Avoid Chronic Disease With Regular Physical Activity

Most Americans don’t move enough despite proven benefits, such as reduced risk of cancer and chronic diseases, and improved bone health, cognitive function, weight control, and overall quality of life.

The second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, reports that approximately 80% of US adults and adolescents are insufficiently active. As a result, many Americans currently have or are likely to experience chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetesobesity, and depression.

The good news is that regular physical activity can prevent and improve many chronic conditions. America, it's time to get moving!

How Much Physical Activity Should I Do?

According to the guidelines, the following is recommended:

  1. Preschool-aged children (ages 3 through 5 years) should be physically active at least for 3 hours, if not more. Adult caregivers should encourage active play that includes a variety of activity types and limits sitting-around time, such as screen time.

  1. Children and adolescents (ages 6 through 17 years) need at least 60 minutes or more of activity a day. This includes activities to strengthen bones, build muscles, and get the heart beating faster.

  1. Adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week, and at least 2 days for muscle-strengthening activities. Adding more time provides further benefits.

  1. Older adults (ages 65 and older) should do at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week and include muscle-strengthening activities 2 days a week. You should also add components, such as balance training as well. If you have limitations due to preexisting conditions, consult with a health care provider and be as physically active as your abilities allow.

  1. Pregnant and postpartum women who were physically active before pregnancy can continue these activities during pregnancy and in the postpartum period, but they should consult their health care provider about any necessary adjustments.

  1. Adults with chronic health conditions and disabilities, who are able, should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week. You should consult with a health care provider about the types and amounts that are appropriate for you.

How a Physical Therapist Can Help

Physical therapists are movement experts who optimize quality of life through prescribed exercise, hands-on care, and patient education.

After making a diagnosis, physical therapists create personalized treatment plans that help their patients improve mobility, manage pain and other chronic conditions, recover from injury, and prevent future injury and chronic disease.

Physical therapists empower people to be active participants in their own treatment, and they work collaboratively with other health professionals to ensure patients receive comprehensive care.

Resources

US Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2018. Accessed November 14, 2018.

US Department of Health and Human Services. Are My Kids Getting Enough Physical Activity. Move Your Way. Washington, DC: US Dept of Health and Human Services. Accessed November 14, 2018

US Department of Health and Human Services. 60 A Day! Move Your Way. Washington, DC: Dept of Health and Human Services. Accessed November 14, 2018.

US Department of Health and Human Services. What’s your move? Move Your Way. Washington, DC: Dept of Health and Human Services. Accessed November 14, 2018.

 

Physical Therapy vs Opioids: When to Choose Physical Therapy for Pain Management

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sales of prescription opioids have quadrupled in the United States, even though "there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report."

In response to a growing opioid epidemic, the CDC released opioid prescription guidelines in March 2016. The guidelines recognize that prescription opioids are appropriate in certain cases, including cancer treatment, palliative care, and end-of-life care, and also in certain acute care situations, if properly dosed.

But for other pain management, the CDC recommends nonopioid approaches including physical therapy.

Patients should choose physical therapy when ...

  • ... The risks of opioid use outweigh the rewards.
    Potential side effects of opioids include depression, overdose, and addiction, plus withdrawal symptoms when stopping opioid use. Because of these risks, "experts agreed that opioids should not be considered firstline or routine therapy for chronic pain," the CDC guidelines state. Even in cases when evidence on the long-term benefits of non-opioid therapies is limited, "risks are much lower" with non-opioid treatment plans.
  • ... Patients want to do more than mask the pain.
    Opioids reduce the sensation of pain by interrupting pain signals to the brain. Physical therapists treat pain through movement while partnering with patients to improve or maintain their mobility and quality of life.
  • ... Pain or function problems are related to low back painhip or knee osteoarthritis, or fibromyalgia.
    The CDC cites "high-quality evidence" supporting exercise as part of a physical therapy treatment plan for those familiar conditions.
  • ... Opioids are prescribed for pain. 
    Even in situations when opioids are prescribed, the CDC recommends that patients should receive "the lowest effective dosage," and opioids "should be combined" with nonopioid therapies, such as physical therapy.
  • ... Pain lasts 90 days.
    At this point, the pain is considered "chronic," and the risks for continued opioid use increase. An estimated 116 million Americans have chronic pain each year. The CDC guidelines note that nonopioid therapies are "preferred" for chronic pain and that "clinicians should consider opioid therapy only if expected benefits for both pain and function are anticipated to outweigh risks to the patient."

Before you agree to a prescription for opioids, consult with a physical therapist to discuss options for nonopioid treatment.

"Given the substantial evidence gaps on opioids, uncertain benefits of long-term use and potential for serious harm, patient education and discussion before starting opioid therapy are critical so that patient preferences and values can be understood and used to inform clinical decisions," the CDC states.

Physical therapists can play a valuable role in the patient education process, including setting realistic expectations for recovery with or without opioids.