SACRAMENTO, Calif., Oct. 22 For the nearly 100 millionAmericans who are overweight or obese, physical activity must be a crucialcomponent to weight loss and better health, which is the focus of October'sNational Physical Therapy Month.
According to a recent study conducted by the Trust for America's Health, aresearch group that focuses on disease prevention, obesity rates continuedtheir climb in 31 states last year. Health officials say the latest staterankings provide evidence that the nation has a public health crisis on itshands. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention citedevidence that more than 22 percent of Americans did not engage in any physicalactivity in the previous month.
A lack of exercise is a major contributing factor to high obesity rates."People who are overweight or obese must follow an appropriate exerciseprogram that includes aerobic conditioning and avoids exercise that can leadto injury," notes Terry Michel, PT, DPT, DSc, CCS, a physical therapist atBoston's Mass General Hospital. "Physical therapists will typically recommenda low-impact form of weight training, such as exercise bands that help avoidexcessive joint stress, and modified yoga stretches and Tai Chi for promotingflexibility and relaxation," she adds.
Physical therapists develop fitness plans for both adults and childrenthat promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and preventdisability. For those who are overweight or obese, physical therapists balancethe progression of the exercise prescription with the need for jointprotection and safety during exercise.
"We are no longer looking at just adults who have diseases resulting fromobesity," says physical therapist Susan S. Deusinger, PhD, professor anddirector of the Program in Physical Therapy at Washington University School ofMedicine. "Rather, physical therapists need to regard obesity as a primaryconcern for intervention," she adds. Previous research** conducted by Dr.Deusinger confirmed recent rising health concerns on college campuses. Herstudy of 300 undergrads at Washington University in St Louis found that 70percent of the students had gained an average of nine pounds between theirfreshman and sophomore years, and most were still not meeting recommendedguidelines for healthy eating and exercise behavior.
"To say the least, the results of this study are cause for concern," notesDeusinger. "People are dying from the effects of obesity, and it's not justour parents and grandparents anymore; it's our friends, siblings, andcolleagues. No one is immune from the dual epidemics of obesity and sedentarybehavior."
Oscar Gallardo, PT, MSPT, NCS is the Program Director of the University ofSouthern California's Physical Therapy Community Clinic's Fit FamiliesProgram, which focuses on overweight and obese children. The program providespro-bono preventive and wellness physical therapy services to underservedelementary school-aged children in the local community diagnosed with or athigh risk for diabetes and conditions associated with physical inactivity. "Inaddition to the psychosocial consequences of obesity, children who areoverweight often develop cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension,high cholesterol levels, and diabetes," says Gallardo. In partnership with thecommunity, intervention focuses on culturally relevant, personalized andstructured nutrition as well as exercise and physical-activity-relatededucation for children in collaboration with their families to enhancepotential for long-term lifestyle change.
Cheryl Resnik, DPT, President of the California Physical TherapyAssociation (CPTA) is also the Director of Community Outreach for the Divisionof Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy at the University of SouthernCalifornia. She works with partner schools surrounding the Health Sciencescampus to recruit parents and children into