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This October, the American Physical Therapy Association's National Physical Therapy Month to Focus on Nation's Obesity Epidemic

Month-Long Observation Focuses on the Importance of Physical Activity for

Adults and Children

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Oct. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- For the nearly 100 million Americans who are overweight or obese, physical activity must be a crucial component to weight loss and better health, which is the focus of October's National Physical Therapy Month.

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 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 high 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.

Physical therapists develop fitness plans for both adults and children that promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. For those who are overweight or obese, physical therapists balance the progression of the exercise prescription with the need for joint protection and safety during exercise.

"We are no longer looking at just adults who have diseases resulting from obesity," says physical therapist Susan S. Deusinger, PhD, professor and director of the Program in Physical Therapy at Washington University School of Medicine. "Rather, physical therapists need to regard obesity as a primary concern for intervention," she adds. Previous research** conducted by Dr. Deusinger confirmed recent rising health concerns on college campuses. Her study of 300 undergrads at Washington University in St Louis found that 70 percent of the students had gained an average of nine pounds between their freshman and sophomore years, and most were still not meeting recommended guidelines for healthy eating and exercise behavior.

"To say the least, the results of this study are cause for concern," notes Deusinger. "People are dying from the effects of obesity, and it's not just our parents and grandparents anymore; it's our friends, siblings, and colleagues. No one is immune from the dual epidemics of obesity and sedentary behavior."

Oscar Gallardo, PT, MSPT, NCS is the Program Director of the University of Southern California's Physical Therapy Community Clinic's Fit Families Program, which focuses on overweight and obese children. The program provides pro-bono preventive and wellness physical therapy services to underserved elementary school-aged children in the local community diagnosed with or at high risk for diabetes and conditions associated with physical inactivity. "In addition to the psychosocial consequences of obesity, children who are overweight often develop cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes," says Gallardo. In partnership with the community, intervention focuses on culturally relevant, personalized and structured nutrition as well as exercise and physical-activity-related education for children in collaboration with their families to enhance potential for long-term lifestyle change.

Cheryl Resnik, DPT, President of the California Physical Therapy Association (CPTA) is also the Director of Community Outreach for the Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy at the University of Southern California. She works with partner schools surrounding the Health Sciences campus to recruit parents and children into the program. The Fit Families Program team meets with schools and parent groups to promote the program and provide education regarding the role of exercise and diet on the long-term health and fitness of their children. In honor of Physical Therapy Month, a health fair is being conducted in conjunction with the regular Saturday Fit Families session to showcase the program for the community.

Consumers can find information about the fight against obesity and about National Physical Therapy Month, whose theme is "Physical Therapy: The Science of Healing. The Art of Caring," by visiting APTA's consumer Web page at

Physical therapists are health care professionals who diagnose and treat individuals of all ages, from newborns to the elderly, who have medical problems or other health-related conditions that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives. PTs examine each individual and develop a plan of care using treatment techniques to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. Physical therapists also work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility by developing fitness- and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles.

The California Physical Therapy Association exists to educate the people of California as to the attributes, benefits and value of physical therapy; meet the physical therapy needs of the people of California through the development and improvement of physical therapy education, practice and research; meet the needs of the Chapter members through identification, coordinated action, communication and fellowship.

** Racette SB, Deusinger SS, Strube MJ, Highstein GR, Deusinger RH. "Weight Changes, Exercise and Dietary Patterns During Freshman and Sophomore Years of College." Journal of American College Health, vol. 53 (6); pp. 245-251, May/June 2005.

SOURCE The California Physical Therapy Association
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