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New Masters degree - a New Zealand first

3 November 2004

New Masters degree - a New Zealand first

The country's first Masters degree in exercise rehabilitation is now available at The University of Auckland.

The Department of Sport and Exercise Science in the Faculty of Science has developed the Master of Science in Exercise Rehabilitation with the first intake of students starting in 2005.

Programme Coordinator Dr Bernadette Murphy has recently returned from visiting Exercise Rehabilitation colleagues at the University of Queensland and says that while graduate programmes in this area are well-established in Australia, The University of Auckland's Masters degree is a New Zealand first.

"In Australia, post-graduate exercise rehabilitation qualifications have been established for several years. There is now a direct link on the Australian College of General Practitioners (GPs) website to accredited providers, so that GPs can refer their patients to properly trained rehabilitation staff."

Research shows that people suffering from conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, obesity and diabetes as well as those with chronic pain can benefit from exercise programmes.

Dr Murphy says people with medical conditions and disabilities and those at risk of developing diseases related to inactivity are often told by their GPs to exercise.

"In the past, GPs in New Zealand didn't have specific places to send their patients for exercise and some patients ended up going to gyms that weren't able to cater for their specific needs. Patients who got worse instead of getting better just gave up.

"Many patients want to exercise but they want to be in a safe environment where their condition is understood and the necessary changes to their exercise program are catered for."

Through the Masters programme, students will be trained in the use of exercise for the maintenance of healthy functional movement in people. They will also learn how to design and implement custom-made programmes.

"It's not the same as going to the gym and lifting weights or jogging on the treadmill," says Dr Murphy.

The programme will ensure that students meet the Musculo-skeletal Accreditation Standards of the Australian Association for Exercise and Sports Science, which will mean that graduates will be employable in Australia as well as New Zealand.

The Masters degree has two parts - a one-year post-graduate diploma and a second thesis year for those who want to go more in-depth in a certain area.

The post-graduate diploma course has both theoretical and practical components. Students will learn about the role of exercise as a treatment for some of the most common ailments suffered, such as low back pain and mechanical neck pain. They will also study chronic pain and gain an understanding of processes which commonly occur in chronic pain patients such as depression, fear avoidance, fatigue and sleep disturbance.

Students will learn about the mechanisms that underlie conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes and the evidence for safe and specific exercise interventions to improve health, function and quality of life for people suffering from these conditions.

"In most cases the goal of exercise rehabilitation is to prevent, slow down, or reverse functional loss due to injury or disease-related inactivity. For this reason, the course has been designed to have a strong practical component," says Dr Murphy.

Students will spend 240 hours working with a variety of clients at the Department of Sport and Exercise Science's Rehabilitation Clinic.

"Exercise rehabilitation is entirely people-oriented and it's useful for students to actually work with real patients and see for themselves how they can change lives."

The Exercise Rehabilitation Clinic, which is based at the University's Tamaki Campus, is open to the public. Members of the public will also have the opportunity to be involved in research projects undertaken by PhD and Masters degree students.

The Masters degree will be taught from the University's Tamaki Campus. The campus emphasises high quality new programmes that are postgraduate, research-intensive and linked to the community.


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