October is also National Physical Therapy Month, as declared by the American Physical Therapy Association. This year, they are focusing on the US’ obesity epidemic. The theme for National PT Month is “Physical Therapy: The Science of Healing. The Art of Caring.”
According to a recent study conducted by the Trust for America’s Health, a research group that focuses on disease prevention, obesity rates continued their climb in 31 states last year. Health officials say the latest state rankings provide evidence that the nation has a public health crisis on its hands. Last year, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited evidence that found that more than 22 percent of Americans did not engage in any physical activity in the previous month.
A lack of exercise is a major contributing factor to obesity rates. “People who are overweight or obese must follow an appropriate exercise program that includes aerobic conditioning and avoids exercise that can lead to injury,” notes Terry Michel, PT, DPT, DSc, CCS, a physical therapist at Boston’s Mass General Hospital. “Physical therapists will typically recommend a low-impact form of weight training, such as exercise bands that help avoid excessive joint stress, and modified yoga stretches and Tai Chi for promoting flexibility and relaxation,” she adds.
What is the Physical Therapist’s role in fighting obesity?
Physical therapists play dual roles in the fight against obesity. One is to help prevent obesity and maintain weight loss by developing fitness plans that promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability for both adults and children. The other is for people who are already overweight or obese. The physical therapist can balance the progression of the exercise prescription with the need for joint protection and safety during exercise.
In addition, physical therapists are aware that overweight and obese individuals might have experienced past failures with exercise and can truly understand the difficulties these individuals might encounter.