EKG machine. The EKG machine monitors the patient's heart rate and rhythm to ensure it remains within a safe range. Exercise physiologists may check the patient's blood pressure during the fitness tests to monitor his or her response to exercise. Patients may also be asked to wear a pulse oximeter on their finger; this device measures the concentration of oxygen in their blood. Other tools such as weights, bands, and balls may also be used to test for strength and flexibility.
After gathering the results, the exercise physiologist confers with the patient's doctors before creating a care plan. He or she will choose exercises to help patients meet specific goals and schedule the number of sessions needed. Cardiac conditioning exercises may be prescribed to increase lung capacity for those suffering from lung disease, or to strengthen the heart of an individual who is recovering from a heart attack. A plan of action could include sessions on the treadmill, stationary bikes, or stairs, as well as weight training with small free weights or bands. The exercise physiologist carefully monitors patients during workout sessions, keeping watch for rapid changes in heart rate, fatigue, or other adverse reactions. They also give the patient constant encouragement and evaluate their progress. Care plans may be altered to increase or decrease activity as tolerated by the patient. The exercise physiologist charts all results and shares this report with the patient and the patient's physicians.
Exercise physiologists working in the fitness industry or athletic training follow the same routine as those working in clinical settings. Personal evaluation is done to identify the client's goals. Is the client interested in weight loss, strength training, improving his or her speed and agility, or injury recovery? The exercise physiologist will then create a care plan and exercise routine. They may advise use of weight machines, swimming, massage, muscle manipulation, and nutrition to achieve these goals. Some correctional or service industries may also consult with exercise physiologists. They may suggest special job-related drills such as stair sprints with weights to help firefighters reach optimum conditioning.
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