By Professional Physical Therapy
Physical Therapists are experts in movement and physical performance and can give you the best advice if you’re interested in starting an exercise plan or just want to get moving more. Most people think that a physical therapist is only for people that are in pain or recovering from an injury. But they can do so much more!
It’s more important than ever for people to move because despite the extensive research that tells us that even moderate amounts of physical activity can lead to better health and a longer life, millions of Americans are not getting enough of it. The CDC released a recent report that showed more than 1 in 5 adults are inactive or not participating in any physical activity outside of work. According to Ruth Petersen, MD, Director of CDC’s division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, “Too many people are missing out on the health benefits of physical activity such as improved sleep, reduced blood pressure, and anxiety, lowered risk for heart disease, several cancers, and dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease).”
You can achieve health benefits by staying active and age, abilities, shape, or size do not matter. Anyone can do it and a Physical Therapist can help!
Why It’s Important to Get Moving and Remain Moving
According to the CDC, the benefits of physical activity include the following:
- Improve mental/brain health
- Reduce risk of disease
- Help manage weight
- Strengthen bones and muscles
- Manage chronic health conditions
- Increase chances of living longer
- Improve ability to do everyday activities
Why Seeing a Physical Therapist is a Good Place to Start
Working with a physical therapist is a good place to start to figure out how to choose your movement or physical activity options. This will vary based on age, past injury history, ability level and community resources.
Often inactive people will start physical activity, overdo it, and injure themselves. When a PT works with someone, they do it appropriately and make sure you are working your body in the correct ways to prevent injury.
Many people experience pain when they move. And pain over a long period of time can lead to fear, preventing them from getting started. If this is the case, a physical therapist is typically the first line of treatment. If you are experiencing conditions like fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, lower back pain or any type of pain that gets in the way of movement, physical therapy can help. PTs are movement experts and can map out a safe plan to re-introduce movement back into your life.
Finding the Right Plan
It can be overwhelming to find the right plan for you. PTs can take these steps to help you decide.
- Find out the warm-up exercises that are not painful.
- Consider your fitness goals (i.e., lose weight or get stronger)
- Develop exercise plan that includes mechanics that are right for your body.
- Educate you about choosing specific exercises (i.e., machine vs. free weights, number of reps, etc.)
- Figure out what you enjoy doing so you can stay with it.
- Develop a plan with proper techniques to avoid sore or injured muscles.
Tips to Get Started Safely and Avoid Injury
If you are thinking about getting more active and starting an exercise plan, Professional Physical Therapy’s Allison Stringer, MS, PT, FAAOMPT, CHA suggests starting with a dynamic warm-up because it has been shown to prevent injuries. A proper dynamic warm up includes movements that will make you “sweat” while increasing your heart rate, blood flow, deep muscle temperature, and respiratory rate. You can start with 5 minutes of jumping rope, jogging in place, or doing a few jumping jacks. Next you can perform the following movements starting with the head and then moving to the upper and lower parts of the body. Total warm-up should take about 10-15 minutes before you start exercising.
- Move head up and down gently, turn head to the right and then left.
- Side bend ear to the right shoulder and then to the left shoulder.
- Wrist circles, clockwise and counterclockwise.
- Roll shoulders, back and down (arms at your side).
- Arm circles, stretch arms up and over your head and then cross them in front of your body, repeat bringing the arms up and then lower crossing arms behind the back.
- Ankle circles, clockwise and counterclockwise.
- Hip swings forward and back, swing one leg forward then backward (keep spine straight), repeat opposite leg.
- Hip circles, standing on one leg, “draw” a large circle with the free knee, clockwise and counterclockwise.
- Knee hugs, walking forward, bend the right hip and pull the right knee to the chest with both arms walking forward while alternating legs (keep spine straight).
Passive stretching should also be done after exercising to help prevent injury and to also help prevent muscle fatigue and soreness.
If you need help developing a comprehensive exercise program, you can seek advice and guidance of a trained Physical Therapist. A physical therapist can empower you to feel confident in your ability to take control of your health and find the best physical activity for you. You just might find you’re getting healthier, fitter and feeling better than ever!
If you want a movement plan or are experiencing pain that’s making it difficult to move, request an appointment at Professional Physical Therapy for an assessment and/or physical therapy evaluation, so you can get your life healthier and more comfortable today!
Source: CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Benefits of Physical Activity.