The United States Registry of Exercise Professionals
Professional Development

The Roles of Physical Therapists and Registered Exercise Professionals

September 08, 2023

How are physical therapists different from registered exercise professionals? How do they each work to help people live healthier, more active lives? On September 8th, World Physical Therapy Day—observed to raise awareness about the contributions of physical therapists—we take a moment to reflect on these distinct roles.

Exercise professionals are group exercise instructors, personal fitness trainers, exercise physiologists, and strength and conditioning coaches. Group exercise instructors provide choreographed exercise leadership with music, using varied pieces of equipment, to groups of people. Personal fitness trainers develop and implement an individualized approach to exercise using non-choreographed exercise programs, including technical coaching and instruction in physical fitness and conditioning for individuals or groups of individuals. Exercise physiologists develop exercise prescriptions and apply behavioral and motivational strategies to apparently healthy individuals and individuals with medically controlled diseases and health conditions to support clients in adopting and maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviors. Strength and conditioning coaches apply scientific knowledge to train athletes for the primary goal of improving athletic performance.

Physical therapists help injured or ill people improve movement or manage pain. They develop treatment plans to improve individuals’ ability to move, reduce or manage pain, restore function, and prevent disability.

Check out our registry to find registered exercise professionals in your community.