What Is a Physiologist?

A physiologist will have specialized training in a specific system of the body.
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  • Written By: Sandra Koehler
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 April 2014
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A physiologist is a specialist in physiology, the study of the functions of living things. There are many types, including exercise, cardiac, and neurophysiologists. Each specialist has specific training in the area of study.

In general, a physiologist is a healthcare professional trained in body functions. He or she can help diagnose problems within the body and assist in the recovery of function. The techniques used are specific to the area of the body these professionals chose to concentrate upon during their career. Most work within an interdisciplinary team, or a team of healthcare professionals whose expertise varies, to reduce cardiovascular risks, increase overall function and improve quality of life. They are highly trained and skilled within their discipline, and have the main objective of allowing the body to work efficiently.

Exercise physiologists create exercise plans for people, and monitor the cardiovascular and metabolic effects of the routine necessary for physical or cardiac rehabilitation. They evaluate the physical abilities of individuals and employ exercises to enhance and maintain their overall health and conditioning. Most collaborate with other healthcare professionals to identify any risks associated with the particular plans and provide a comprehensive rehabilitation program.

Someone who works in sports, on the other hand, is concerned with the functioning of the body as it applies to athletes. This person specializes in performance and endurance. He or she must have, in addition to specific knowledge of physiology, an extensive knowledge base of the specific sport’s requirements.


Cardiac physiologists investigate the function of the heart to help diagnose heart disease. They can be involved in identifying and monitoring the use of treatment programs to measure their effectiveness. Extensive knowledge of the heart and how it works and reacts to stressors such as exercise is an important component of study to assist clients in regaining or maintaining proper cardiac functioning with daily activities.

A neurophysiologist, also known as a clinical physiologist, is concerned with the neurology of the functioning of the nervous system. This specialist typically work with clients who have a neurological disorder, such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, strokes, or dementia. Those suffering with nerve or muscle dysfunction can also benefit from a neurophysiologist’s expertise. He or she may use things like electroencephalography (EEG), nerve conduction studies and EPs, or evoked potentials, to assess the brain's response.

Respiratory specialists deal with the physiology of respiration, or breathing. They may test lung and breathing function, and perform things like sleep studies to help evaluate and treat breathing problems. These individuals also may monitor breathing during physical rehabilitation.


Discuss this Article

Post 7

@anon344929: You might consider being a pharmacist. You have to know about the human body, but wouldn't be dealing with the blood, etc.

Post 6

I'm fascinated by the human body, and love learning about it. But I don't like dealing with hospitals and blood. What career can I choose? I'm still in grade 9.

Post 5

Is there a physio therapist in NYC area that knows about charcot marie tooth disorder?

Post 4

@cardsfan27 - I can guarantee you that plant physiology exists, since I took a class in plant physiology while I was in college. Like you would expect, it covered everything from how plants uptake nutrients to how they utilize different molecules in building leaves.

Knowing this, I don't see any reason the term physiologist couldn't be used with any living thing. I'm sure there are physiologists that study how fungi and bacteria live and reproduce. Even though they aren't living, I could even see how the term could be used to refer to studying how viruses succeed in the world.

Post 3

Can physiologist be used to refer to someone who specializes in the function of something besides humans? It seems like you could find someone like a dog or horse physiologist, but I also feel like I have heard the term plant physiologist used before.

Do plant physiologists exist, and what are some other field that could have physiologists?

Post 2

@jcraig - Good questions. I found myself wondering some similar things.

Along the same lines, are there effectively physiologists for every part of the body? Could there be someone who specializes in the physiology of the digestive system and someone else who covers the respiratory system, or are the examples mentioned in the article the types of physiologists that you would find in a normal hospital?

Post 1

Is physiologist a general term to describe anyone who might deal with how a certain part of the body works, or is this a specific term to describe a specific job?

Using the cardiac physiologist as an example, would this be a person who went to college and trained to be a cardiac physiologist, or would it be more like a doctor who happens to specialize in knowing how the heart and circulatory system function?

Also, for the medically geared physiologists, are they usually doctors or more like a physical therapist who specializes in a certain area? In other words, do they diagnose problems and suggest treatments, or do they simply work with a patient during a prescribed treatment?

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