5 Ways Physical Therapists Can Help Overweight Patients

overweight patient

According to the CDC, there is no state in the U.S. right now with an **obesity rate under 20%; this is an epidemic that many physical therapists are specifically trained to help combat, as they can teach obese or overweight patients how to exercise properly and without pain. A fundamental part in preventing, managing and overcoming issues like Type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, tendonitis or overuse injuries, requires a targeted physical therapy program.

Here are 5 ways to get these patients moving safely and effectively:

  • #1: Teach correct posture and movement patterns; this varies depending on the patient. For example, a case of diabetic neuropathy in the feet makes certain kinds of exercise impossible. The therapist may want to refer to The Health Professional’s Guide to Diabetes and Exercise and use aquatic therapy. Other low impact exercises, like stationary bicycles require a proper bike fit, explained in detail here. For gastric bypass patients, the therapist may want to design preoperative therapy programs that teach deep breathing and lower-extremity exercises.
  • #2: Make it Fun: Physical therapy with the intent of helping patients set goals and learn to monitor their own behavior doesn’t have to be all work and no play. PTs like to use constant feedback and continuous motivation as a way to engage and challenge their patients. The fun starts just as soon as the therapist gets a firm commitment from the patient that says they want to be physically active, or better yet, fit for life!
  • #3: Encourage them to check out prevention classes and exercise groups: A great example can be found in the On the Move™ exercise program offered by the Washington University School of Medicine; at these physical therapy clinics in St. Louis, overweight and obese patients engage in exercise regimes created specifically for them, via the use of a 10-punch card that gives them access to fun classes with their peers. Hospitals throughout the United States feature community education programs with similar fitness classes.
  • #4: Be able to provide clinical advice about diet and proper nutrition: Use these healthy menu ideas from a bariatric surgeon that are available on The Obesity Action Coalition. Referring patients to resources that encourage a healthy lifestyle is only the beginning! Therapists will also want to incorporate behavior modification into PT sessions, i.e. learning how the patient’s readiness to begin or continue positive behaviors impacts progress, and recognizing any barriers that may compromise healthy habits.
  • #5: Get the word out about daily and weekly exercise quotas: According to the Department of Health and Human Services, adults should do at least 2.5 hours per week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Children and adolescents should do 1+ hour of physical activity daily.

Find a Rewarding Physical Therapy Career with American Traveler Allied

Studies show that losing 10 to 12 pounds on average, is responsible for a 30% improvement in knee pain and 24% improvement in the patient’s ability to perform daily activities, like climbing stairs quickly and easily. As a dedicated allied healthcare professional, you’ll want to get your patients of all shapes and sizes moving toward a physically active and healthy lifestyle. Find a rewarding physical therapy career at American Traveler Allied where allied healthcare professionals have a chance to work in America’s best rehabilitation hospitals!

**Statistics and information about obesity and exercise cited in this blog came from PhysicalTherapist.com, and the CDC.