Prevention is the best medicine according to Exercise Physiology students

26 August 2010

As a paramedic and a nurse, Amber Jenkins and Fiona Blair work at the front line of health. However after years of helping people who have reached a crisis point in their health, these two are looking for a career change that focuses on preventing people from ending up in hospital in the first place.

"I have been a nurse for nine years, specialising in anaesthetics and recovery, but decided I needed a change of career path," says Fiona. "Exercise physiology appealed to me as it is a more positive or preventable aspect of health care."

Similarly, Amber says that while she has always enjoyed helping people as a paramedic, she now wants to take this to the next level.

"I want to help people stay away from future hospital visits and overall improve their quality of life and exercise prescription is a great way to do that."

The two are amongst the first cohort of students who commenced in the new Master of Exercise Physiology program at the University of Sydney this year.

"Exercise physiology centres on using tailored exercise programs to prevent or effectively manage chronic disease, injury and disability, as well as maintain or improve health and fitness, " says Course Director, Associate Professor Nick O'Dwyer "Unsurprisingly we had a lot of interest from those already working in the health field who are excited about the growing focus on the role of physical activity in preventative health."

By the Government's own admission, preventative health is an area which Australia has neglected for too long. With weight issues and obesity affecting one in two Australian adults—resulting in increased risk of conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes—the potential of exercise strategies to address the growth in chronic disease and maintain a fit and healthy population is undisputed.

The National Preventative Health Taskforce handed down their report in May this year, calling for physical activity and healthy eating to be embedded in patterns of everyday life through strategies such as new programs in schools and the workplace, as well as community-based interventions for areas at social disadvantage and high risk of obesity.

For Amber and Fiona these recommendations look likely to translate to interesting career pathways in future years, but in the meantime it's a juggling act to keep up with work and study commitments.

"It's challenging but its exciting thinking about the diverse career opportunities that lay ahead for us - and we are having a lot of fun getting there!" comments Amber.

Applications for the Master of Exercise Physiology for study commencing in Semester 1, 2011 open on September 3, 2010. Visit