In 2007, the American Medical Association challenged physicians to increase exercise prescriptions in an effort to reduce obesity and the secondary complications associated with being overweight. This directive came on the heels of the CDC reporting one third of Americans were obese in 2006. This number is expected to grow 40 percent (possibly more) by the year 2018.

As the profession of physical therapy grows and increases, its standards to a doctoral level, therapists have accepted the challenge as the number one professional for exercise prescriptions.

Physical therapists have multiple skills to develop individual programs that can be performed independently and safely. As movement experts, therapists have the experience to identify and minimize the risk for potential injuries when embarking on an exercise program. Studies have revealed that people, especially women, are self conscious and fearful of going to a local gym to exercise. Physical therapists are able to develop a functional exercise program to be performed at home with minimal to no equipment to complete the regimen.

Physical therapists are now coaching people to adopt an independent program alongside a healthy lifestyle. They have various measures to evaluate fitness and exercise levels to identify baselines and score individual needs. When established by a licensed therapist, a fitness plan (with short and long term goals) will be put in writing that can measure objectively for a lifetime while offering insight to other medical professionals who oversee and treat physical conditions.

Other benefits from regular visits to a physical therapist include the comprehensiveness of the treatment that happens in communication with your primary care physician. Physical therapists understand personal medical conditions, medications and the influence of exercise on both. They also know how to identify muscle imbalances to prevent injury when developing your exercise program. Above all, a functional program is developed that you can carry over to hobbies, sports or everyday activity. Individually, therapists account for comfortable exercising and potential for independently completing exercise programs with whatever resources are available.

Exercise benefits all medical conditions, and it is important to understand that physical therapists have been leading the way in rehabilitation of injuries for people of all ages. The fact is that physical therapists’ background in anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and therapeutic exercise are strong components throughout their education and careers support their position as the profession to help get America in shape.

Heather M. Smith MPT, MTC is a licensed physical therapist and the owner of Body Owners Physical Therapy since 2008.  She can be reached via email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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