Physical Therapy and Weight Loss

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Excess body weight, typically associated with a high BMI (body mass index) or too much fat, can significantly impact a person’s activity level and lifestyle, and consequently their health.

Being overweight can feel like a catch-22 — to lose weight you need to move more, but when you’re heavy, movement is often difficult. The increased stress that excess weight puts on joints and muscles causes inflammation and pain, and sometimes leads to orthopedic injuries. The consequential loss of movement can exasperate chronic conditions/illnesses and feelings of depression.

As experts in movement, mobility and musculoskeletal health, physical therapists are uniquely qualified to help patients safely reach their weight loss and health & fitness goals.

How can physical therapy help you lose weight?

The biggest challenge many people face is knowing where to start on a weight-loss journey. Beyond focusing on a healthy diet packed with whole foods, exercise is a critical component. One of the benefits of seeing a physical therapist is to work together to develop a workout program that is individualized to you. Not all bodies are created equal. 

Five basic moves to get you started:

To check and improve posture while also building back strength & flexibility, and alleviating back, neck & shoulder pain.

Stand with your back and butt against a wall with your knees soft and your feet positioned about 3-4 inches away from the wall. Let your hands relax at your sides or place them between your lower back and the wall. While maintaining the natural curve of your spine, slowly press your shoulder blades and the back of your head against the wall, keeping your chin level. Breathe evenly as you hold for 60 seconds.

To improve balance and stability and decrease risk for falls and injury.

Begin in a regular standing position with your arms resting at your sides. Step one foot directly in front of the other, positioning your feet heel to toe. Breathe evenly as you hold for 60 seconds. Switch feet. Stand in a doorway and hold on to the frame if you need support. Practice this with your shoes on, and barefoot. Once you’ve mastered it on both sides, try closing your eyes or turning your head side to side to increase the challenge.

To stretch and strengthen foot and calf muscles, key to improving balance. When you’re ready for a challenge, try one leg at a time.

Stand in front of a counter or stable surface for support. Raise both heels off the ground slowly while keeping your weight equal on the balls of your feet, and then lower. Be sure to hold proper posture and breathe evenly throughout the exercise. Aim for 3 sets of 10 repetitions, and when you’re ready for a challenge, try one leg at a time.

To build shoulder, arm and chest strength, tighten core muscles and improve posture.

Begin in an upright standing position with your arms straight and your hands resting at shoulder height on a wall. Bend at the elbow while leaning in toward the wall, keeping your body straight and your abs engaged. Press back to starting position and repeat for 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

To increase hip mobility and leg strength, which increases balance and decreases fall risk.

From a seated position with your feet about shoulder width apart, reach your arms out and lean forward from your hips. As your bottom lifts off the chair, and without letting your knees collapse inward, move into a standing position. Reverse the movement back into the starting position.  Remember to breathe throughout the exercise as you work toward 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

As you begin to incorporate movement into your daily routine, include one or more low-impact cardiovascular options. Walking is a great place to start, even if you can only do a few minutes at a time in the beginning. If that seems like a bigger challenge than you want to take on, simply start by marching in place and hold on for balance as needed. If you have access to a pool, walking or exercising in water utilizes your body’s buoyancy, which decreases the strain on joints and muscles. A stationary bike is another low-impact form of exercise that’s a great way to burn calories, build muscles and increase stamina.

Start your weight-loss journey today.

Whatever your first step toward a healthier future looks like, we’re here for you. Don’t let pain and discomfort stand in your way of doing the things you love and living the life you want. Our passion is to help every patient reach their goals on their journey to lifelong health and fitness.

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