Weight loss is one of the top New Year’s Resolutions made by Americans each year, according to multiple sources. Yet, studies conclude that only 8 percent of people actually achieve their annual goals, including those who seek to live healthier, more active lives.
While some may point to their busy lives and the lack of personal willpower as the reasons behind this bleak statistic, Chicago physical therapist Dr. Marc Gregory Guillen said that sometimes, functional limitations are to blame for making weight loss difficult, or even unsafe for certain people.
“While doctors and other health care professionals often recommend exercise as a way to promote weight loss, it’s been estimated that nearly one in three of those who get this recommendation have functional limitations,” said Dr. Guillen, owner of Free Body Physical Therapy & Wellness in East Humboldt Park / Wicker Park. “These limitations can make it feel difficult, or even impossible, to follow through with a regular exercise regimen.”
Such difficulties, according to the 2018 study published in Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, include a general struggle with basic movement or activities (due to pain, strength and other limitations) as well as conditions or diseases like diabetes, hypertension, arthritis and multiple cardiovascular issues.
“Weight loss and weight management are absolutely critical for people suffering from many of these issues,” Dr. Guillen said. “Yet, for these populations, it’s often not safe or effective to just prescribe exercise. Many of these patients need more individualized and managed programs that take their medical histories, physical limitations and general safely into consideration.”
Physical therapists, according to the study’s authors, offer the ideal solution for those with such limitations.
“Physical therapists are well-suited to manage the [physical activity] and exercise programs of individuals with functional limitations given their education, expertise and documented self-efficacy in primary, secondary and tertiary prevention with exercise testing, prescription and implementation,” they wrote.
In other words, physical therapists can benefit those who seek to improve their long-term health through exercise and weight loss by:
Assessing the Patient’s Limitations: Through a thorough examination, along with guidance and input from one’s personal care physician or specialist, physical therapists are experts at assessing and identifying individual limitations that must be addressed before and during one’s weight-loss program.
Customizing a Plan: Based on personal conditions and limitations that may make movement and exercise difficult, painful or unsafe, physical therapists will establish, implement and monitor an individualized exercise regimen that’s safe and effective in achieving the patient’s wellness goal(s).
Reducing Pain: “No pain, no gain” isn’t a phrase used by physical therapists. A PT will establish and/or modify exercises that allow one to safely perform activities while experiencing the least amount of pain.
Improve Cardio Fitness: Physical therapists will help establish a heart-healthy exercise program that improves one’s aerobic fitness while elevating the body’s metabolism.
Improve Strength & Flexibility: A PT will identify, then address weaknesses and imbalances in the body. The goal: improve movement, form and posture while minimizing stress on the body.
“The goal of a physical therapist is to help you move better and more comfortably so you can live a more active and healthful life, regardless of what limitations you have,” Dr. Guillen said. “The first step, though, is to get that initial assessment, during which we can identify and discuss your limitations and goals.”